Kelly Buckley '11

Describe your path since graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School.

Since graduating from the Abbey in 2011, I have received my B.A. in East Asian Studies and a Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and relocated to Washington, D.C. I moved to D.C. to pursue a career in international relations, specifically focused on strengthening U.S.-China relations. Prior to law school, I worked at Meridian International Center administering international exchange programs on behalf of the U.S. State Department as well as the Center for Naval Analyses. It was my personal, educational, and professional experience that ultimately led me to the George Washington University Law School where I am a second-year law student.

How did your experience at Portsmouth Abbey School help you become the person & professional you are today?

As the child of two U.S. Government employees, my family frequently relocated, which is why I decided to attend the Abbey. The Benedictine influence encourages students to practice humility, obedience, and loyalty. The values echo through the halls, across the Holy Lawn, and are instilled in the students and championed by the teachers and coaches. Kindness emanates throughout the campus. The respect for each other and the humanities curriculum facilitated thoughtful intellectual debate and discussion in the classroom while the structured lifestyle taught the importance of discipline.

The Abbey was my sanctuary to be curious while I also deepened my faith. I explored opportunities I may not have had the chance to like living abroad, for example. I participated in sports that I never dreamed of playing; I performed in school plays; I attended retreats and weekly mass with friends, and I also served as Head Girl. Ultimately, each experience made me more confident in who I am and what I am capable of, particularly how I can better serve others. The opportunities and lifestyle at the Abbey also instilled in me accountability, respect, and integrity. Although I missed my family, my four years at the Abbey allowed me to foster life-long relationships and offer stability. My teachers and friends are still some of my closest confidantes and counsel on my professional and personal life. As we have all recently experienced, there will be ups and downs in life, but the way we treat others, the values we hold dear, and the people we love are what make life worthwhile. My parents shaped me while the Abbey molded me into the person I am today. (Thank you!!!)

What is a piece of advice you’d give to current Portsmouth Abbey students?

Be brave, be curious, and be humble! You will accomplish things that you may not even think are possible right now (or are on your radar). Those who have gone before you, like me, will be cheering for you at commencement as well as throughout your other life accomplishments. Believe in yourself. We believe in you, and we want to support you however we can.

If I may share something that has certainly helped me to avoid certain sticky situations and is in memory of my late father, "You are never in trouble for saying too little, but always for saying too much." (Disclaimer: does not necessarily apply during Confession!)