Today was my last day interning at the U.S Department of Education and tomorrow will be my Washington Semester’s graduation. This semester flew by– and if there’s anything I took away from it is that I have been in the dark. I called myself an International Relations & Politics major for two years and I had no idea still what has/had been going on. Staying in D.C, living in the center of politics and international affairs, I was forced to really stay on top of what is going on in the world. I got into the habit of reading the NYT every day for an hour, reading books, talking to people and not just stating opinions based on reading one article. Really talking and discussing things that are plaguing the nation and the world, the unfairness of it all, and what can I do about it? It all comes down to that there is no easy answer to anything. Because if there was then the problem would be fixed. I think a lot of Americans underestimate how many people, especially people working in public service, actually care and are dedicated about making better policy and solving problems.
I think another thing a lot of us do is read something and take the information as entirely accurate and unbiased. Even reading the NYT or the Economist or any other published piece of writing, that does not necessarily make it true. Same goes for statistics- it amazed me how statistics can be used to support literally anything. For example, when I was researching about illegal immigration and amnesty, the statistics used for the side of house majority and house minority contradicted each other to prove their own point.
I think the most important thing I learned is to be optimistic about the future. Yes, congress is so gridlocked that they can’t make a decision, yes, a lot of politicians don’t try to make real change but instead focus on getting re-elected, thus not implementing real change or addressing urgent policies, but let’s be optimistic. I really draw a lot of inspiration from President Obama. I consistently see him trying to make concessions and taking centrist views to try to break the partisanship and I commend him on that.
And so as this semester is coming to an end, I got some sense of what road I am traveling on. It is a road that has not been traveled by people like me but I want to start it.
If there is anything that I learnt while in D.C is that nothing is set in stone. You can’t always count on something to happen, you just have to hope that it will happen. If anything, you have to be able to flexible and just take everything in stride. Here are some examples-
I went to the attending ceremony for the arrival of President Lee Myung Bak and President Obama. I luckily got tickets from Yeilee who just signed up on twitter of all places! So that morning I woke up at like 6am (which was already late apparently) and it was raining like crazy. But I dragged myself out of bed and went to the white house. Then it started pouring like crazy. While we getting our id’s checked the security officer started making an announcement that the event was going to be canceled! I was pretty disappointed but just continued with the security checks and at least walked right by the front of the white house but then! they decided to continue with the ceremony because the rain sort of stopped. So I got to see the two head of states and hear them make speeches. It was quite an awesome opportunity.
My second example would be volunteering to model the korean traditional dress (hanbok) at the korean ambassador’s, Han Duk Soo, house. I was really excited but they ended up having too many volunteers so a bunch of us had to leave. Even so, I was still glad I went because I got to see the huge ambassdor’s house and meet some cool people. However, I ended up getting to have a personal dinner with the ambassador along with the other 15ish people who also had to leave. We ate at La Perla (yeah I didn’t know it was a restaurant either.. thought it was some fancy lingerie? haha) and it was delicious :)
So really I would say… seize the opportunity. Sure it might not work out but then again, it might and it might be amazing.
And sometimes failures turn out for better stories anyway.
Carpe Diem everyone!
Here are some questions I had to answer for class so I decided to share it with you guys in hopes that some of you guys may find it useful!
U.S Department of Education
1. How was your week? What did you accomplish?
The week went pretty well. The new assignment that I had this week was editing a video by the vice president of education from Asia Society for International Education Week. He had a lot of insights into on global education and how to education students to become more globally minded. It was relevant to my own life as well so I felt like I learned a lot even while just trying to edit the video and whittle it down to about 10-15 minutes. Other than that I continued working on writing up summaries for teacher quality reports. I had an interesting Wednesday because there was a small charity basketball tournament at the Department. The Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Deputy Secretary Tony Miller lead two teams made up of DOEd employees. It was really funny to watch and a big morale booster for the agency. Two of my bosses were out of the office this week so it was a slow week for me.
2. Has your internship experience inspired you? If so why? If not why not?
I am a firm believer that you can find inspiration anywhere. This applies to my internship at the Department of Education. I think one of the biggest inspirations is that I can see that I can be a competent member of a workplace. I know now that I can easily integrate myself and be part of the team to actually contribute to the team. It was also really fantastic to meet a high school classmate also interning at the DOEd although in the office of Elementary and Secondary education. As we had lunch and he was telling me about how he is really interested in education and being involved in education in the future. We were talking about our own high school education which was at a very small and selective magnet public school which is very rare for NY schools. He was telling me about how much education has an impact on a person’s future and how he could already see the effects through his own friend group. It really made me reflect on how important education is and how lucky I was to have had an amazing FREE education and firmly believe that everyone should have that opportunity. That is one of the most great thing about democracy, the belief that everyone should have an equal opportunity to make the most of themselves and although I was lucky enough to benefit and experience that, there are so many people out there who do not have that opportunity and it should be our job to make that a possibility. So although I do not really foresee myself working directly with education, there is no doubt that it will always be a part of my life whether professionally or personally and so that in itself makes me very lucky to have this opportunity to get an inside look into the education system and contribute.
