As an undergraduate student in my junior year at IPFW, I was priviliged to be named the Richard G. Lugar Scholar of International Affairs. I spent the Fall 2008 semester as an intern for Senator Lugar alternating weeks at his main office and Senate Foreign Relations Committee office. My internship concluded with short stints in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne offices. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Senator Lugar last month congratulating me on my selection as a Fulbrighter. I have written a response and I have chosen to make it public for two reasons. First, I have utmost respect for Senator Lugar’s lifelong commitment on national security and foreign policy issues Second, I am grateful for the opportunity that the Fulbright program has given me and I went to do my part by sending correspondence to our elected leaders to ensure that this opportunity exists for others in the future.
Dear Senator Lugar,
I was honored to receive the letter you sent last month. My dad read it to me while we spoke over the Internet. As you know, I am now living in Ukraine as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Though I initially applied to Macedonia, as your former intern, I find it fitting that I am here. Ukraine has always figured prominently in your work in foreign affairs, especially your work on arms reduction and nuclear security. The current debate about the START treaty ant the recent debate about the extension of the lease for the Russian Black Sea Fleet indicate that this part of the world remains rather relevant on the global political landscape.
I am deeply honored that the Fulbright program has chosen me to participate in this incredible opportunity. As a student of politics and economics, I understand the precarious nature of our nation’s fiscal health and the sobering difficulty that awaits the next Congress in attempting to ameliorate it. As such, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Congress for recognizing the value of international education and public diplomacy. I hope that Congress will resist the expedient temptation to reduce foreign policy expenditures when it addresses the urgent need to restore sensibility to the nation’s treasury. The State Department does incredible work on behalf of our country on a spartan budget.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for providing me with a letter of recommendation and supporting my dream to be a Fulbrighter. During Fulbright orientation in Washington this past July, I stopped by your office and the committee office. Please extend my personal appreciation to [your staff] for receiving me warmly.
The Fulbright commission in conjunction with our embassy in Kiev placed me in the Crimean administrative center of Simferopol. My arrival here coincides with several other public diplomacy initiatives by the embassy to promote American presence in this [area of] Ukraine. Essentially, I have three roles here: giving guest lectures at a university to translation and interpretation students on various topics including human rights and American studies, teaching two English classes at a library to its employees, and facilitating English clubs at the local Windows on America library. I complement my work here with Fulbright outreach activities. For the most part, this amounts to discussing the program to prospective applicants and advising them on essay writing and test strategies for the TOEFL and GRE.
These first two months of my Fulbright year have given me insight and experience that will undoubtedly leave an incredible impression on my future professional and personal life. As Americans, we have the luxury of taking our democracy and open market economy for granted. Ukrainian students that I have met have shared their horror stories about bribes and corruption. Moreover, I personally witnessed grave faults within the political and electoral system when I served as an international election observer during the October 31st local elections in Odessa. My fellow observers and I noted many outlandish discrepancies that constitute a backward step for the precarious Ukrainian experiment with democracy. It is an unsettling feeling to say that I was an international observer for an election deemed to be far from free and fair, but that is the reality of the situation.
The time I have spent here has re-invigorated my interest in world affairs and renewed my already strong conviction to pursue a career in the State Department’s Foreign Service. After Fulbright, I hope to continue my education by pursuing a practical Master’s degree in international affairs that will make me a stronger candidate for State. As a temporary resident of the predominantly Russian-speaking part of Ukraine, I have been doing my best to learn Russian out of personal necessity to make things easier for myself here in everyday situations and a professional desire to acquire a critical needs language. In this respect, the re-assignment of my application from Macedonia to Ukraine has been a blessing in disguise.
Again, I want to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to Congress, your staff, and yourself for the support and trust that you have given me. I wish you the best of luck in your continued work in the United States Senate representing Indiana and Hoosiers on the great issues of our time. I am proud to be a former Lugar intern as you continue to place national interest and sound public policy at a time when so many of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle have succumbed to the cheap allure of political gamesmanship and partisan vitriol that seem to prevail on Capitol Hill these days.