“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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