My Summer Internship as an American Diplomat AbroadI arrived in Tajikistan on June 9th to start my 10-week internship with the US Embassy in Dushanbe. For those unfamiliar with Tajikistan, it’s a “democratic,” former Soviet state in Central Asia with a president who’s been in power for over 20 years. He recently blocked YouTube because he didn’t like a video someone posted of him singing (off-key) and dancing (off-beat) at his son’s wedding. Despite that, the people are friendly, hospitable, and incredibly curious to meet me and learn how a young man from neighboring Afghanistan (born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia) could represent the United States’ diplomatic mission in Tajikistan.I was initially hired to work in the Management Section doing HR and Finance work, but after seven weeks here in Dushanbe, only one has been spent doing Management work. Early on, my colleagues recognized that I have broader interests about the economics and geopolitics of the region, have decent work experience, speak the language (Dari from Afghanistan is very close to Tajiki), and know the culture. So, they have been throwing lots of different things my way.I have had the opportunity to do work for the Political, Economic, Management, Public Diplomacy, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), and USAID sections of the Embassy. I’ve spoken at graduations (English and Tajiki/Dari), drafted cables, and attended meetings on foreign direct investment, non-proliferation, law enforcement, and gender equality.In my free time, independent from my work at the Embassy, I work through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to teach English to Afghan refugees. I’ve also explored the country by going hiking in its rocky mountains, running in its dusty hills, and swimming in its ice-cold rivers. Every day has been an adventure and I have welcomed and embraced it to the fullest.Last Spring, as part of our Career Management course with Jen Murphy, we worked on crafting personalized cover letters and elevator pitches depending on our audience and goal. Most of my cover letters and elevator pitches highlighted my goal of creating and strengthening mutually beneficial Afghan-American relations through economic development, using my Afghan language and cultural background with my American upbringing and education.Last week was a personally momentous and fulfilling occasion for me as I attended an iftar dinner, breaking the fast of Ramadan, with the US Ambassador to Tajikistan, Susan M. Elliott, at the Saudi Ambassador’s home. We were the only two Americans there. While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet with the Afghan Ambassador to Tajikistan, Dr. Abdulghafour Arezou. I have spoken with both of them at length about my personal career ambitions and country-to-country ambitions beyond the highly anticipated and looming troop withdrawal of 2014. The picture below highlights my present and hopefully future of building an Afghan-American partnership for the prosperity and peace of both nations. My cover letter goals are coming true!
It has been a genuine privilege and honor to represent my country abroad, interning at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan. I can honestly say that it has been the most amazing experience of not only my career, but also my life. I still have three weeks left in Tajikistan before I return to Washington for Year Two of my MBA at American University. I can’t wait to reunite with my Kogod classmates as we support each other down our personal paths for one more year, turning our goals into realities.