Verena with her internship supervisor at the Capital Building.Verena Achterberg
Sustainable Development | International Law & Organizations

October 8, 2018 | The first five weeks of my adventure in Washington are already over, and by now I've totally gotten used to my life here. My internship becomes more exciting every week, and I think I'm actually a help to my team, as they are entrusting me with increasing responsibilities. I did a lot of research on the people who may become new Members of Congress in a few weeks, and I helped to organize an event at our office. Last week a lot of faith leaders and Bread for the World staff from all over the country came to our office, and we talked about global hunger and poverty. Afterwards, we went to Capitol Hill in teams (already my second time there ) and talked to different Members of Congress who already seemed to be interested in hunger issues and food security. I even met Congressman French Hill in person and took a photo with him! At the end of the week, we got the good news that the U.S. House of Representatives had reauthorized the Global Food Security Act for five more years. It is so great to see that the work we do at the Bread for the World office is actually affecting decision making in U.S. politics.

I‪Verena with her class at the European Headquarters downtown‬ have also met many interesting people in class during the last few weeks. With my Global Politics class, I went to the Holocaust Museum and talked with a Holocaust survivor. At the museum I was especially positively surprised that there was a lot of information about the White Rose (Die weiße Rose in German), a Nazi-resistance group from my hometown. They are really famous at home, so for me it was great to see that people appreciate what this group did during World War II in other countries, too. Another person we met was Michael Isikoff, an investigative journalist who, among other things, played an important role in uncovering the Clinton affairs. Yesterday evening I went to the Office of the European Union with Professor Maisch and two of my classmates for an optional extracurricular event, and we met Isak Gasi, a lead prosecution witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He told us about his horrible experiences in captivity and reminded us all of how quickly discrimination and segregation can end in war or even in genocide.

Verena at an art fair in Maryland‬With my other class, Human Development and Global Issues, we have gone on various site visits, too. One of our trips went to the Southwest of Washington DC, where we talked about gentrification, a process that is about to happen there. Gentrification describes the development of an area from a poor region to a popular and expensive area. As a consequence of the gentrification, the poor population will soon not be able to afford living in that area anymore. I already knew a little bit about gentrification from my studies at home in Germany, and therefore, it was really interesting to see the same process taking place in another country.

Last week we went to the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, where we talked to economist and author Matthew Rabbitt about food insecurity and poverty in the United States and across the world. The topic was closely related to what I am learning about at my internship and therefore especially relevant for me. Especially interesting for me was to learn more about the food security scale, which has been used to measure food security in the United States for about 20 years. Afterwards we visited the USDA Farmer's Market, where we had lunch. At the USDA farmers market farmers, ranchers and small food businesses sell organic fruits and vegetables and homemade food. As you can see, classes have been extremely fascinating so far!

My weekends have been great, too! I went to an arts festival in Hyattsville, visited some more museums, and I did a lot of shopping (too much shopping probably :D ). I can’t wait for the next weeks!

Blog History

Verena with her friends in New York CityVerena Achterberg
Sustainable Development | International Law & Organizations

September 24, 2018 | My name is Verena Achterberg, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Augsburg in Germany. At home my major is Geography, but in the Washington Semester Program (WSP) my concentration is Sustainable Development with an additional course in Global Politics. I am really interested in environmental issues and especially how global actors deal with problems caused by climate change and environmental pollution. Ever since I heard about the possibility of studying Sustainable Development at the American University, I couldn’t wait to enroll. Here we have the perfect opportunity to learn about the key actors in the global community affecting issues such as inequality, education, hunger, poverty, conservation, and climate change. Apart from that, of course, Washington, D.C., seems to be a great place to learn more about various governments and different political structures. I am so excited for the upcoming adventures, and I am looking forward to telling you about my experiences!

I arrived in D.C. about three weeks ago, and so far, time has been flying! I live in Leonard Hall on the American University campus, and I share my room with two American girls. It’s the first time I live in a dorm with shared rooms (in Germany that’s not common), but I really like it! Firstly, I get deep insights into university life in the US, and secondly, I live on the same floor with a lot of other WSP students and am therefore able to spend a lot of time with my new friends.

I have already finished two weeks of classes, and it has been quite interesting. We talked about a lot of different topics, and next week we will meet our first guest speakers. WSP is definitely characterized by the different backgrounds all the students have. Different countries are represented, and every student has a different major at his or her home university. That means we all have different levels of knowledge depending on the topic, but it also induces lively discussions.

Verena holding up a sign that says Last week I also finally started my practicum. I work at Bread for the World in the Government Relations department. Bread for the World is an international NGO dealing with global hunger and poverty. Since this is my first practicum, everything has been overwhelming. The office is on the top floor of a skyscraper, and it has a breathtaking view of the Capitol. I have already attended several meetings, and I learned a lot about various hunger issues. Furthermore, I started my own research project on the affects of climate change on global hunger and poverty. That is probably the best part of my practicum because it really combines my Geography studies at home with my Sustainable Development classes at the American University!

Apart from classes and the practicum, I’ve also had the opportunity to explore the city. I took a walk on the Mall; saw the White House; went to Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Chinatown; visited the National Museum of American History; and tested some frozen yogurt shops with my fellow Germans. Last weekend (Labor Day Weekend), I even went to New York with some friends and saw the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time.

In a nutshell: the first weeks of the WSP have already filled me with a lot of impressions, and I can’t wait for the next weeks!