From 'Lost Boy' to American diplomat: One refugee’s amazing story

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gai Nyok, one of the former “Lost Boys” of Sudan, will speak at Penn State at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in 112 Kern Building. Recently inducted into the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer, Nyok was one of more than 25,000 children orphaned by his country’s civil war and fled his village when he was 5 years old. He will share his experiences as a refugee and the story of his journey and new life in America. 

“Gai’s story is as instructive as it is remarkable,” said Dennis Jett, Penn State professor of international affairs and a former U.S. ambassador. “Given the xenophobic anti-refugee sentiment that is so popular in some circles today, his journey is an important reminder of what victims of war must go through just to survive and how some of them can go on to remarkable success.”

After traveling more than a thousand miles from country to country, fleeing war zones and devastation, Nyok and members of his family eventually found themselves in Kenya. At the refugee camp there, while conditions were difficult, Nyok was given the opportunity for an education, an experience that would help him see a brighter future. 

In 2001, Nyok was granted asylum by the U.S. government, nearly two years after starting the resettlement process. He attended Patrick Henry High School and graduated cum laude from Virginia Commonwealth University, studying economics, international studies and French. As a Pickering Fellow, he continued his pursuit of higher education, earning his master’s degree at the University of Illinois. 

Nyok’s speaking engagement is sponsored by the Presidential Leadership Academy, Schreyer Honors College, the School of International Affairs, and the Center for Global Studies.

Last Updated February 08, 2016