I never expected to be experiencing DC from California during a pandemic coinciding with an election year. Still, I'm forever grateful for this experience, which only solidified my interest in pursuing International Development. I had the most amazing professors as a part of the UCDC program, which exposed me to fields that I genuinely want to learn more about as I progress in my career. The experience compelled me to learn more about Black Lives Matter, Race, Policy and Democratic Governance, and International Development. My learning experience in DC included fantastic guest speakers such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Congresswoman Karen Bass. As they answered questions students had about the current political election, students were inspired by the words of these high-profile speakers. Contact with the speakers allowed students to engage with leaders and inspired my UCDC cohort to pursue fields they are interested in.
Though I was hesitant and nervous about continuing an internship entirely remotely, I knew it would be worth it because this was the next big step that I wanted to take. Previously, I interned in a UN agency in Geneva. Seeing the political arena abroad, I sought the international political realm here in the States. That is why I set my eyes set on the USAID Bureau for Africa. It just so happens that my first pick was where I ended up interning! I interviewed for two different offices, and the office I ended up choosing was the office of sustainable development, specifically, The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) team.
I was eager to join this team because YALI empowers and invests in the next generation of young African leaders. My favorite part about this initiative is that it aligns with my belief that training and supporting young leaders helps sustain development in the long run. Part of my internship involved working with people on the continent to strategize about partnerships, communications, conduct research, data mining, and so on. I am grateful for this because I could interact with accomplished, inspiring, and thoughtful people throughout Africa. This experience only solidified my interest in this field.
My first day was unlike any first day at my previous internships since I was working remotely. However, it was still exhilarating. I woke up very early, and I had virtual meetings booked all morning. The beginning of every session started with me introducing myself and then getting straight to work. My supervisors tasked me with sitting in on meetings for projects I would be involved in and gave me options to meet with people to talk about my career. What was great about interning with the Bureau for Africa is that it has programs focused on my interests (youth and international development), and it is equipped with experts in that field. This allowed me to work with experts and ask them for advice and guidance regarding navigating the field.
The most inspiring moment was when I interviewed one of the alumni that went through that leadership program. The impact that alum continues to have on Tanzania's youth is not only essential, but it is also inspiring. He exemplifies what it means to have a dream, realize that dream, and make social change, approaching solutions to complex social problems with creativity. This interview showed me the long-lasting impact that investing in Africa’s youth has on the continent. I only hope to see more of this as I continue down this path.
In sum, I am grateful to have been selected as a Matsui Fellow. This fellowship reduced the financial burden typically associated with the internship, allowing me to engage with all that DC has to offer (virtually). My time at USAID will continue, and moving forward, I plan to continue engaging with youth and development on the continent by using my learned skills and involvement with USAID. This internship has expanded my knowledge and allowed me to see the inner workings of international development from the US agency perspective and see potential career opportunities in the field.