My time in Buenos Aires during the Spring 2013 semester has been an opportunity for tremendous growth. I don’t know if I’m really alone in saying it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many undergraduate students nearing the finish line have a moment (or various moments) of panic, self-doubt, and second-guessing about what happens next. I have a plan, and the chips have mostly fallen in my favor while following that plan, but I still have moments when I look back and think, “What did I learn? What have I been prepared for?”
Until I came to Buenos Aires, that great big step out of the classroom was staring me in the face. No matter how much I’ve studied abroad or how high my exam scores and GPA were, I was all too aware that I was still only in a classroom, and I was learning in a controlled environment. Thinking about being employed in International Affairs, I couldn’t think of any reason why someone would want to pay me for what I knew or had done.
Luckily for me, on paper and later in person, I convinced La Fundación Pensar that I was worth having around. La Fundación Pensar is a think tank that generates public policy for the political party currently filling the governing seat of the autonomous city government of Buenos Aires, the PRO. The PRO has teamed up with La Fundación in an effort to generate policies that will help them to springboard past local into national legitimacy in time for the presidential elections in 2015. One of the policy platforms that they will need for their 2015 race for the Pink House from which the president governs, is for foreign policy. My supervisors at La Fundación invited me to join their foreign policy team and to help them create a policy proposal to present at the end of May to Mauricio Macri, the Head of Government for the capitol, and leader of the party.
After almost five months on the job, I don’t worry about what comes next anymore. As a result of working on a new foreign policy vision for Argentina, I’ve realized that my ideas are worthwhile and I have been prepared for a future in International Affairs, whatever that may be. My positive contributions to foreign policy led my boss, the head of the foreign policy team, to rely on me for feedback and input on an even wider range of policy issues, including church-state relations, the drug trade in Argentina, and even his own academic and political publications.
These experiences are what undergraduates like me need. Some of us are too cautious with our own selves and mistrusting of our own talents. I’ve grown a lot in the six months since my arrival in Buenos Aires. I have become a confident, independent international professional. I hope that all students can have something similar to show them they’re ready. Bring on the finish line.
*J.P. Stovall (International Affairs, Spanish, Asian Religions & Cultures major and member of Chinese Flagship Program, class of 2014), used his LTE Grant to fund an internship and archival research in Argentina in Spring 2013.