When I was first contacted by the Department of State and offered a position with the Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, it was a dream come true!
My first introduction to international development occurred in an eleventh grade Advanced Placement Human Geography class. While flipping through the textbook, I saw a picture of Ugandan children helping to push a United Nations vehicle through thick mud. The caption on the following page described the scene and posed a challenging question: “why are some nations so wealthy and others so poor?” The chapter went on to discuss international development, its historical origins, and the challenges faced by foreign donors. Intrigued, I found myself returning to that chapter throughout the remainder of the year and even as my academic studies progressed from high school to college.
Since that day, I have been drawn to development, studying how countries transform from authoritarian to democratic regimes and how foreign assistance effects economic and political growth. William and Mary offered me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom, providing me with the necessary background to succeed in my internship at the State Department.
While investigating State Department internships, I stumbled across multiple brochures that boasted about watching “diplomacy in action.” I never thought this statement to be true until I stood in the Harry S. Truman Building’s main entrance. The intimidating lobby boasted high ceilings and an imposing wall of foreign flags. All around me, people hurried to their desired location; foreign diplomats engaged in rapid discussions, government bureaucrats amiably greeted each other, military generals strode purposefully to meetings, and visitors gaped at the impressive interior. This scene was international relations in action, representing the intersection of the United States government and foreign policy.
During my ten-week internship, I had the opportunity to see all facets of foreign diplomacy and government life – I visited assorted government agencies, consulting firms, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations. I met foreign ambassadors, U.S. ambassadors, and high-level diplomats. I saw and experienced the positives and negatives of government bureaucracy and life in Washington, DC. The day-to-day experiences of living and working in DC confirmed my desire to work within international development and foreign assistance.
Entering my senior year at the College, I am still undecided about my future career. I learned this summer that working in government is not contained to working within a government agency or on Capitol Hill. Think tanks, non-governmental organizations, intelligence agencies, consulting firms, and civil service positions offer different opportunities and experiences – and all seem equally as fun and exciting.
Meredith Duffy ’13 is majoring in history and government. This summer she worked as an intern for the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia. She is president of the William & Mary Fencing Club and is currently writing a history honors thesis on Anti-Semitism in turn-of-the-century Vienna. After graduation, she intends to pursue work in intelligence analysis or international development.