PLEN: Empowerment, Relationship Building, and Guidance

When I learned about the Public Leadership Education Network’s Women in Global Policy Seminar, I knew I had to attend. As a recent university graduate, I felt lost. I had some plans, an established resume, and my degree; however, I was still wildly unsure about what career I was going to pursue. During my undergraduate studies, I always loved international relations and studying the United State’s role on an international level. However, I did not have a good understanding of the careers and opportunities that were available to me. Every job that I looked at was for someone who had at least ten years of experience, but as a recent graduate I had two years of experience at best. It seemed as if there was no starting point. Upon learning about PLEN’s seminar, it gave me hope that I could potentially expand my network and find opportunities that would enable me to launch my career.

Upon my arrival in Washington DC, I checked into my hotel and immediately met some of the women that I would be spending my week with. I knew then and there that it would be an exciting week with other ambitious, curious, women like myself. We discussed our interests and goals and quickly found several issues to bond over and debate. As the week went on, we were lucky to grow closer and have our conversations grow deeper. In fact, I still keep in touch with many of the girls that I met at PLEN daily. My roommate from the seminar is one of my best friends now. Being surrounded by so many incredible women who were all on similar paths as me was a really empowering experience. I immediately felt less alone and overwhelmed by my journey. If I could believe in them and they could believe in me, then I could believe in myself. This support for each other is where one of my main lessons of the week came in. There’s plenty of powerful positions for ambitious women to fill. We do not need to be each other’s competition, but we need to empower one another.

Amara and other PLEN students on Capitol Hill.

During the week, I was blown away by my cohort and the speakers alike. The speakers were experienced women who were relatable, successful, and approachable. Each of the speakers opened my eyes to the endless world of global policy. By learning about their diverse journeys, I began to think of global policy as not just the meetings between world leaders, but as a much broader field with more opportunities than I ever could have imagined. They even covered many opportunities for students and recent graduates such as fellowship programs, graduate programs, and organizations that were looking for ambitious, young women like ourselves. For the first time, I felt like I could find my place and get my start. With the speakers’ advice, my confidence continued to grow.

Throughout the week, I had plenty of opportunities to put the advice that we received into action. We attended PLEN’s 40th anniversary celebration that many impressive supporters and alumnae attended. As a prime networking opportunity, I utilized the advice from our sessions and was able to connect with many of the attendees. Later in the week, I had an opportunity to go to my representative’s office to discuss an issue that was important to me. I learned how to portray my concerns to someone of the opposite political ideology in a respectful, conversational manner. This was the first time I had these types of opportunities. By taking advantage of them, I grew professionally and personally. I was more comfortable in stepping up and making myself known.

Students at the PLEN 40th anniversary celebration.

The entire week surpassed my expectations. From my cohort to the speakers and opportunities, I could not be more thankful. I went in seeking advice on what to do next and I came out with friends, mentors, and confidence. PLEN was one of the greatest experiences of my undergraduate career. Being in the nation’s capitol surrounded by ambitious women while learning from high achieving women was a dream come true. It solidified my goals and further fostered my love for global policy and my desire to be in Washington, DC. In the months since PLEN, I have really been thinking about my next steps, who I want to be, and where I want to go. In the fall, I will be going back to Washington, DC with more confidence than ever to become one of Running Start’s Congressional Fellows working with Congresswomen on Capitol Hill. Throughout this experience, I will remember the skills that I learned at PLEN - relationship building, communication, and advocacy. Attending PLEN changed my life for the better. I am stronger and more confident because of it.

Amara  Shomali graduated from Walsh University in April 2019 with a double major in Government & Foreign Affairs and Criminal Justice and a minor in Peace Studies.  Amara attended the PLEN Women in Global Policy seminar in 2019. Amara was active with the Hartville Migrant Center and the Refugee Resettlement work at the International Institute of Akron. She has recently moved on to help launch the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at Texas Woman’s University.

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