Studying abroad is an adventure, and like all adventures, it has critical moments. As I undertook the journey I felt excited but also unsure of what to expect. My adventure began a little more than four months ago when I arrived in Washington, DC, with two suitcases, a study plan, a desire to find an internship and a fixed objective of widening my personal, cultural and professional perspectives.
While pursuing my Bachelor’s in International Relations in La Universidad De Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, I grew increasingly motivated to deepen my knowledge through work experience, and to become a better-rounded individual within political science and journalism. Looking for opportunities online, I came across an opportunity to participate in the American University Washington’s Semester Program (WSP) but it also required an internship opportunity. I took it as a challenge and applied for the WSP and was accepted, and I was so happy to go back to the U.S. because I always have longed for studying in an American university.
The next challenge was to get an internship and I had no clue how to go about that. After doing some online search, Meridian International Center popped up in my search and it was looking for interns for its Spring Term; however, I didn’t apply as I was clueless what to do. My first stop was the American University where I had to spend my semester studying U.S. Foreign Policy Seminar. The program I enrolled for requires part time credit courses as well as an internship. For months, I searched for an internship in DC but I was not lucky enough to get one, maybe because I was not present in DC. As soon as I arrived in DC I went straight to the Washington Semester Internship Fair at American University Campus where the logo of Meridian caught my eye. I went to the Meridian staff to know about what do they do. After talking for few minutes with my current supervisor, I was drawn to the mission and vision of Meridian. Later on, I sent my application which finally got accepted and I was offered a four-month internship in the GlobalConnect Division and it was one of the best moments of my time in DC.
Being the Programs Intern, I felt very lucky and thought of how big this opportunity was and I was very excited to encourage others to travel to the U.S. for studying in the fields they want to work in, get first-hand professional experience and go back to home countries to apply skills acquired and contribute to the positive social change.
Once I started taking my classes and working internship, the time accelerated and didn’t stop and now it seems my time to go back is coming closer quickly. Though I have come prepared to do so much in DC; however, the pace of work was quite demanding but at the same time rewarding. It was difficult to learn to balance and efficiently organize my time between the internship and university. But it is gratifying to see how my efforts and dedication paid off, gradually learning more about myself and becoming agile and efficient with all tasks I was put up against.
The kind and loving ambiance in Meridian allowed for me to become comfortable and feel at home, though time was limited but I was able to work on many programs such as: Young Transatlantic Innovation Leadership Initiative (YTILI), US Trade and Development Agency in Mexico (USTDA), Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP), U.S Congress- Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program, Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), the FPC Election Tour and finally USUAE Hazardous Management Mission . Having the opportunity to work on different programs with different staff members was an enriching experience and I was able to learn from each of them, not only about the programs but also about work ethics and the importance of Loving What You Do – a quality that everyone in Meridian has and a fascination to work in this leading nonprofit working on leadership development.
Though I enjoyed both an academic and theoretical environment, my real interest was in learning new skills and practically applying them. The internship gave me the opportunity to look at the other side of the coin. Since I went through different programs so I found that each one of them requires different tasks and skills. One of the most interesting programs is PAYLP because I was able to work on it from the start to the end. From working at my desk and coordinating logistics for the participants from five countries from Africa, to actually meeting those amazing emerging leaders and having the opportunity to interact with them broadened my understanding about the role of international education. It was gratifying to witness the implementation of the vision of Meridian, through the efforts of people who work behind the scenes to plan these programs which actually change the lives of people.
Being an international student and intern, my experience with Meridian has been challenging, rewarding and motivating. It has been a great learning experience as I have realized that academic rigor and social consciousness are fundamental to continuous improvement, the fulfillment of dreams, and the development of countries. The dedication and demand that goes into studying and internships is an effort that certainly pays off. I am quite confident that when I go back to Colombia, I will be in a better position to integrate myself into different spaces that promote human development and improve the lives of various social groups. All thanks to the motivation that people at Meridian gave me through the mission of “Promoting Global Leadership through the Exchange of Ideas, People, and Culture.”
Thank you Meridian!!