Tree lined street with fall foliageOlivia Muro
American Politics | International Law & Organizations

November 19, 2018 | I was recently featured on the WSP Instagram (@WSPIntern)! Make sure to take a look if you haven’t already.

If you did see my Instagram takeover, then you know my work at the Embassy has been a highlight of the past few weeks. Since joining the “Art and Diplomacy” team, comprised of one diplomat, two political analysts, and a photographer, I have had the opportunity to collaborate on a variety of new projects. On one of the many beautiful autumn days last week, we spent the afternoon visiting all of the Spanish monuments in Washington, DC (there are more than you might think, all across town, from Union Station to Farragut Square). Then we researched and photographed each of them, and since I was the only native English speaker in the group, I put together a reader-friendly article on our findings to post on the Embassy’s social media pages. It was such a hit that I’ve now been asked to write weekly posts pertaining to Spanish art and culture.

I have also participated in a number of other Embassy-related outings lately. Last week, I spent a few hours at the SPAIN-USA Cultural Center, assisting at an event for American military officers awaiting deployment in various Spanish-speaking countries. They met with three diplomats and also got to explore the new exhibit on Spain’s role in the Revolutionary War at the Cultural Center. This week, I represented the Spanish Embassy at Brookings Institute for a seminar on metropolitan policy in the United States and abroad. I’m still keeping up with my other intern responsibilities, writing daily news briefs in Spanish, and conducting qualitative research on various topics assigned to me, but I am enjoying my additional projects as well.

As for my classes, I have been making great headway on major assignments. I have completed two fifteen-page papers, one of which is a draft of my thirty-page research paper, and after Thanksgiving break, I will only have to finish the draft, write a policy analysis, and take two exams before the semester ends. It feels good to be so on top of schoolwork as the semester winds down.

Arts and Culture magazine coverOne of my favorite days at AU was last week. In the morning, my U.S. Politics & Policy class met with the President of America Votes for an expert breakdown of the midterm elections, and following a midday lecture delivered by my professor, we heard from the former Chief of Staff of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the State Department on nuclear developments in North Korea. Not only were both speakers informative, humorous, and engaging; they both had connections to my professor. The President of America Votes was one of his students in the Washington Semester Program decades ago, and the former Chief of Staff was one of his professors, years before that. I was struck by the strength and longevity of ties formed by this institution and this program and am so grateful to have been a part of it myself.

Blog History

Olivia's friends visiting Olivia's intern siteOlivia Muro
American Politics | International Law & Organizations

October 22, 2018 | Since I last wrote, I have been immersing myself in work at the Spanish Embassy and gearing up for midterms at school.

My internship is exactly what I had hoped it would be. I had worried I would be bored by some of the tasks or that the work would not be substantive enough, but I am finding myself challenged and interested by everything I am doing there. It has been awhile since I have had to interact entirely in Spanish, and even longer since I have formally studied the language in an academic context. Each night I have been returning home exhausted from the Embassy, worn out by constantly trying to keep up and work efficiently despite feeling quite rusty. I am relieved to notice my facility with the language slowly returning, glad to once again hear Spanish all around me and fall asleep at night counting the new words and phrases I learned that day.

The view from Olivia's internship site‬Last week, I spent two evenings assisting at an event at the private residence of the Spanish Ambassador for the Fiesta Nacional, a national holiday in Spain. Although I was only helping to check in guests, getting to see the residence and those invited was fascinating. Each night drew a different crowd: on Wednesday, only Spaniards came, and Thursday was for American officials and representatives. There were more than five hundred people there both evenings. The home itself is stunning, and its inhabitants exceedingly pleasant—the Ambassador was very friendly when I ran into him in the elevator—but the building was packed, and people could hardly move. Luckily, the event went quite smoothly, and I was thrilled to attend.

While I have been dedicating more and more time to the Embassy, classes have been picking up and I have begun preparing for midterm exams. Recent site visits have included a homeless shelter, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, and we have had speakers ranging from Ambassadors to teachers’ union lobbyists. In my seminars, we are finishing up units on social welfare and the schools of thought surrounding global politics, and in my research project elective, I am a few pages in to my thirty-page paper.

As for my exams, I am not exactly sure what to expect, but my professors have been great about providing lists of topics for review and suggestions for study. Tomorrow night my American Policy professor has scheduled a review session for my exam on Thursday, and I have several take home assignments due throughout the week. I am a bit concerned about balancing my academic work with my internship but have created many schedules and to-do lists in order to stay on top of things.

In other news, the weather has finally changed, and it is at last feeling like fall. It has taken this long, but I, too, am finally feeling settled here and comfortable in my new life in DC.

The Embassy of Spain in downtown Washington DC.Olivia Muro
American Politics | International Law & Organizations

October 8, 2018 | The past few weeks have been very busy and during this time I have:

 

  • Chosen topics for long term projects in all of my classes
  • Attended a number of events (both school-related and for fun) in DC
  • Gotten my driver’s license (something that I never thought I would do)
  • Stopped working at my beloved restaurant
  • Started working at the Spanish Embassy

I am really excited about the assignments that I will be working on from now until the end of the semester. For my American Policy course, I have decided to write my policy analysis term paper on public housing in the United States, specifically the successes and failures of the Fair Housing Act. This is a topic I am incredibly interested in and at one point had hoped to make the focus of my internship in DC this semester. I am glad to get the chance to study it in another capacity. For my Global Politics class, I have selected Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order for my book critique. I am enjoying the ways in which Huntington challenges the traditional, Western-centric model of world politics, prompting scholars to consider shifting balances of power and new civilization-based world order. The paper that I am writing for my research project class will examine ethnic nationalist movements in Spain and beyond.

