The Scent of Washington D.C.
Allow me to start my article by thanking Chonnam National University for giving me this unforgettable and exceptional opportunity. During the one and half years of my past college life, I had struggled to find out who I really was and who I wanted to be; I did not want to float in the stream as a nobody. In order to take the time to get the answers and to set my goals before getting into medical school this February, I decided to spend last fall semester on challenging other things that I had never done before. While I was looking for something special to do, I noticed that my university’s International Center had a great international internship program that was sending a student to Washington D.C. through The Washington Center (TWC). I thought it was for me, so I applied to it as soon as I saw the bulletin. I did not notice that I could not meet my university’s requirements because I was a sophomore who did not finish at least four semesters. I begged for an exception, and I had a chance to be interviewed so that I could finally go to Washington D.C. and enjoy many great moments that could be a turning point in my life.
Internship at the Asia Initiative
On September 24th, I started my 2007 fall semester internship at the Asia America Initiative (AAI), which is a non-profit organization. The AAI was formed to develop working models to enable international policy makers to integrate human rights and grassroots community development on the frontline of international conflict and terror. The AAI is focusing on the to build a sustainable peace there. Also, our main project - The Development for Peace In Sulu (DPIS), Muslim Mindanao, - is a model for international development in similar areas of poverty and conflict throughout the world. Since I had taken a professional interest in diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and some vaccine-preventable diseases, I became familiar with the issues on people in poor countries who do not have access to the sustainable health care. The resources that I could get about non-governmental organizations in , mostly from books and documentaries, were too limited. Therefore I wanted to know in depth knowledge by understanding how the AAI operates by working there this semester.
Even though it was my first working experience, I gained enormous practical knowledge. Working as a
research assistant and an assistant to the director for program development, I was able to achieve my professional goals. Almost everyday, we had a debate about topics related our project, Asian countries’ policy, politics, and current issues. I was embarrassed at the first time that I had never thought about these topics, and it was hard for me to participate in the debate. I tried to pay attention to each and every issue related to our field; I also asked many questions to other interns who have various backgrounds without feeling embarrassed. To understand how NGOs work, I also kept an eye on what Mr. Santoli, Director of the AAI did to raise funds and to associate with other people and organizations. As we were working with a special focus on the , we cooperated with the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States of Agency for International Development, the Asian Development Bank, Cocola Company, and the MARS Corporation. I did research to achieve professional goals on other organizations that cooperate with the AAI.
Classes and Volunteer Work
If somebody asks me about the most rewarding experience during this semester, I will answer it was the class I took; Hunger, Poverty, and Powerlessness. I did not expect the exceptional quality of the class because I thought TWC focused on the internship, not the class. My assumption was completely wrong. TWC was aware that we were students who had come here to learn, and they provided high quality classes given by prominent professors in order to meet our academic goals. My professor was Richard A. Hoehn, who has been the Director of Bread for the World Institute and a regional organizer at Bread for the World. Since he has field experience in NGOs, he has also worked in various countries; he spurred us to find the solutions through diverse access by understanding the complexity of the hunger problem.
Take every advantage that you can from being in Washington D.C.- the heart of the world! This was the phrase that I always kept in mind through this semester. I had to accomplish civic engagement goals, which were to pay attention to hunger, and poverty issues; to make people protect the environment by starting trivial things, I was eager to find every chance to volunteer and was willing to spend my time on it. I did many volunteer assignments including the 2007 Opportunity Conference, Mosaic Foundation Lecture Series, Ghana Embassy Panel Talk, and the 2007 Fairfax Festival. My roommates and I did volunteer work on September 23rd at the Fairfax Festival. It was an annual festival in Fairfax, Virginia ; it was autumn fun for the whole family featuring fun fall attractions and interactive exhibits. We worked in the Scarecrow section; we helped many families to make scarecrows from noon to 3. The weather was so hot that we all felt tired when it finished but it was really fun and rewarding.
Pursuing My Ultimate Goal
My personal goals were having self-confidence in every moment, being altruistic, being open-minded, and being organized in everyday life. To have self-confidence, I fully prepared for every class and asked as many questions as possible. Pretending to understand was the last thing that I wanted to do. It was the first time in my life to live with a stranger and to share a room with the other. As I did not want to make my roommates feel uncomfortable by acting selfish, I always tried to be considerate of others feelings. I realized how I have lived so comfortably thanks to my parents, how I have lived selfishly. I did not want to waste any moment there. I planned everyday and wrote a diary every day.
I reminded myself of the promise I had made to myself—that of not just being another arrogant doctor, but being a doctor who can contribute to the world. I always keep track of working as an infectious disease specialist at the World Health Organization, which can be the process of pursuing my ultimate vision that is to motivate people in the world by helping poor countries. My passion of the vision made me get into the Medical School and encouraged me to spend a semester in Washington D.C. This extraordinary experience taught me that a true leader is someone who has a vision for tomorrow but acts today.
By Kang Yeon-ah, Junior, College of Medicine