Wildcats in Washington: At the Intersection of Policy and Diplomacy

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Last year, I was in the heart of the Colombian jungle, seeking answers as to why the production of a fruit that a whole village depended on had significantly dropped. Fast forward a year, and I am stuck in the D.C. metro – among its multiple repairs and detours – trying to figure out which line and direction I should get on to get to my internship.

What do these two experiences have in common? Well, of course the protagonist (me), Davidson’s support, and the fear factor of the unknown and unfamiliar. Interning at the Meridian International Center while being part of the Davidson in Washington program has fostered a seamless intersection of my interests in political science and Latin American studies. At Meridian, I am working for the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a White House Initiative established by President Obama in 2016. YLAI will bring 250 social and business entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S. in October for a four-week fellowship. During this time, the participants will be paired with a fellowship host from a U.S-based company with the goal of gaining valuable professional development skills to advance their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Front door of the Meridian International Center in Washington D.C.

Meridian International Center in Washington

My time in D.C. has been filled with learning experiences inside and outside the office and classroom. Never have I been more engaged in a class than I have been in the seminar World Politics in American Politics, taught by Dr. Besir Ceka. With a plethora of distinguished speakers, from Eric Lipton of The New York Times, John Zogby, founder of the Zogby Poll, and alumna Jillian Burns ’86 who is an expert on the U.S.-Iran relationship, the class has focused on how foreign policy is shaped and the way in which the different actors across nations interact to create it. D.C. has not only been a perfect hub for the syncretism of my main academic interests, but is also the perfect environment for – beware, buzzwords ahead – the convergence of the liberal arts with citizen diplomacy and a global education. At this intersection, studying the building blocks of the making of foreign policy and its multiple actors has helped me understand the role that the organization I am working for does, and how public diplomacy achieves one of the steps in this process. Overwhelmed by how effortlessly the experiences in the classroom translate to my internship, I have now a newer appreciation of the role of public diplomacy in bridging the links between experts, especially among international leaders and their American counterparts.

Of course, like many interns in D.C., I have had my fair share of administrative and typical intern tasks, but I have also been assigned tasks that require a knowledge of politics, nuances and cultural perception. Being a multi-disciplinarian has helped me stand out in the workplace, as I tackle software, technology, cultural and political issues, while trying to survive in the eclecticism of Washington. Finally, I would like to highlight all of the support Davidson College has provided throughout my summer experiences. I could not be prouder to belong to an institution that unconditionally fosters the inquisitive character of their students.

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About Author

Maria Antonia Bravo '18

Maria Antonia Bravo ’18 is a junior Latin American studies and political science double major from Cali, Colombia. She participated in the Davidson in Washington program and interning at Meridian International Center, working on public diplomacy projects.

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