Impressions of a DC summer

By Alexa Straus
During my first (and only) visit to DC in 2013, I immediately fell in love with the city. The artworks in the Hirshhorn Museum, the music at the Kennedy Center and the monumental reminders of history lit up against the night sky – everything mesmerized me. Studying at Georgetown University has been a dream of mine ever since, deferred by the high costs of studying in the US. Therefore, when I heard about the Wallenberg International Fellowship Program, I did not question whether to apply for one second. It somehow manages to combine most of the rather scattered items from my CV and thus also the driving interests behind those. It is exactly what I have been looking for.
Now two months into my summer internship I realize, that three years ago, walking through the nation’s capital as a tourist only gave me a hint of the unrivalled amount of power concentrated in DC and for entirely different reasons, I am again amazed by the city. The Wallenberg Fellowship provides me with the opportunity to embark into this sphere of experts, influence and networking.
As part of my internship I had the privilege of hearing Christine Lagarde speak about the central challenges posed on global development, participating in a meeting where the directors for Mexico, Canada and the US of the Inter-American Development Bank discussed the priorities for the 2016 North American Leaders’ Summit and meeting senior economists from the World Bank and the IMF. Sebastian and I were also part of the lucky small group of J1-interns picked to attend a Q&A with Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, at the State Department. Listening to these experts, I am time after time impressed by their ability to develop high-level insights on complex issues and back them up with just the right amount of detail. At various embassy events, I have had the opportunity to practice my networking skills – an area in which as a German I can definitely learn a lot from Americans.
Alexa Blog 2
Christine Lagarde at the Center for Global Development
Besides getting to attend a bunch of cool meetings, I also really enjoy the actual work of my internship. In June I joined the enterprise wide international relations department at Medtronic, a medical technology company. The small team covers an immense variety of topics from market access issues like trade barriers and price controls to research about the correlation of health and economic growth. With no background in health, it took me a while to get accustomed. At the end of the first weeks I had a list of about 50 acronyms, and those were only the most important ones. Besides soaking in all the information about healthcare related policies and medical technology, I am also fortunate to get incredible insights into the dynamics of public – private sector interactions. The focus of my internship is on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). My major project for the summer was to collect internal and external best practices and come up with ideas about how to share these throughout the corporation to empower Medtronic employees around the world to drive PPPs in their countries. To top it all off, the team at Medtronic gave me one of the warmest welcomes I have experienced throughout my studies and previous internships. With a lot of interesting things to be learned and done, I am glad to return to the team in the fall.
Finally I would like to pick up a point Marta, one of the fellows in the first cohort, wrote about in an earlier blog post as it coincides with my main take away from the summer. She wrote that one of the three ways in which the Wallenberg Fellowship broadened her mindset is through the realization that changing the world is possible. Through my internship in the healthcare sector I can observe daily how NGOs, governmental agencies, corporations and individuals keep joining their forces and working towards the improvement of people’s lives. Inspired by numerous passionate people and their achievements, I am re-considering a career path in foreign policy or development work – an option previously shut down by the resignation about bureaucracy and the seemingly Sisyphean nature of the work.
For now I have returned to Germany to apply for my student visa. My two weeks in Germany are filled with joy as I get to see my friends and family and excitement to start my classes at Georgetown, play field hockey and hopefully enjoy some of the nature around DC once the weather has cooled down to Swedish summer temperatures.