I have no idea where my tap water comes from. Water is an everyday part of our lives, but many of us take it for granted.
However, not everyone has that luxury, and water security is a growing concern around the world. To promote awareness of water security on a global level, the Department of State’s Foreign Press Center convened 15 journalists from around the world to learn about water issues from experts across the United States. In Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and San Diego, California, the journalists met with federal, state, and local government experts, as well as with NGOs, corporations, trade associations, and academics, and filed related stories with their outlets back home throughout the experience. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work on this project as I interned with the State Department, and gained so much knowledge and perspective in the process.
One of the most impactful meetings was with the U.S. Water Partnership in Washington, D.C., an organization which seeks to harmonize water communities in the United States and strives toward global water security. U.S. Water Partnership discussed projects that make water more accessible for communities around the world, and noted that there are three components that make a U.S. Water Partnership project successful: need, opportunity, and engagement. This framework was also reflected in the interactions of the journalists involved in this reporting tour.
First: Need. Each of the journalists understood water security issues in their own communities. Some of their home countries struggle with flooding, some with drought; some have very little access to water and some don’t have the proper infrastructure to manage what water they do have.
Second: Opportunity. This reporting tour was a chance for American experts to share knowledge and best practices, and to invest in these other countries’ success.
Third: Engagement. The journalists were honest about the challenges their countries faced, and it was clear that they were eager to help find solutions to the water security challenges in their own countries, from Brazil to the Solomon Islands.
This reporting tour exemplified how the media can be a positive force in creating global change that helps communities around the world. The journalists passionately engaged with the American speakers and with each other in each meeting, sharing stories and examples from their home countries. Several journalists were excited and hopeful about the impact their reporting would have. After seeing their work ethic and their enthusiasm, I was convinced that their reporting could create a ripple effect, informing policy and paving the way to a more water-secure future for their countries, their regions, and the world.
The journalists walked away with more than information for reporting; they created their own global network. Meal times provided opportunities for cross-cultural connections. Every conversation, every joke, and every selfie was a step towards a collaborative community of journalists working towards a common goal.
Before I worked on this reporting tour, I had no idea where my tap water came from. Now, I have realized that I need to continue learning about water security in my own community. Now, I can tell you where my water comes from, how it’s treated, and that water is a universal life-source that has the power to bring us all together.
While this trip was a life-changing experience, it was not the only one this summer. My internship at the Department of State’s Foreign Press Centers was filled with encouraging mentors and hands-on, experiential learning that I would not have found anywhere else.
I wasn’t running around getting coffee for the boss. I was doing real work that mattered alongside my colleagues.
Over the course of my internship, I saw many different sides of the Department. From creating water policy to fighting human trafficking, advancing global religious freedom to encouraging entrepreneurship, the State Department has many unique offices to suit students of all interests, and I was grateful for the privilege to learn from them all.
Above all else, this internship demonstrated the immense value of diplomacy. I will treasure the lessons I have learned here as I return to school and look to the future