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Washington DC: A Series of Fortunate Events (by Lies Becker)

Date:10 January 2017
Lies Becker
Lies Becker

In February of 2016, I travelled to Washington DC to do a 3-month internship at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During my stay in the United States, I met many interesting as well as influential people and visited places that are not easily accessible to the public such as the World Bank and the White House. The tour of the White House is an example of the amazing rare opportunities I had during my internship. In order to tour the White House, interested parties must submit their request for a public tour through their state’s respective Member of Congress (see White House ). Since I am not an US citizen, my roommate who was an intern at the White House assisted in submitting my request. Due to my short stay in the United States, submitting a request was not possible because it would not have been completed on time. This is when I learned a valuable lesson: the impact of (right) connections is extremely powerful. My lovely roommate was an intern at the White House and through her, at the last minute, I was granted access to visit the official residence of the commander in chief. In a weird, but nevertheless pleasant, twist of events I found myself standing in line to enter the East Wing of the White House. As far as “pinch me” moments go, this was definitely in my top 5. More importantly, a visit to the White House was not planned nor envisioned. Nevertheless, it was a welcome surprise.

Another wonderful moment that I experienced was the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group. Every year, the IMF and the World Bank Group feature seminars, press conferences, regional briefings, and many other events focused on the world’s financial markets, global economy, and international development. Thanks to my internship supervisor at the Embassy, Minister Plenipotentiary Rendolf “Andy” Lee and the assistant to the Minister of Plenipotentiary of Aruba Ms. Angela Guiro, who have given me the opportunity to learn, grow, and be a part of the team, I was able to attend one very important meeting. It was on "Let Girls Learn," an initiative by the U.S. government that tries to ensure that adolescent girls, especially in third world countries, are granted access to education. At the moment, these girls face “complex physical, cultural, and financial barriers.” The keynote speakers were Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group and co-founder who helped launch the initiative and Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States. The crowd just erupted into cheers and applause when FLOTUS walked into the room. At that moment, it dawned on me that I was able, in a period of two weeks, to visit the White House and be in the same room as one of its residents. It was a mind-blowing experience. I was extremely grateful for the internship and American Studies in general. Without AS, the internship would not have been possible.

The internship at the Embassy was in itself an adventure, every day was different. The most exciting ones were the business trips to New York City and Baltimore. In NYC, I met with the vice-dean and other influential people of NYU (New York University). Afterwards, I was invited to visit a public school in Chinatown in order to gain valuable insight for a report I was working on for the island of Aruba. Also, while in NYC, I went to the UN-Headquarters and met with a couple of delegates from the Netherlands. The trip to Baltimore was extremely informative and inspiring as well. During this trip, I met with the dean and director of the music program of Towson University as well as others. These opportunities were possible because of my internship at the department of Aruba at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The process of application started with doing research on possible internship possibilities and having the courage to send an email to the department of Aruba at the Embassy. Soon after, before I knew it, I got the internship and the stressful process of applying for a visa soon followed.

My time in Washington D.C. taught me how tenacity, courage, and the use of the tools taught in American Studies—having a critical perspective, strong research skills, and academic proficiency in writing and speaking—can open many doors. Without the measures that American Studies takes to instill critical-thinking in its students, it would have been difficult for me to have earned these opportunities. The combination between knowledge and drive is powerful and effective. More importantly, I encourage students who are now considering whether or not to take the leap: jump! Dare to seek new challenges and internship possibilities that will give way to a potential career. Also, start making as many connections as you can. Networking is essential to get ahead in your future career. American Studies facilitates the transition from student to young professional. Use the tools at your disposal. In the meantime, do not rob yourself of the opportunity to put into practice what we are taught in American Studies through extracurricular activities such as mini-internships, jobs, volunteer work, or other interesting projects. The internship in Washington D.C. has been an amazing learning experience. The most important thing I took away from my experience was that having a critical perspective is valued and encouraged in the workplace.


References

“Let Girls Learn Featuring Michelle Obama” Online Video Clip. IMF. IMF and World Bank Group, 13 April 2016. Web. 1 December 2016.

“Tours & Events” The White House. The United States Government, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2016