I found out about PLEN through an email forwarded to me by my major’s advisor. The promotional email was about another PLEN seminar, which I was not particularly interested in, but I decided I might as well check out what else PLEN might have to offer. It was there that I found the Women in Global Policy seminar, which I ended up attending. The seminar appealed to me mostly because I have been taught the theoretical concepts of international relations, but I had little exposure to the practical applications of the theories and institutions I was learning about. I figured that meeting policymakers and other professionals in the global policy-shaping realm would help me to better conceptualize what a career in international relations and global policy might look like. I wanted to hear the stories and opinions of professional women because I wanted to know what kind of skills, qualifications, education and personal attributes I might need to acquire or refine in order to be most suited for a career in their respective fields.
I did not really come into the seminar expecting much. Up until the point I arrived in D.C., I was questioning the legitimacy of the organization because I had only heard of PLEN through that one email. No one else in my college seemed to have heard about the organization, so I couldn’t talk to anyone in person about what I should expect. I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the 5 days that I spent in D.C. with PLEN. During the seminar, I learned that strong relationships with people in and surrounding my area of interest are key to a successful career, that it’s important to not allow fear to hinder you from asking for what you want, that you should remember to pass your good fortune forward, and that career advancement can come from unexpected places. The overall message appeared to be that life often does not follow a linear progression; there may be many twists and turns, but it’s important to not be disheartened if the direction of your life and career are not proceeding exactly how you envisioned they should.
Generally, I have thought of myself as a quiet sort of person. I was content with getting good grades in school, doing extracurriculars only when required to, and then firmly following the guiding principles of the Go Home club. I saw school as a place to come to learn, and then to leave directly after. That mentality has slowly changed since my freshman year of college. I realized that was a rather boring way to live, and I wanted to do more for myself. I decided to do things that make me uncomfortable, but that I knew would help me to be a better version of myself. This last school year, I went to Harrisburg to urge lawmakers to reconsider the PHEAA grant budget, went to Philadelphia’s City Hall to debate safe injection sites with Temple students, as well as played a greater leadership role in my school’s History Club. PLEN was one of the more intimidating endeavors. I had been to D.C. only once before, and I went to the seminar without another classmate to go with me.
However, I’m glad that I went because the advice I received from the women I listened to and met encouraged me to take even greater risks. After the seminar, I reached out to a local councilman via email to see if I could be a research intern for his Global Opportunities Committee. Many of the women on the panels recommended politely asking people for just 15 minutes of their time to talk about their careers, and that is exactly what I did. I didn’t actually apply for a position. I really like to do research, and I love my city, so I figured I might as well see if I could create a space for myself to work at City Hall. I took the train to City Hall and spoke to the councilman for about 2 hours about multiple city-related things, and after our meeting he agreed to allow me to intern for his Committee. I would like to thank PLEN for giving women a platform to empower each other to take risks, be brave, be kind, and be a leader.
Gionna Pembroke attended the 2018 Women in Global Policy seminar with a scholarship sponsored by Exelon. She attends Chestnut Hill College and is planning to graduate in 2019.