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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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College student works for senator, travels world

College student works for senator, travels world

CUT OFF, La. (AP) — Working for a U.S. senator, travelling to France to work for the Catholic Church after a semester at Oxford and serving dessert to the Canadian defense minister at the Canadian Embassy during a presidential inauguration.

Many people would consider these the accomplishments of a man about ready to retire, not the experiences of 21-year-old from Cut Off. But they are just some of the bullet points on the résumé of Tristan Bagala.

Bagala is in his final semester at the University of Georgia where he's double majoring in political science and marketing with a minor in French and is a member of the Honors Program. However, on top of that he is in Washington interning in the office Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

"I work a 50-hour week, then I go home two nights a week and have classes," Bagala said. "It's my last semester, so I set things up so I can be up here working and possibly transition into a job, but I don't think that's the path for me."

To Bagala, his experiences in our nation's capital have been eye opening and informative.

"It's a lot of work keeping everything in order," Bagala said. "You watch CNN or Fox News and they've got the senator up there, and they speak or give an interview and just walk off, but it takes 15-20 people behind the scenes to make that happen and I never expected that."

Bagala is a Chambliss Fellow at UGA, which not only provides him a full ride scholarship and room and board, but also a travel stipend for educational trips. During his college career, Bagala has studied at Oxford and in Nova Scotia, worked for the archdiocese in Tours, France, and will be going to Japan for two weeks to visit Buddhist temples and Tokyo Disneyland.

"I grew up going to Disney World with my family for vacations and I absolutely love it, so I'm planning on going to Tokyo Disneyland for a day or two," Bagala said. "When I was in France, I spent a couple days at Disneyland Paris, so I want to go to Tokyo Disneyland, too."

To get this fellowship, Bagala seemed to be working toward it from the moment he entered school. Not only did he get straight A's throughout his primary school career, but he also upheld the Bagala family tradition of getting perfect attendance, a feat that his father and grandfather accomplished as well.

What's even more impressive is that he accomplished this even after deciding to go to Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma and commuting to class every day.

"He went to school where his mom was the principal from fourth grade to eighth grade at St. Mary's," said Reggie Bagala, Tristan's father and the internal auditor for the Lafourche Parish Council. "When he was making good grades, some kids would say he only made good grades because his mom was the principal. He really went to Vandebilt to become more independant and obscure."

Yet, even with that added layer of obscurity, Tristan Bagala shined at Vandebilt. Not only did he continue his straight A's while taking advance placement classes as a junior, he also led the school's Quiz Bowl and French Rally teams to victory when he was a senior.

"I always pictured Tristan as an old soul. He's wise beyond his years," said Irma Colasurdo, his French teacher at Vandebilt. "It's important to me for kids to be well-rounded and fun and he was both of those things. He's one of the finest young men I've ever taught in my 49-year career."

Tristan Bagala has a few potential career paths he is looking at. One way he could possible go is back home to Louisiana to either attend law school at Louisiana State University or Tulane University or perhaps taking a job.

Another option would be to return to Canada and work for Beavertails, the dessert company that he worked for one summer and returned to work catering for last month at the Canadian Embassy.

While in Nova Scotia, Bagala said he was amazed at how similar the people there were to those in Louisiana and how things like their food and boats seemed to evolve and develop in parallel to south Louisiana where Cajuns can trace their roots to Nova Scotia.

But for Bagala, the experiences and knowledge he's gained while travelling and studying so far away from his bayou home have been invaluable.

"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd have gone to Europe twice or I'd be going to Japan," Bagala said. "The world was so small on the bayou. I love that part of the world and want to go back. But never would I have thought while I was at Vandebilt that I would be on a scholarship that has given me so many opportunities."

Information from: The Courier,

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