3. What advice would you give to others with regard to interning in Washington, DC?
Embrace the uncomfortable because that will help you grow the most. Whether it is socially, professionally, or academically always try to make the most of every opportunity and sometimes the first step is just getting yourself out of your bed and going to an event. You know what will happen if you just decide to stay in your room but you never know what interesting and cool things will happen if you decide to go out and do something. At your workplace, don’t underestimate the power of a smile and greeting. Even if you don’t get to relate deeply or get to personally know a person, just having them know your face can potentially lead to connections in the future and perhaps if you run into them in the future they will remember you! But that being said, try your best to cultivate relationships in the office, after all, life is about connecting yourself.
4. So far, what has been your best and worst Washington, D.C. experiences?
My best experience would have to be getting to see President Obama and the Korean president. It felt very surreal to see someone who I only see in newspapers and on T.V in real life.
My worst experience is really just the loneliness and decrease in comfort that comes with moving to a new place. While it hasn’t really affected me in a strong way, it is a feeling that lingers about sometimes. But I know that if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities such as this program and studying abroad next semester, I will always be left unsatisfied. And so, I guess that’s the trade off that we make. I strive for change most of the time- if anything I would say change defines me because I always have this constant longing to change myself, my environment, etc., so that I can really experience everything the world has to offer me but sometimes I feel some of the side effects and it isn’t always great. Most commonly things like loneliness and comfort are always the first to go when change comes around.
I had the opportunity to listen to Michael Moore speak at Georgetown University a couple of days ago and there were a couple of points that really struck me.
These days, in the midst of a recession of lack of jobs with the combination of student loans, credit card debts, it seems like a lot of us are locked down. We are stuck in this endless of cycle of being desperate for a job then using that job to pay off our debts, and eventually our life passes us by. We stick with our job saying that it is just a job and being passionless.
Who’s fault is it that this cycle exists? Credit card companies? Universities? Ourselves?
I was really inspired by his story of running for school board at the age of 18. Democracy only works if everyone single person is informed and dedicated to working together to make our country a better place. Leadership positions aren’t only for that top 1% of society, it is for all of us to reflect and give input. Perhaps if we stopped pushing these roles out of our lives, “out of sight out of mind”, and then blaming everything on the leaders, perhaps if we were all part of the decision making process, perhaps if we, ourselves, became leaders and input our ideas, we would all have a sense of accountability and we couldn’t just blame those select few that seem to run our world. After all, it is OUR country, not George W. Bush’s, not Obama’s…
We are only 20! The world is our oyster.
Let’s travel the world, let’s expand our narrow views, let’s join the peace corps, let’s share our experiences with all the people around us, let’s take chances, let’s fail, let’s succeed, let’s fall in love with the way we are living our lives, let’s wake up everyday invigorated with what we are doing… i think in that way.. the world will be a better place.
As i’ve spent about a month here in Washington D.C, there are a lot of things that I feel like i’ve been learning. And here are just some ramblings:
- creativity creativity creativity will keep you shining and irreplaceable! everywhere i go, creativity and innovation is emphasized and valued. My boss at work ALWAYS tell me to make each project my OWN and to see where I can be innovative! And when I heard Thomas Friedman speak about his new book, he emphasized how important creativity is. When you dive into a project, a workspace, a class, attack it with a creative mind and give it that extra spark to make it indispensable.
- THE THREE C’S: CREATIVITY, COMMUNICATION, & COLLABORATION
- PASSION: no matter what anyone says about how it is not feasible to have a job that you are passionate about- THEY ARE LYING! Passion breeds creativity and happiness and i would give up EVERYTHING to find it– although i feel lucky enough to at least have a general idea of what i am passionate about.
- The age where being average was okay is over. being average is OVER.
- it is an age to think differently: 1) Think like a new immigrant. There is no legacy. This is a new age with hyperglobalization. 2) Think like an artisan- do your job as well as you can to the point where you would carve your name into it.
