I asked the United States Institute for Peace counterterrorism program director to take this picture of my Foreign Policy seminar class because for the first time I felt a sense of purpose surrounding my semester off campus. For the first time I felt like I knew what I was doing. At Willamette, I study politics and international relations which I enjoy immensely. Although my classes have been challenging and fulfilling, I sometimes feel lost as to how to apply any of these concepts. The first couple of weeks I studied at American University Washington Semester program I felt overwhelmed by the business of the city, the fast paced seminar research, and the challenge of making new friends. But I soon felt a sense of purpose and discovered what tangible goals I am working towards. My semester in DC opened my eyes to the work of foreign policy professionals. Aside from visiting organizations and meeting potential contacts the most important aspect of my new exposure was the inspiration that I could make a difference. I had previously felt that the people who make policy decisions were synonymous with royalty, elevated them to an untouchable status that I would never be able to access. The professionals that we met with showed the human element of foreign policy demonstrating that the work of many individuals dedicated to small steps towards the larger objective of a better world.
The day this picture was taken we had just spoken with the USIP counterterrorism director working with US military advisors to devise an Afghanistan strategy. Although the situation in Afghanistan seems dismal his words were somehow encouraging. They moved beyond the initial step of researching and understanding a situation to actually proposing steps to secure stability. I felt hopeful that people in the policy world were concerned about violence beyond our boarders and maybe if enough energy was invested into small steps then there may be resolution. In my post lecture inspiration, I couldn’t help but snap a shoot of the breath taking architecture of the USIP building overlooking the National Mall. Standing with twenty people from all over the world, I began to feel like I knew what I want to do after school. I felt as if despite my limited talents and influence I too could do my part to secure a more peaceful world.