Olivia in front of her internship site, the Spanish Embassy Recently, my American Policy seminar visited Capitol Hill on the very day that the Kavanaugh hearings were taking place. While we were meeting with a Senator, Dr. Ford was testifying right next door. It was remarkable to be right in the middle of it all, watching camera crews dashing down the street as we left the conference room. Later that week, I took advantage of DC’s free museum day and Dupont Circle’s “Art All Night” exhibitions. I can now say I’ve been to every major landmark, museum, and gallery in this city.

I also recently had my first official day interning at the Embassy of Spain, and I absolutely loved it. I work 9 to 5 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as part of a group of ten university students from all over Spain and I am the only American. Our responsibilities are to meet daily with each of the eight diplomats at the Embassy, read (in English) and summarize (in Spanish) assigned articles or biographies, translate documents, assist at weekly events (such as Thursday’s reception at the private residence of the Spanish Ambassador), and conduct research in a subject area of our choosing (I am still deciding).

Olivia with fellow classmates at the Office of Congressman Ryan Costello There is so much that will challenge me and so much I will learn, especially while working alongside Spanish students my age. The Embassy itself is a beautiful, cavernous old building with eight floors and sweeping views of the city. But the culture within it is far less formal and regimented than one might expect—everyone is so friendly and welcoming, laughter is always floating down the hall, and lunches in the second-floor dining hall often linger into late afternoon. It is an unexpected, insulated world all its own, a slice of Spain in the US. I am so honored to work there.

Olivia with her seminar class at the Newseumolivia muro
American politics | International Law & Organizations

September 24, 2018 | Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Olivia Muro, and I am a student of Political Science and Art History at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Hoping to experiment with new ways of learning and thinking, I applied to the Washington Semester Program at the suggestion of one of my advisors last spring and have been eagerly awaiting the start of my work and studies in Washington, DC ever since.

View from Olivia's balconyThis city is hardly new to me. Though I have lived in Arizona, New York, and Spain, I grew up in the DC area and consider it my home. Many parts of my world are here—my immediate family, my elementary and middle school friends, my job waiting tables at a restaurant in Penn Quarter—but from the time I moved out of my parents’ house in high school, my life has always been centered elsewhere. I am thrilled to get to remain here this fall, in my own loft bedroom (with a balcony!) in Columbia Heights, and continue discovering a city I have known all my life.

These first few weeks have brought with them unexpected challenges. On the first day of classes, I wound up in the hospital with a severe kidney infection and had to miss a week of school. It was certainly not the way I had intended to start off the semester and led to numerous long email chains with both professors and possible employers (who luckily turned out to be extremely flexible and understanding). To my surprise, I didn’t fall too far behind, and as soon as I was able, I spent an afternoon attending back-to-back interviews before deciding on an internship in the Political Department of the Embassy of Spain. A word of advice: if you plan to work at an Embassy, try to begin the process as early as possible. After they offered me the position, it took over two weeks for the central ministry in Madrid to officially approve my practicum, and I was notified only a few hours ago that I will (finally) be permitted to commence work this coming Monday.

Needless to say, I have had some difficulty settling into a routine and am really looking forward to my schedule becoming more regular. However, I have been enjoying my classes so far. I am taking Global Politics and American Politics, which meet on Monday and Thursday respectively—the remaining three days of the week are reserved for my internship. My professors are fantastic, and their lectures and coursework so thoughtfully designed in order to perfectly complement our speakers and site visits. For confidentiality reasons, I won’t be able to mention names of speakers or their ideas in these blog posts but suffice it to say that there is nothing like getting to see academic principles and philosophies come to life.

The structure and ethos of the program itself is also worth noting. The Washington Semester Program is essentially a small school within a large one—I do not feel overwhelmed by the size of AU (as I had expected, coming from a tiny liberal arts college), but still have access to the resources of a much bigger university and the different kinds of students it attracts. Many of my peers are international, mostly from Germany, Norway, or France, and I love listening to their opinions and perspectives both inside and outside the classroom.

Olivia and her dad at Lincoln TheaterFurthermore, this program allows for a degree of autonomy and independence that I have not been able to find at Bowdoin. School no longer dominates my universe at the exclusion of all else because there is so much going on beyond it, which has proved to be a great relief. This semester, gaining real world experience at the Embassy is equally as important as doing well on exams, and taking full advantage of the city as valuable as any class. I can stop at home after a lecture for midday lunch with my mother before heading out to a site visit, or attend book talks and storytelling events after school, or put my waitressing tips towards trying new places to eat and drink on weekends. My life is acquiring balance it has lacked since my junior year of high school, and I could not be more content.

Excited about all that is to come. Until October…