My name is Francisco Salinas and I am in my last year of undergraduate education studying Management Science and Latin American Studies at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I was born and raised in Chula Vista, California and had never visited any other U.S. state or district until a few months ago when I traveled to Washington, D.C. through UCDC, a University of California-offered program. Through UCDC, I was able to receive academic credit for my fall ’16 internship at Partners of the Americas (Partners) and at the same time visit various cities along the east coast including Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Gettysburg.
During my time at Partners, I interned with both the Higher Education and Sport-for-Development programs. I did not know what to expect from this opportunity, but I knew that I was going to take full advantage of it. In retrospect, thanks to the immense support of Partners’ staff, my own conviction, and the many learning experiences I had, I can say with certainty that I went through immense personal growth as a result of this endeavor.
My participation in Partners’ 2016 Convention, which was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, was definitely the highlight of my experience. It was an opportunity to attend an event that showcased the breadth of Partners’ network and the fruit of their hard work. Thanks to the support of my family in Guadalajara, frequent flyer miles, and encouragement from the Higher Education team, I was able to attend. The range of topics at the convention, including youth, higher education, health, security, and agriculture, provided for a wonderful blend of ideas, speakers, and attendees. Jasson Albernaz, president of Partners’ Student Chapter at Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana (UPAL), said it best when he told me, “Lo más bonito fue que hubo diferentes ramos académicos en la Convención, pero un mismo amor por el servicio al otro,” or, “The most beautiful thing was that despite the various academic fields at the convention, there was a single love for service.”
My favorite aspect of the convention was the ability to speak, interact with, and get to know youth, industry experts, and higher education professionals from around the hemisphere. I could feel a passion and sense of connectivity when talking with the convention participants and listening to speakers’ presentations. I met some amazing people including Manuel and Yraima Mendez, members Partners’ Venezuela Chapter executive board, Karina Casado Contreras of Colombia-based peace-building organization Somos CaPAZes, André Hedlund, an English professor at Brazil-based CCBEU and Partners’ Brazil Chapter, Maria Cristina Osorio who leads a wonderful initiative called Partners Girls in the Panama Student Chapter, and so many higher education representatives such as Emily Kosko, Program Manager for UCLA Extension Corporate Education & Custom Programs. These wonderful, energized, and motivated individuals, including those I failed to mention, along with the amazing Partners staff, were what made this experience so valuable and what makes the Partners network so special.
A key exercise for the success of my internship was the Professional Development Plan which I filled out and looked over with Janira and Penelope, my higher education program supervisors, early in my internship. By establishing concrete goals, I was able to focus my efforts on more specific tasks and make my internship expectations more achievable. I was highly encouraged to attend most organization meetings as well as local discussions and events. The all-staff meetings were an important source of information regarding the structure and strategies of the organization. I also learned a great deal about the organization’s future events, current projects, and strategies through the various assignments I completed throughout my internship. I attended talks at the Brookings Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Peace, and the National Press Club.
I made it my goal to schedule meetings with different staff members. As I began learning about others’ experiences, I increasingly understood my own. The internship helped me realize areas for personal growth and potential future endeavors. I came to Washington, D.C. thinking I would answer the general questions I had about my plans for after undergraduate school, and leave with a clear plan. Instead, I left with a different set of questions. However, my questions are more focused, directed, and challenging and will surely motivate me to achieve greater social and professional engagement as a newly empowered global citizen.
My future is still unclear, but I am currently working enthusiastically to start a Partners Student Chapter at UCSD, and finish my last two quarters of undergraduate education, as well as interviewing for the year-long Princeton in Latin America fellowship program. Steve Vetter, Partners’ past President and CEO, would regularly cite Antonio Machado’s “Caminante no hay camino” or “Road-trotter, there is no road” poem to illustrate Partners’ work and value. The poem speaks of the roads we pave and the legacies we make on our journey through life that are very much our own and unlike any other. It is in this spirit which I reflect on this experience with contempt and look towards the future with excitement.