As I was preparing for the Women in Global Policy seminar, I was worried because I didn’t know much about global policy and international affairs. I was also still struggling with the idea of what to do after graduation- should I become a foreign service officer, join the Peace Corps, or apply for the Fulbright Program in South Korea? So many things were going through my head, but I knew through the blogs I read on the PLEN website that everyone that went to this program ended up enjoying it and making connections with each other. The main thing that attracted me to this seminar was that the women featured had powerful positions and were moving and making changes on Capitol Hill.
I knew about PLEN because my advisor, Marie Koko, posted about it on the International Affairs Facebook Page. I went to her office and ask her for some more information. She told me a lot of positive things including the seminars workshops to the women that I would meet. Other things that motivated me to attend the seminar was the possibility of meeting like-minded girls and learning more about the global policy field. Most of my friends had science or health-related majors, so I couldn’t connect with them about my career path. Therefore, I was determined to create relationships and friendships with the women at this seminar.
I felt that one week was such a short time, but I was able to learn much about the women I met with similar goals as me. The other things that motivated me to go was learning about the opportunities in global policy. Honestly, the most I knew about careers in global policy were through the Department of State including being a Foreign Service Officer, Civil Service Officer, and other internship opportunities. However, I didn’t know much about the other opportunities in global policy such as working on Capitol Hill, international development work, and other agencies to get involved in.
I have learned so much from the Women in Global Policy Seminar. Every single thing I have received was very important and made a mark in both my career and personal journey. Of all the advice I received from the women that spoke at the panel, there were three things that stood out to me. There isn’t a straight road toward your chosen career path. Most of the women testified that they didn’t get to their current career path by going through a step by step process. Instead, there were bumps and times they had to do other things that weren’t related to their dreams. However, these women didn’t give up, but they worked hard and looked for more opportunities. This advice created peace in my heart. I used to think there were particular things to do in order to get to specific career paths. I had a detailed plan on what I should do each year. Now, I have decided to derail from my plan to create space for things that could happen. I still have a plan, but I’m not adamant to do everything according to a timeline instead I’m open to changes.
The second thing that stood out was the diversity in the panels. The PLEN Global Policy Seminar showed me that I can find someone who looks like me in the field. One each panel I went to I was able to see black women making a change or doing something extraordinary. Most of the time and in my daily life, I don’t see black women in powerful positions, especially in government jobs. I was able to network with these amazing women and create connection that I never knew were possible. All I can say is my experience from this seminar is irreplaceable.
The last moment that struck me was visiting the Department of State. I was very excited about this visit because my future plan is to one day work there as a Foreign Service Officer. Listening to the women on the panel, hearing about their experience, and the diplomatic simulation we did has motivated me to pursue my dream of working at the Department of State. It also made me realize that I need to work on my public speaking and critical thinking. For example, instead of me voicing my opinions in the stimulation, I would tell my team members to speak for me. After this stimulation, I decided to join the Model UN at my school once I return in the fall.
Being a part of this seminar has changed me for the better. It has taught me to fight for what I want and not let anything stop me from doing it. It has taught me that the path might not be straight, but you will get there. It has also taught me to be open to unexpected jobs that may come my way. As I return to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I hope to share my experiences with everyone.
Cynthia Ubah is a senior from Maryland. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she studies International Studies with minors in Global Health and East Asian Studies. Cynthia attended the Women in Global Policy Seminar in 2019.