- Optimism. God this one is so great. I’ve been meeting so many influential people and people who have made a name for themselves in Washington D.C and one of the things that always pops out at me is their optimism! Yes, there are politicians and people who are cynical and sarcastic, but those people are never the great, influential people that really make a difference. The leaders who submerge all their ideas and policies with optimism really do change things around them. No matter how small! And you should hear them talk– optimism makes charisma and character shine through. When I heard Rudy Giuliani talk at the National Press Club as well as when I read his book- optimism really shone through.
- this really applies: THE HARDER I WORK, THE LUCKIER I GET.
- “do what’s possible, try what’s not”
- as important as leadership is and as much as you might want recognition and a promotion, sometimes we have to realize that there is something bigger than yourself.
This week I could say is the week of a lot of ‘firsts’. I had my first day of classes as well as my first day of my internship.
I think I will learn a lot from my classes. There is definitely a religious tone to all my classes probably due to the fact that Georgetown is a Jesuit school. So that is tangible difference from my home institution.
My international affairs seminar class is about terrorism and how religion plays a role. I think I will learn a lot from this class since I know virtually nothing about terrorism. My professor (Gregory Havrilak) has had a lot of experience internationally and his stories about serving as a NATO officer is fascinating. Read his bio for yourself, it is quite interesting.
Greg Havrilak has worked in numerous posts as both lecturer and religious advisor. For nine years he taught ancient, medieval and modern philosophy at the City University of New York and at Nassau College on Long Island. In 1998, he settled in Europe to become the Senior Religious Advisor to NATO AIRNORTH, and to the military attaché at the American Embassy in Paris. When the Kosovo War broke out, he was dispatched to the Balkans to work with Catholic, Islamic and Orthodox leaders and Non-Governmental Agencies in Albania and Kosovo on humanitarian, religious and human rights issues
My other professor, Bradeley Blakeman, invited us to his interview on FOX NEWS last night which was a great insight into how television news works.
Bradley A. Blakeman most recently was the President of Freedom’s Watch a right of center conservative advocacy 501 C4. Prior to founding Freedom’s Watch, Mr. Blakeman was a member of President George W. Bush’s Senior Staff having served from 2001-2004 as Deputy Assistant to the President for Appointments and Scheduling, Vetting and Research, Correspondence and Surrogate Scheduling. Mr. Blakeman can be seen regularly as a Republican Strategist on FOX News, MSNBC, BBC, CNN and Al Jezeera. He also is published regularly in Politico, US News and World Report and Newsmax. Mr. Blakeman played a major role in the 2000 Presidential Election as a Senior Advisor and played a critical role in the Florida Recount a role that landed him a part as a character in the HBO Film “Recount”. He has also been an advisor on the ABC TV Drama Series “Commander in Chief”. Mr. Blakeman is an Attorney licensed to practice in that State of New York and the District of Columbia and is currently the President & CEO with Kent Strategies LLC, a private corporation dedicated to providing strategic advice as well as crisis management and communications strategies to foreign governments and foreign and domestic corporations. He is also a principal of Manhole Barrier Security Systems Inc., which owns a U.S. Utility Patent on a manhole-locking device that is currently being sold nationwide. Mr. Blakeman has been active in Presidential Politics since 1980. He was appointed to serve as a member of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Council during the George H.W. Bush Administration.
But onto my internship at the Department of Education. It is a new experience to actually work within the federal government. I just love the feeling of swiping my id card to get into the elevator! But it seems like it will be a great time- The DOE sponsors lunch with various people within the DOE and guess who I will be having lunch with! (along with the 50 other interns)– Arne Duncan! Secretary of Education. The Secretary of Education is part of the President’s cabinet and is 16th in line for presidential succession. (Just a fun fact.) I work within the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (OPEPD) and there are 3 interns (including me).
And so my time in D.C begins…
So I have been here in D.C for about a week now and school is starting tomorrow. My internship starts on Thursday.
I have met most of the people in my program and it is quite an eclectic mix. There are some recent graduates from California as well as a sophomore and people from different cultural backgrounds so I think it will make for some fun discussions and debates.
I am working at the Department of Education and am excited to get started.
Went for a visit today just to make sure I’d know where I was going and here it is:
Not much else to report– will update you later!
On the other hand, the escalator down to Rosslyn metro station is so long and scary and dark. The metro basically looks like its from some alien tunnel movie. I don’t like it.
Some other random things I’ve observed:
1. I think the reputation that Georgetown has for good looking individuals is true. Even the movers that were moving boxes were cute.
2. Are all poli sci majors outgoing and talkative? So far my experiences with interacting with them say yes.
3. The water here is definitely not up to NY and Pittsburgh level. My hair still feels dirty when I come out of the shower! Is it just me?