Written by Grace Lederer – Program Advisor, Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES)
The opportunity to be a TFAS program participant fell into my lap last year just a few days before the application’s priority deadline. An email with the subject headline “Intern in DC this Summer” sent by Saint Leo University’s honors program caught my eye and I was immediately interested in the program. I applied and was thrilled to find out that I was accepted into the Engalitcheff Institute of Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES). Although I had no idea what kind of internship I should expect, I trusted in TFAS to lead the way.
I had spent the previous summer interning at Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, a tropical research institute in Costa Rica. When the ICPES Program Director called and said that she had gotten me an interview with the United States Department of Agriculture, I thought it was the perfect fit and I could not have been more excited. I was slightly worried that I did not know enough about engineering to be in the USDA’s Water Infrastructure Sector, but once on the job, I quickly realized that I was able to make meaningful contributions in my workplace by writing development strategies for water projects, coordinating conferences, and managing the USDA_RD social media platforms.
I loved everything about my workplace, particularly the setting. Its close proximity to Capitol Hill allowed me the flexibility to attend what turned out to be one of my favorite TFAS events of the summer—a Lecture Series titled “Free Markets, Individual Liberty, and Civil Society.” My attendance at the first optional speaker was based purely off the lure of a free meal, but I quickly found how intellectually stimulating it is to attend speakers that I may not have thought I would have any interest in on the surface. I thoroughly enjoyed broadening my views and hearing the viewpoints and experiences of legal experts and business executives.
The best part of the academic experience with TFAS was how relevant the lessons I had in the classroom were to the current events that were unfolding in our country. My ECON 309 “Economic Problems and Public Policies” class at George Mason addressed hotly debated policy issues that had become central to the ongoing presidential election. It seemed that each day I had a lesson or a guest speaker, I would come home to find the topic trending as a national news headline.
Out of all the amazing experiences that TFAS afforded me, being able to end my days by coming back to an apartment building filled with friends made it that much better. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by driven young people who shared my passions and we made countless memories exploring the city together. I still keep in touch with my roommates and neighbors and I think the network we built with each other will be just as valuable as the professional networks that we created in the years to come.