Passport to the World
by Hannah Williams, Wellesley College
I had the greatest honor representing Dallas/Fort Worth as a Student Scholar for the World Affairs Councils of America. Marked by inspiring keynotes, doors into post-grad pathways and foundations into lifelong friendships with other students, my experience at the “Building the World of Tomorrow Conference” opened my eyes to how we as global citizens can flourish in the world and how international relations can nourish our roots.
I was able to learn from keynote speakers such as Christopher Kolenda, Monica McWilliams, and Thomas Pickering. From military historians to negotiators to ambassadors, the diverse fields from which the speakers came opened my mind to the endless ways that international studies could be applied, and it was clear that global affairs is a truly vast space filled with spots for different specialties. One of the keynote speakers who truly spoke to me was Frank Langfitt. His multi-media approach to international relations and relaying the stories of people amid strife tugged on the full scope of conflict. Through his presentation on his book, The Shanghai Free Taxi, the aftermath of the abstract global politics was seen in the eyes of his taxi guests and patrons, capturing us as listeners.
The conferenced organized a Student Scholar Day for students to explore Washington, DC and the different options that the city provides for students such as think tanks, opportunities into ambassadorship and post-undergraduate options at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Being able to not only take a true look at what a post-graduate options are, but also have the ability to ask questions to current students and administration built up my foundation on what paths are open to me. As a woman of color, I’m often met with many people who overlook how my identity could be an obstacle when pursuing grad school, especially in a field that has historically been dominated by people who don’t look like me. However, at the Elliott School, I was able to ask questions about obstacles for women of color in post-grad and resources to combat them. One of the panelists swiftly equipped me with material for my own journey into post-grad, including POC fellowships that mentor young professionals of color in international relations such as myself.
When it came to the people that I met, I came to the conference with some initial fears: what if I had trouble finding friends? What if it were clique-y. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong before. My fellow student scholars were curious, open-minded and amicable. With every event, I was able to walk and connect with new scholars because of how truly eager all of the scholars were – and I am among them! It was so inspiring as both a student and someone going into international affairs to talk about global affairs. For example, following the “America’s failure in Afghanistan” keynote hosted by Christopher Kolenda, Marcus Zimmerman (Student Scholar from Alaska World Affairs Council) and I were able to sit down and mix what we learned from Kolenda and our previous knowledge about ongoing situations of conflict. Despite being on different sides of many of the issues and rarely agreeing, the endless conversation was filled with respect and the human excitement to learn. In this same keynote, I also heard from Joshua Reiter (student scholar from WorldBoston) and how his experience as a veteran has rippled into the method with which he approached keynote material and asked questions.
Because of the genuinely proactive and propelling environment, I came out as what I could almost call a “completely different person.” Being around fellow students who confidently express and apply global affairs in their own unique fields reinvigorated my definition of what it means to interact with the world around me – such as Michael O’Hearn (student scholar from Utah Global Diplomacy) who applies the field into sport law, or Courtney White who applies the field into sports communication and journalism.
I would highly recommend this experience to any undergraduate interested in the World Affairs Council. This was one of the most immersive learning organizations to me as a student of International Relations. Thank you very much for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with the World Affairs Council in the coming future.
The views and options expressed in this article are the student’s alone and are not endorsed or reflect the views of the nonprofit, nonpartisan, World Affairs Council of Dallas Fort/Worth.