Fourth annual Transformation Trip inspires students in DC

For the fourth year, FIU students had an opportunity to explore global careers in Washington, D.C. through the Office of Global Learning Initiatives’ Transformation Contest.  The contest asks students to submit a work of art that conveys an international or intercultural experience which changed their view of the world.  This year, winners Gailihea Calderon, Mckenley Howard, Alejandro Larios Venegas, and Rahel Gebretsadik Geremikael each submitted a personal narrative, poem, or video detailing their own experiences being torn between culturally different locales, whether within the US or internationally.

FIU students with the team from Devex, a communication platform for international development

The trip began May 1st at FIU in Washington, D.C., where the students convened with FIU alumni, researchers, and a university trustee. Over the next two days the group, accompanied by Global Learning Executive Director Hilary Landorf and Program Manager Eric Feldman, visited federal agencies including Peace Corps, the State Department, and the Japan-US Friendship Commission, and other entities in the international development space, such as Oxfam, Devex and Cultural Vistas.

Gailihea and Alejandro found distinct connections between their current studies at FIU and the career trajectory of a State Department diplomat.  “Since I am interested in law and economics, it was interesting to see how the diplomat-in-residence shifted from practicing law in New York to being a Foreign Service Officer focusing on economic development,” Gailihea said.  Alejandro, who currently works at a hospital and is graduating with a degree in health services administration this summer, said the trip made him consider how to affect healthcare policy through legislation.

The group visited Oxfam, a global organization focusing on poverty eradication

While the group toured the first floor of the State Department’s headquarters, it just so happened that recently-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was being sworn in upstairs.  They also received a surprise introduction to the first female special agent within the Diplomatic Security Service.

At each visit, students experienced international relations and development from a different vantage point.  The next stop was a 4-person federal agency, the Japan-US Friendship Commission, where students learned about the JET program, and the importance of assessment and evaluation in international and government work.

“Going from the State Department to the US-Japan Friend Commission, I learned that It doesn’t matter how big the organization or agency is to make an impact and change,” Alejandro said afterward.

Posing at FIU’s Washington, D.C. office

For Mckenley, “visiting the Peace Corps headquarters and listening to stories told by former Peace Corps volunteers made the idea of joining more appealing than ever.” who has previously considered applying for the international volunteer program but was on the fence.

It was each students’ first time visiting the nation’s capital, and there was ample time for sightseeing including the Lincoln Memorial and the National Archives.  More than the average tourist, though, each student left with a renewed sense of their place in the world, and feeling capable to take on global challenges through their future careers.

“To be honest,” said Gailihea, “it made me feel really important to be in D.C.”

The Office of Global Learning Initiatives understands the importance of showing students how they can address global issues in Washington.  “Students have to visit D.C. to understand that it is a possibility for them to move there for a job or internship,” said Executive Director Hilary Landorf.  More information on the Transformation Contest can be found by clicking here, and the call entries for next year’s trip will open in the fall.


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