When I found out about the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar the summer of 2015, I was excited. I was googling women’s conferences and I found this one. I declared my Women’s Studies major in January 2015, and I wanted to build myself up as a woman leader in my community. I felt one of the ways to do this was to attend leadership conferences and trainings that could help me achieve all this. I was excited to attend my Women’s Studies classes, and I wanted to make an impact with my major. My second major is International Relations and Affairs. I chose this as my second major because it complements my Women’s Studies major, as I want to work on an international level, like my role model Michelle Obama. I kept thinking of the PLEN seminar and how I could come. I kept going back to the website and telling myself that I had to be a part of the Women in Global Policy seminar, and I was excited about the conference. I then applied for the conference, and I got accepted. It was such a big honor to receive that email from PLEN, and I had to celebrate immediately because it was a huge achievement for me.
I then started packing my things, and I started to dream of what life in Washington DC would be like and how wonderful things would be. I made travel arrangements, and I told my mum about the conference. I could not believe that my dreams of going to Washington DC were finally going to be real, and I was more than glad. I remember telling myself that I was going to the land of Obama himself. I had the idea that I was going to meet President Barack Obama, and I was so delighted about that because it is my life goal to meet the President of the United States and to meet this amazing man who is so tough and has become the first African American president. I knew I was going to the land of political connections and the place where all the big policy decisions were made for the United States and other countries in relation to the U.S.
I got to Washington very late in the night, but I was still excited as I went to sleep. I woke up the next day very excited and dressed up to go to the first session. I met so many amazing and powerful women who majored in diverse fields like economics, political science, psychology, international studies and development, anthropology, public health, global studies and women and gender studies. I felt lucky to be among great women who were highly motivated and talented. The first session was amazing because we spoke about international policy actors, and that is my area of specialty. I learned a lot about the organization Protect the People and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. I was intrigued by the great women who took time from their day to come and talk to a group of younger women who are trying to decide their career path. I then got to learn about the Wilson Center, too. There was so much to learn about how women are needed in political leadership and offices. We discussed how women were challenged with obstacles whenever they tried to take power. Even the United States still has the same issue of not having enough women in the seats of power. There are not enough women in Congress and political offices. Even some African countries like Malawi and Liberia have had an African female president. I personally want to challenge myself to take a political leadership position. I want to challenge myself to be a great woman leader no matter what society says about me. Not everyone says this, but Africa is a patriarchal society and it is hard for women to take leadership roles, and I want to still do what I believe is my calling.
Networking 101 was very interesting because it gave me an opportunity to talk about my fears, and others got to learn from me. I spoke about being scared of meeting new people. I also went to a session about the United States Foreign Policy, and I learned a lot about policy in countries all over the world, and it was amazing. I learned about careers in international politics and affairs and what I could do with my major in the future. I learned about the gender disparity in politics. I met humble women who had amazing careers and powerful connections. All the sessions were very helpful to me, and they made me see so many amazing opportunities that I could have in international politics and gender studies. I loved the visit to the Embassy of Indonesia because it challenged me to think of traveling there and encouraging others to visit Indonesia. The Embassy had a lot of history and culture attached to it. I loved the PowerPoint that we were shown because it had geography, food, culture and all the important facts about the country. I took a lot of nice pictures in the Embassy, and I loved the warm people there.
I also loved the visit to the Cato Institute because it was my first time inside a think tank. It was so amazing because I thought a think tank was a big tank with many people who were thinking a lot about policy. I learned so much about the Cato Institute, and it made me think about working there in future. The lady who showed us around was very nice to us, and she showed us the websites that they were developing, and I loved it. I learned a lot from the website, and I plan to start using this website as a source in my papers. I also got some brochures about their internships and other opportunities that I thought could help me when I graduate, and I could even share those opportunities with others.
Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte was so amazing. She is the United States ambassador to El Salvador, and she spoke about being the bigger person when handling those who are against her. She advised me to never stoop so low to exchange words with those who disagree with me, but take corrections and throw destructive criticism to the trash and to always have a thick skin to what people say. I also learned a lot about her experience as an ambassador and a woman in a career filled with men and how she conquered despite all odds. I saw what I would be doing when I saw her because I also want to be an ambassador.
I also loved the resume review workshop because it really helped me see how my resume should be, and it made me work on my resume more. I made a lot of improvements on it, and that really helped me build it. I also loved the session that we focused on Africa and international relations because it helped me see what kind of career I would be engaging in when I graduate. The women who came from the State Department were awesome because they spoke about what they did at their jobs, and it also made me think of working at an international embassy. I loved all the women who came because they made a huge difference in my life. I enjoyed the networking reception since it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and engage with people, and I also shared my business cards so that I could still keep in touch with other women.
The breakout sessions were very nice as I was able to sit down and listen to women who had experience in those fields that I was very interested in. I loved the women who organized this PLEN seminar because they were very patient and caring. I also enjoyed the company of other women who came for the seminar because of their niceness to me and how much they appreciated me. I was also advised to keep writing and working on my public speech because that would help me in my career, and it has challenged me to start speaking in public more. I will use my one year left in college to achieve this goal of being a better public speaker, as I am working on being less shy.
In general, I really enjoyed the hotel and I was treated very well. I enjoyed the sophistication of Washington DC. I loved the life in Washington DC. I loved going to a West African restaurant, and I ate pounded yam with egusi soup that had assorted meat. I loved taking walks around the beautiful city, and I loved talking to new people and asking questions about directions. I really now understand that Washington DC is where policy is made. I got to see the White House even though I did not meet President Barack Obama, but deep down I know I will meet him someday and I will take awesome pictures with him. I was very excited at the White House, and I took a lot of great pictures. I really am grateful that I came, and I want others to come. I would like to thank all the sponsors and organizers for letting me come, and I will always be an advocate for PLEN. I credit PLEN for bringing me to Washington DC for the first time.
Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi is a college student trying to make things work. She loves writing and listening to music. You can always see her with a pen trying to jot down notes. She is studying International Politics/Relations and Women’s Studies and she loves to learn about new things and loves to write about events. She loves going for events and she likes being involved in a lot of activities on campus. She loves being able to share knowledge with others. She attended the Women in Global Policy Seminar in 2016. She attends St. Cloud State University and will graduate in December 2017. Follow her on LinkedIn and Facebook.