“Public Service Abroad: Searching for Understanding for Effective Policymaking” – by Raisa Ledesma


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Growing up in Hialeah, a town filled with immigrants from all parts of
the Caribbean and South America, I was raised with a nuanced
perspective: my neighbors, from Dominican Republic, spoke vividly about
the poverty in their hometown and lack of economic opportunities; my
friend, from Colombia, told us about political violence and corruption;
and my parents, from Ecuador, always talked about government
inefficiencies. Resonant throughout all these experiences was a search
for freedomâ?”and a belief in the integrity of the U.S. government.
It was from this background that I came to pursue an academic career in
Public Policy at Duke University with an interest in Foreign Policy. I
wanted to learn how the U.S. effectuates its policies to interact with
other governments around the world. I wanted to understand the ways in
which the U.S. influences foreign countries promote democracy and
freedom. I want to work within the ranks of federal government to help
people live free by understanding their countryâ?Ts affairs.
Still growing up, my goal is to become a Foreign Service Officer where I
will constantly learn about and report the political and economic
dynamics of foreign countries. Understanding these factors is pivotal to
devise and conduct U.S. foreign policy wisely and effectively for the
betterment of U.S.-international relations and I want to be an active
participant in this endeavor.
Additionally, I believe my academic background along with my
international experiences qualify me for this scholarship. As a Public
Policy major and Economics minor, I have developed the writing, research
and analytical skills to process and present information in an accurate
manner. In my Counterterrorism Policy and Law class, I successfully
composed a memo on then current legislation on military commissions and
presented it to the class. In my research with a Duke professor, I found
specific details on the American Exhibition in Moscow of 1959, reading
through books, news articles, congressional records, and presidential
memoirs about the importance of the exhibition and the logistics
involved in it. I would apply these same skills to my work as a Foreign
Service Officer.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, I have developed a keen sense
of cultural sensitivity through my experiences abroad. In the summer of
2007, I studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland learning about the
political philosophy of globalization and international business. In the
summer of 2008, I conducted a service program in Dublin, Ireland where I
worked with African immigrants in developing community projects for
their respective constituencies. In the summer of 2009, I volunteered,
not exactly abroad, but perhaps a bit, with an immigration attorney in
Durham and his large clientele of illegal immigrants in deportation
proceedings. And throughout my childhood, I was always aware that people
came from different backgrounds and exercised tact to communicate with
them. These experiences, taken individually and together, have
challenged me to think outside the box, to understand the nuances of
different cultures, and pursue a career in public service abroad.

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