It’s one thing to practice cybersecurity in the classroom or a competition setting, but it’s something else entirely to do it in a real-world setting — especially in another country.
Four California high school students had the opportunity to do just that this summer when they participated in the Future Cybersecurity Leaders Exchange, funded by the U.S. Embassy in London. A total of 20 students participated in the program, 10 from the U.S. and 10 from the UK.
Students saw sights like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, but they also shadowed cybersecurity professionals from the public and private sectors, which broadened their horizons about potential career paths.
“The experience impacted the way I view cybersecurity significantly,” said Sky Jung, a junior at Troy High School. “We were exposed to a diverse range of careers in the cybersecurity field that I wasn’t aware of prior to the exchange program.”
The program included a 14-day cybersecurity camp in the UK, followed by professional site visits in Washington, D.C. and southern California. Students participated in a cultural exchange aimed at creating global networks among future cybersecurity leaders.
“Almost everyone has been staying in contact since the program ended,” Jung said. “After spending pretty much every day together for almost a month, it was so hard to say goodbye to my exchange friends, but the fact that we’ve all still been able to stay in touch just shows that it’s possible to make lasting connections.”
The trip included a visit to Google’s headquarters in London, which stood out for Bowen Liu, a senior at North Hollywood High School.
“I remember the tour guide taking us out to the balcony with patio swings, wooden logs for chairs, and this amazing view of London facing the Thames River. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted this kind of workspace from a company,” Liu said.
Participants also had the opportunity to see how regulations differ between the U.S. and the UK and make connections with companies like Cisco and Northrop Grumman.
“From what I picked up, cybersecurity in the UK is much, much more regulated,” said Nathan Melwani, a senior at Troy High School.
Phoenix Dimagiba, a senior at Del Norte High School, noted a difference in how cyber apprenticeships are viewed in each country.
“It was fascinating to learn about the types of cybersecurity opportunities available in the UK,” he said. “It seems like their cybersecurity education and apprenticeships are much more developed than they are here in the U.S.”
Students also learned about the ever-increasing role that cybersecurity plays in geopolitical conflicts.
“Coming into the exchange, my entire perspective was blown open, especially when they revealed the amount of geopolitical tensions that involve cybersecurity” Liu said. “I realized that my thoughts on cybersecurity were constrained by where I live.”
As Melwani prepares for college, the exchange program crystalized that cybersecurity is the pathway he wants to follow.
“Cybersecurity went from being merely just a competition for me to a possible major or minor in college,” he said. I learned that the world of cybersecurity is very diverse, as there are so many intricate methods that someone could utilize to take control of a network.”
The program also helped Dimagiba solidify his view of cybersecurity as he prepares for college and the start of his career.
“The visits to U.S. and UK government agencies and corporations served as reminders that the end goal of cybersecurity is protecting others,” Dimagiba said. “Cybersecurity professionals can ensure national security, maintain the integrity of consumer data, or both.”
The Future Cybersecurity Leaders Exchange was facilitated In the U.S. by PH International and in the UK by the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and QA, ltd. For more information, visit https://www.ph-int.org/us/program/239/.