Skip to main content

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.


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.

Photos and materials on this page are courtesy of the presenter.

Photos and the contents and materials in this presentation may not be reproduced or used in any way without the express, written consent of the presenter.