News

Student’s Study Away Experiences Lead to State Department Internship

Posted by: Date: September 24, 2015 In: , , ,
Courtney Lee '15 just left for Washington, D.C., for her high-profile internship in the U.S. State Department's Educational Affairs department, where she will work with a Senior Policy Officer to examine programs and their effectiveness. (Photo: Quinn Huelsbeck '16)

Courtney Lee '15 just left for Washington, D.C., for her high-profile internship in the U.S. State Department's Educational Affairs department, where she will work with a Senior Policy Officer to examine programs and their effectiveness. (Photo: Quinn Huelsbeck '16)

By Samantha Lund ’16
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, Wash. (Sept. 24, 2015)—Courtney Lee ’15 applied for an internship with the U.S. State Department four times. After missing the mark three times and not hearing back the fourth, Lee had all but forgotten about it and was already looking at other positions. Then she received a call.

She was walking to class when she looked down and saw a number she didn’t recognize. She answered the phone and on the other end heard, “Do you have 20 minutes to talk?” She had scored an interview and, eventually, the job. And now, striving to make a difference in the world, Lee is in Washington, D.C., for her high-profile internship in the Educational Affairs department, where she will work with a Senior Policy Officer to examine programs and their effectiveness.

“It just hasn’t kicked in yet,” Lee said before she left Sept. 20. “I’m sure once I’m on the plane and on my way, I’ll realize it’s really happening.”

Originally aiming to study veterinary medicine, Lee found passion in foreign affairs and policy after studying away in China. While she was working at a German wine company in Chengdu, locals asked her about U.S. policies and affairs. That, Lee said, opened her eyes to the way other countries perceive the United States.

“United States policy influences our relationships with the Chinese and other cultures,” Lee said. “I felt like I had a responsibility to be informed and understand our policies. American policy in general is seen as economic, religious and militant.”

In her four years at Pacific Lutheran University, Lee has studied away in China, England and Holden Village in the Cascades. Her experiences humanized other countries, she said, and she decided to get involved.

Going from involvement to the internship, however, was a long process. After being accepted, Lee applied for financial aid and received the Joe Smith Peace Building Award from PLU.

“I want to give credit where credit is due,” Lee said. “Without the award, this wouldn’t be possible. I just want to thank everyone involved … who believed in me.”

Lee’s award will go toward housing in D.C. Other than finding funding, Lee said she’s prepared for her experience by studying and getting a new wardrobe.

Since her first year at PLU, Lee changed her major to Global Studies and Chinese Studies. She worked through the application process with Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies Ami Shah, and is continuing to work with her to graduate on time, in Spring 2016.

“Courtney couldn’t be more deserving,” Shah said. “She’s hardworking, but also exceptionally talented and driven.”

Lee also gives a lot of credit to Shah for being a mentor and helping her through the process.

“I’m sure her time at the State Department will be rewarding,” Shah said. “However, I’m even more sure that she will be a fantastic asset to the team. I’m proud she will be representing PLU.”