IBGA Student Profile

Written by Liz Hartman – Program Advisor, IBGA

Moises Balayla is a rising sophomore at Santa Fe College in Florida, pursuing majors in Economics and Political Science. Venezuela is home for Moises, but he has traveled to many places. After graduating high school, he completed a gap year in Israel where he participated in a leadership course and volunteered and worked in a kibbutz. Upon nearing completion of his freshman year, Moises’ advisor pointed him in the direction of TFAS. After being accepted to the Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA), he was very excited to move to DC because of all the opportunities the city has to offer.

This summer Moises interned at Network Under 40, a company that hosts networking events around DC. His internship allowed him to work remotely and was therefore able to create his own hours. Because of this experience, he cultivated a desire to have a career where he is his own boss inspired from his supervisor and his working style.

Moises is especially excited to have had exposure to the Economics of Regulation course, and is looking forward to bringing that knowledge back to his campus this fall. When not in his economics class, he enjoyed going to the Smithsonian museums and has visited each one. He also enjoyed the guest lecture series, as well as the alumni round table where he received advice from TFAS supporters who have continued to help him while he has been in DC.

Overall, Moises had a very comprehensive summer in DC and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. He was inspired by his TFAS experience, and said he sees the, “Whole experience as an inspiration to start learning by making mistakes now.” His mind has been opened to the diverse political opinions that TFAS offers both in and outside of the classroom. He was impressed by the caliber of people that he met from all over the country and the world. He recalled during the Capitol Hill Lecture Series featuring Rand Paul when he asked a question about Venezuela. At the conclusion of the lecture, someone from Colombia sought him out to talk with him. He felt this conversation proved that when in DC, you never know who you will meet and should always be ready for a discussion.

From attending plays and musicals at the Kennedy Center, small groups with fellow IBGA students, and networking events thorough his internship, his TFAS summer has helped shape his future plans to strive to become an entrepreneur.

IPJ Student Spotlight

Written by Brooke Cary – Program Advisor, IPJ

Each summer, students stand out because of their eagerness to learn, their dedication to their work and their living embodiment of gratitude, and Rosa Linde Rupert is definitely one of those students.

Rosa is the final stretches of a dual degree in philosophy and politics & economics from Leiden University in the Netherlands. She recently worked for her local radio station and organized a study trip to China where she interviewed the Chinese artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei. At the time of her interview, the artist was still under house arrest. The experience greatly impacted her desire to pursue a career in journalism and left her anxious to do more.

This was all just prior to hearing about TFAS through one of her university professors. After getting to know the program, Rosa decided to spend her summer studying journalism and interning in Washington, DC.

“Especially now, especially here [in D.C.], working at a foreign bureau as a political reporter is very, very exciting,” Rosa said.

This summer, Rosa interned with Al Arabiya, one of the largest Middle Eastern television news networks, regarded as a competitor to Al Jazeera. During her internship, she worked on research for live interviews, video editing projects and getting practice on both sides of the camera. Some of her highlights included attending a White House briefing and several State Department briefings. She also covered breaking news in DC, accompanying correspondents on their live projects and getting to know her supervisors.

“It was a really high-level internship in the sense that it was really challenging and interesting. So, I am really thankful that I got this opportunity through TFAS,” Rosa said. “Also, the skills I learned in the outside activities were also really helpful – like the networking seminar and the mentor breakfasts.”

Rosa had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and the Hirshhorn Museum, which was one of her definite favorites. She loved getting to meet other students from all over the US and felt that she got a better view of the country through her peers.

In the fall, Rosa will begin her Research Master’s degree in Social Sciences through the University of Amsterdam. She also intends to keep her finger on the pulse of political news by working part time as reporter. Rosa looks forward to staying in touch with her peers, colleagues and the mentors she met through TFAS.

“You are really are encouraged–and rightfully so–to go around and learn from others in the same situation, or others that have advanced already and to take their advice,” Rupert said. “I think it’s really valuable.”

For those who are looking to participate in a TFAS program, Rosa offered some of her own advice. “Enjoy it fully,” Rosa said. “Be present and open—also to the other students in the program, because that’s a really useful learning opportunity as well.”

IEIA Student Spotlight

Written by Reim Alian – Program Advisor, IEIA

Hailing from Atlanta, Annamarguerite “Maia” Zvetan brought her Georgia passion andzeal to TFAS this summer as she participated in the Institute on Economic and International Affairs.

A rising senior at the University of Michigan, Maia’s studies are grounded in international affairs, with an emphasis on foreign policy and comparative culture identity. She found her experience with TFAS to be thought-provoking and fascinating. Studying at George Mason University this summer, Maia’s beliefs were simultaneously challenged, and at times reaffirmed, during bi-weekly lectures in the international economic policy course taught by Dr. Anne Bradley, and attending guest speaker events.

