About the Author: Heather Fluit is a summer intern serving as Editorial Assistant for DipNote in the Bureau of Public Affairs.
Being an intern in Washington, DC can be a great experience when you make the most of the opportunities in the city — especially when you’re coming all the way from South Dakota. And while I expected my internship with the State Department to be engaging and informative, I’ve certainly come to appreciate the diversity of the work that occurs here. This week after work, I went to a hip-hop dance show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Millennium Stage. The Millennium Stage hosts 365 performances per year for free; and “free” is an intern’s best friend. Normally that wouldn’t seem unusual for me to attend a free event (or, the jackpot — free food), but this performance happened to be part of a cultural exchange sponsored by the State Department’s own Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
What I found at the show was a group of incredibly talented young performers from Argentina, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The dancers had been training with and learning from American professionals in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC for the last several weeks. They clearly had natural talent to showcase at the performance, and the audience soaked up the question and answer session they had on-stage before the show’s finale. Via interpreters, the dancers answered questions about their impressions of the United States and their overwhelmingly positive experiences in the ECA Cultural Visitors Program. They were well-spoken and humble (if I could dance like them, I’m not sure I could maintain modesty). They were true cultural ambassadors and I was proud to see, in action, that the State Department dedicates the resources to facilitate these exchanges. An exchange is an investment, and has a great impact far beyond the weeks or months of the trip.
By the end of the show, I knew it was something I would have gladly paid for. And, I hope I can speak for most loan-burdened interns when I say that’s a great compliment. I encourage the DipNote community to check out ECA’s many other cultural exchange programs or learn more about the event.