Valentin Sierra, SJU senior political science major and economics minor, moved to the United States from Manizales, Colombia, his senior year in high school because he knew he could receive the best education in the U.S.
He has been fascinated by global politics and power dynamics since coming to the U.S. and has wanted to appreciate the work on a global scale. After graduating from Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn. he received substantial help to stay in Minnesota and attend Saint John's University.
"I wanted a college experience to grow personally," Valentin said.
Saint John's gave him that opportunity through the Washington D.C. Summer Study Program through the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.
Valentin worked as an intern for Dutko Worldwide during the summer months of 2009. Dutko Worldwide is a government management and strategy firm providing advisory services to public and private sector organizations.
"It was really exciting to learn how to build public/private partnerships with people and organizations," Valentin said.
Together, twelve CSB and SJU students participated in this program. They lived in the Hampton Apartments next to the Pentagon, rode public transportation to work, and absorbed the D.C. energy.
At Valentin's internship, he consulted with the global advisors division and the energy, environment, and sustainability team. He also researched issues, presented memos to professional lobbyists, and reported on legislative hearings.
"When I received this internship, I felt very privileged and lucky. I felt one step closer to my professional goals," Valentin said.
Valentin gathered more than just the knowledge of working for an organization in D.C.
"The networking opportunities and the chance to be heard was amazing," Valentin said, "I was glad to encounter an environment in which young people's opinions receive much respect and attention."
After graduating this spring, Valentin will return to D.C. and work for an organization that performs public policy management and international business development. In the future, he plans to go back to Colombia and utilize his knowledge to help his country benefit from increasing global connectivity.
"I have learned that being shy does not help in the public affairs sphere. People, in particular D.C. professionals, appreciate assertiveness," Valentin said.
He felt connected with D.C. for the two months he was there because of the similar aspects as his hometown in Colombia including weather, no sky scrapers, vast green areas, amiable and driven people, and much more.
"D.C. reminds me of home. I feel so comfortable and ultimately happy. I feel I can make a change here," Valentin said.
The Washington D.C. Summer Study Program is not only for political science majors. Last summer Amy Hogerton, CSB senior chemistry major, interned in the Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care Inc. office.
"CSB and SJU have a myriad of opportunities for personal and professional development that all students should take advantage of; the McCarthy Center being a prime example," Valentin said. "Know your resources and use them."
Learn more about the D.C. Summer Study Program on the McCarthy Center Web site.