An avid learner, studying Korean, Spanish, English and Italian languages eased Maia’s immersion in diverse cultures and communities across the United States and the globe. As a world traveler, she has utilized her international and domestic experiences to both learn about and teach others. She previously volunteered teaching Spanish to elementary school students. In the future, she intends on mastering two additional languages in hopes of pursuing a career in Foreign Service.

Her rigorous coursework coupled with high academic standing and achievement earned Maia a fellowship with the Council for American Ambassadors this summer. Currently, she is interning at the U.S. Department of State. One of the most notable events she experienced through her internship was the Cultural Festival, which is a unique component of the Women’s Leadership Conference that is sponsored by SUSI, the Study of the U.S. Institutes, through the U.S. Department of State. Representing over twenty countries spanning across Africa and central Asia, the festival featured women of all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds, uniting them in an evening celebrating cross-cultural education and awareness.

For Maia, the past two months participating in IEIA have been filled with learning, cognizance, and academic and professional development. She capitalized on countless opportunities to build a concrete professional and networking foundation in DC. Upon returning to Michigan in the fall, Maia will be spending the next year completing her undergraduate education with future plans in obtaining a master’s degree.

ICPES Student Spotlight

Written by Grace Lederer – Program Advisor, ICPES

Zane Kalnina joined TFAS all the way from Latvia this summer for her second educational experience in the United States. After hearing a presentation at her home university, Zane realized “this was not an experience [she] wanted to miss out on.” She applied and was accepted due to her stellar academic record and previous experience interning at the Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As a student of international economics and diplomacy at the University of Latvia, Zane felt that the Institute on Comparative Political and Economic systems (ICPES) was the best fit for her interests.  She said her classroom experience at George Mason University with Professor Christopher Coyne helped her to gain insight on how to best apply economic principles to policy, and how to analyze the seen and unseen impacts of different public policy actions.

Zane spent her summer working as a Congressional intern in the office of John Shimkus (R-IL). Zane says her day-to-day tasks included answering phone calls, giving tours of the Capitol building, and ensuring proper correspondence with constituents.  She also attended hearings and briefings and assisted in the coordination of office meetings and events. Her favorite part of her job was getting the experience of working alongside the foreign affair legislative assistant, which allowed her to gain more experience pertaining to her academic interests.

This office was particularly special to Zane because Representative Shimkus is the co-chair of the Baltic Caucus, which collectively works with 67 members from both the Democratic and Republican parties to advance the shared economic, political, and cultural interests of the Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States. Congressman Shimkus invited Zane to attend the White House Congressional Picnic, which is now regarded as her favorite day at work.

Zane says her summer was so remarkable that it is difficult to choose just one experience as her favorite. The experience of “being in this hub where you have a chance to witness how domestic and international politics are shaped, meet and network with experienced professionals, and realize all the different opportunities for your future,” was the best part about living and working in DC. She noted that some of her stand-out experiences included attending meetings with professionals from international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.

Zane’s immediate future plans include returning to Latvia, where she will write her bachelor thesis on macroeconomic issues and economic development. She looks forward to sharing her experience and encouraging others to not hesitate to take the challenge of going somewhere new and aiming higher in their goals. Zane intends to pursue a career with an international organization that deals with economic policy, research, and development.

IPVS Student Spotlight

Written by Sarah Markley – Program Advisor, IPVS

Maria Sofia Takacova was a leader among her peers in the 2017 Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service. Her commitment to service always showed in her positive attitude and the innovative ideas she brought to each new project. Maria is finishing her Bachelor’s degree in management next year at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. Growing up in the city of Kosice, Slovakia, Maria always pursued international experiences and spent time studying in both England and Denmark during high school. When she heard from friends about their experiences with TFAS last summer, she decided to apply to continue her travels and spend a summer in Washington, DC. This summer she is participating in TFAS through a scholarship provided by the nonprofit organization Friends of Slovakia.

Maria has spent her summer interning with Mentors, Inc., a nonprofit that pairs high school students with mentors in order to improve graduation rates. At her internship, Maria helps coordinate and organize the mentor program as well as assisting with the organization’s social media. When asked what the most rewarding part of her work was, Maria said, “I’m a math person, so the nicest thing to see is the statistics because they prove that we are doing a meaningful thing.” According to the organization’s website, students in Mentors, Inc. programs have a 90% graduation rate compared to a rate of 60% for their peers in DC.

Maria has always been passionate about volunteering, beginning with tutoring children in a local orphanage when she was in high school. She went on to establish Consulting Club Bratislava with several of her friends, and this nonprofit organization now teaches high school and university students how to succeed in high-level interviews through classes and networking events. Maria’s involvement with the global nonprofit The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Awards began when she received a Gold Award while studying in England, and she helped to establish a chapter of this organization in Slovakia where she serves as a mentor for other students in this program. In addition to her volunteer efforts, Maria works as a Project Coordinator for Google’s nonprofit endeavor Digital Garage. It’s not easy balancing schoolwork with so many other commitments, but Maria describes her family as her biggest inspiration and looks up to her parents and grandparents as role models for how to be successful as well as meaningfully involved in the community.

