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Carmen Nelsen

Carmen Nelsen

Carmen Nelsen

Grinnell College

Participant in the 2014 ACM Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study

  • Hometown: Lincoln, NE
  • Major: Political Science
  • Graduation: 2014
  • Program: Grinnell College: Grinnell-in-Washington, Washington, DC — Fall 2012

 

Champagne and Detention Centers: My Semester in Washington, DC

There were many times throughout my semester in Washington, DC when I wondered if I had been confused with someone with much more experience than myself. In one instance, I was drinking champagne and eating pâté at the British Ambassador's residence. Another evening I was leaving a detention center in Virginia after an exhausting day of immigrant detainee interviews. In both instances, I had to pretend that I was qualified, experienced, and unafraid – the exact opposite of my feelings.My two internships, one at the Women's Foreign Policy Group, and the other at the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration, gave me insight into a world I had previously only read about.

   
 

At left: Video of Carmen Nelsen's presentation at the Symposium.

 

More than one year later, I am grateful for the way my semester in Washington, DC – both in the classroom and through my internships – has contributed to my professional development, self-confidence, and ability to communicate with a variety of people in different contexts, from ambassadors and dignitaries to immigrant detainees fighting for their chance to stay in the United States.

Profile

Post-graduation plans: Currently in the process of interviewing at various places. I hope to get some professional experience that informs the kind of graduate school I attend. Ideally, I hope to work internationally someday.
The best choice I made while on an off-campus program was to reach out to alumni in the city.
One word or phrase that best describes my experience off-campus: Professional and personal development
Top 3 reasons why I chose to go off-campus:
1. To get experience living in a big city
2. To challenge myself professionally
3. To learn about the opportunities for young professionals in DC
If I could travel anywhere, I would go to Singapore. I had a pen pal there when I was younger and I have always wanted to go there.
If I could learn to speak any language it would be Arabic. There are still so many things that need to be done to help improve Arab-American relations and if I spoke Arabic, I could help.
The best meal that I had while on my program was our final dinner. It was at a beautiful restaurant across from the White House. We ate like kings.
The most interesting person I met on my off-campus study program was Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor at Princeton University. She wrote the famous article, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." She spoke at an event that my internship, the Women's Foreign Policy Group, hosted.


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