My name is Courtney Boland. My experience living and working in Washington D.C. was an eye-opening experience. At the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), I participated in projects that extended throughout the world, all with the overarching goal of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient societies. In the Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs, I worked with several different departments and witnessed the wide range of agency operations.
Right from the beginning, I dove right in to support the agency’s work at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). I worked previously at the UNGA during my time as an intern at the British Consulate General in New York City so I was able to smoothly transition into my new role. Furthermore, when Hurricane Matthews devastated the Caribbean, specifically Haiti, I had the opportunity to see how USAID responded to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. This was a particularly enormous task for the Public Affairs team. All the staff members, including myself, had to ensure accurate information was disseminated out to the public and to USAID’s mission in Haiti as quickly as possible. I gained first-hand experience in the preparation and “war-room “style of operations for disasters.
While all the work I contributed to at USAID has been exciting, the most rewarding was working for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative. I always admired her global campaign to bring education to 62 million girls who are currently not enrolled in school. The experience to support that mission was certainly very surreal. I tailored my academic studies to gender equality and the importance of female education, which served as key issues of interest for USAID. I assisted in strategic communications for the premiere of The First Lady’s CNN documentary “We Will Rise,” which focused on her trip to Liberia and Morocco where she met with Let Girls Learn beneficiaries. I also visited the White House with my supervisor to meet with our FLOTUS Office counterparts and was even given the opportunity to have a tour of the White House — a D.C. dream come true.
Working for the U.S. government provided me with the opportunity to learn more about the inner-operations of the federal government. Additionally, I witnessed how government agencies prepare for transition from one administration to another. I did not realize how intensive it is and how many people actually leave the agency once President Obama’s administration comes to an end. This is important for me to experience especially if I plan to work in the U.S. government again one day. This experience made it ever more clear to me that I want to continue to work in Washington D.C. following graduation in May.