Describing her favorite part of this summer’s TFAS program, Maria said she loves the behavioral economics course taught by Dr. Houser, and she looks forward to implementing what she learned in her nonprofit projects when she returns home. She also appreciates the well-rounded experience offered by the IPVS program, since it combines volunteer work, professional development, education, and the experience of living in Washington, DC. When asked about her future plans, she said, “There’s still so much to work on back home – my life goal is to improve education in Slovakia.” Her dream is to someday be a principal or even start her own school, and she wants to help motivate teachers and improve curricula across the nation.


DC Living – You Have Now Entered the Professional Sphere

Written by Liz Hartman – Program Advisor, IBGA

Moving and living in a city can be tough. To help you, here are five important tips I learned from my past summer in DC that helped me excel within my internship, TFAS and my everyday living in DC. Be your best self this summer by following these tips!

Get To Know the People You Work For
You might be working with people that are older, younger or the same age as you. There might be a lot of differences between the two of you, but it is important you listen and get to know who you work for. If your supervisor talks to you about their kids, be engaged and excited. It might not be something that you can relate to, but showing this extra attention and displaying that you care will go a long way with your supervisor.

Fight Mundane Routine
We all know the feeling of coming home from a long day and just wanting to sleep. However, there are just too many opportunities in this city to take advantage of! Go on a run through the national mall, look up extended hours for Smithsonian museums, attend networking events with your office, meet for informational interviews. The possibilities are endless if you have the willpower to fight monotonous routine, and take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities awaiting you in DC.

Have a Prepared Elevator Speech 
There are many unexpected opportunities in DC to run into prominent people. Having an elevator speech prepared can help exponentially when gaining connections and future employment opportunities. Click here for examples and tips on how to write a good elevator speech.


Dress to Impress
Whether it be at your internship or out on the weekend, you never know when the opportunity will arise to attend an important networking or social event. Have a professional outfit prepared that you can wear on a whim to be ready for the numerous opportunities that will spring up this summer. Pay attention to the dress codes of different events, and know the differences between smart casual, business casual, and business professional!

Treat Everyone you Meet with Respect The person sitting next to you on the metro may someday be your boss, so it is very important that you treat everyone respectfully. Make an effort to put your best foot forward with everyone you meet. It could open a lot of doors in the future.

PA Testimonial – Reim

Written by Reim Alian – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs 

Growing up in a small town in Connecticut where the graduating classes were at most 60 students and small businesses scarcely lined Main Street, I yearned for the taste of the fast paced city life. Providence, Rhode Island where I attended college kept me pacified but did not completely satisfy my craving. It wasn’t until I spent eight weeks nestled in the heart of Washington D.C. did I finally feel full.

The city became less intimidating as each day passed. The busy morning commute to my internship became second nature as I scurried through the bustling Foggy Bottom Metro Station unfazed, in heels, with a coffee and bagel in hand, all while on the phone with my mom.

I spent eight weeks crammed in Suite 200 at 1001 Connecticut Avenue with eight other interns, passing around coffee pots and legal documents. Suite 200 is home to Americans For Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, an accredited non-governmental organization that promotes democracy and reform in Bahrain and other gulf states, all while raising awareness of human rights violations and abuses. ADHRB staff support and advocate for human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists by collaborating with other entities in Bahrain, the Middle East, the European Union and the United States.

As an intern, I translated documents, live tweeted segments of the 32nd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and examined several accounts of human rights violations. While at ADHRB, I published two online articles regarding UAE Cybersecurity Laws and Bahraini political prisoners. In addition, I researched and drafted sections of The Shia Discrimination Report in Saudi Arabia that was published in 2016.

When I wasn’t sitting at my ADHRB desk, or in the lecture hall at George Mason University, I was scaling the historic streets, watching the sunset from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, and indulging in red velvet cupcakes and caramel cappuccinos, sitting in one cozy café at a time. And when I wasn’t eating cupcakes, I was attending rallies and keeping up with the news, as it was happening. I witnessed the potency of democracy when Democratic Representatives occupied the House floor demanding gun control reform and as the chants of “this is what democracy looks like” lingered through the thick June air.

The Fund For American Studies eminently affected my personal and professional development; and in eight short weeks, my understanding for international relations was transformed as I listened to the narratives of celebrated lecturers, such as Mr. Arthur Laffer of the Reagan Administration and as I learned about the detriments of poor economic policies and their disadvantaging effects on the Global South.

As my plane began to ascend, leaving The District behind, drowning in fiery sunset hues, I could not help but feel thankful for an incredible summer filled with challenge, growth, and opportunity. I closed my eyes thinking of when I would be able to return back home, back to D.C.