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Alejandro Rodriguez Vanzetti

International Student Management Office, Department of Defense, National Defense University
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Alejandro Rodriguez Vanzetti

Major: International Politics (International Relations Concentration) and Print Journalism
Hometown: Miami, Florida

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this opportunity from the Career Enrichment Network. One of the staff members at International Student Management Office (ISMO) went to Penn State and she sent the internship requirements to the College of the Liberal Arts.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The only way to write about the ISMO is to describe the dedication that the office as a whole has shown since the first day I arrived. The National Defense University provides Joint Professional Military education to the United States armed forces and selected individuals from countries around the world. The International Student Management Office is responsible for making all International Fellows feel welcomed in the United States.

For many of these high ranking military officials, it is their first time visiting this nation. As the 104 incoming students enter the university this summer, they get a number of briefings involving U.S. regulations, NDU policies, American history and culture, and much more. These fellows are part of the ISMO program, which organizes events and trips around the U.S. to give a taste of American life from every perspective and meets the needs of the international students when it comes to U.S. related inquiries.

"With the help of the staff and even other interns, I learned where my interests and skills fit in the U.S. government workforce."

As an intern, I help make the jobs of the Program Specialists a little easier. I’ve completed a wide array of projects ranging from writing and designing reference guides for the alumni reunion in Colombia and the New York City field study trip to picking up fellows for special briefings at NDU.Due to the fact that I entered the internship at the end of the school year, I got the opportunity to see how grateful each fellow was for the ISMO staff. Dozens came by and thanked everyone for their support in helping them feel comfortable during their stay in the U.S.

As the new students arrived just a couple of days after the class of 2015 graduated, the team hit the ground running. The interns got the opportunity to do a little bit of everything during this time. This is where I really got to experience teamwork at ISMO. Every individual specializes in something different so the fellows don’t crowd around a single staff member. This strategy came in handy when dozens of fellows with questions started to line up in the office. When we picked up the fellows at their new apartments for their first day, we were trusted to be the face of NDU and the U.S. government. We respectfully greeted the fellows and held conversations with them that made them feel more comfortable.

As time went on, I got to know many of the fellows. With my Spanish-speaking background, I became friends with Lieutenant Generals and Brigadier Generals from Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru. But I didn’t limit myself to my comfort zone. I had daily interactions with fellows from Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Canada and many more countries. It was an incredible opportunity to speak to them about their individual countries, and their views of the U.S. from an outsider’s perspective.

I learned the importance of this job after just a few weeks of working. If these fellows, many of whom have high ranking positions in their country’s military, do not have a good experience in the U.S., the relations between the U.S. and these countries could be impacted. This university has created a network for people from all over the world to study, learn, and grow together as a community. Without the ISMO office, the University would have limited avenues for helping these fellows connect with each other and guarantee a positive experience in the U.S.

As my internship comes to a close, I’ll be going to the New York City field study trip, where I’ll guide and lead a group of fellows around one of the most important cities in the world. After many weeks of hard work, I’m proud to say that I’ll never forget the incredible connections I’ve made and the hardworking people I’ve worked with at the NDU. This is without a doubt a challenging, but very awarding internship.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This internship has motivated me to learn a third language. Every staff member is specialized in a specific language, especially critical languages. They even lived abroad for some years. Now that I've been accepted to a study abroad program in Italy, I'm very motivated to become fluent in Italian, and possibly French in the future. I also learned that it's very important to specialize in a specific region of the world, and I plan on picking up a minor that involves European or Latin American studies.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Prior to this internship, I had minimal knowledge on the Department of Defense. Working at the ISMO office not only exposed me to the DoD work ethic, but also taught me about the U.S. government as a whole. With the help of the staff and even other interns, I learned where my interests and skills fit in the U.S. government workforce. I plan on applying for an internship at the Department of State and Southern Command next summer.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend this internship not only to liberal arts students, but anybody who has an interest in different cultures and enjoys helping people on a daily basis. It's rewarding to hear the fellows and staff members thank the interns for the hard work we put in. ISMO is a great place to get your foot in the door if you're interested in international relations and cultures.

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