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Student cultivates relationships, foreign service passion on international co-op

A major focus of U.S. embassies is to strengthen relationships—both politically and culturally—between the U.S. and the country where the embassy is located.

Earlier this year, Rose Leopold, SSH’16, helped to cultivate those relationships between the U.S. and Ecuador while working on co-op at the U.S. Embassy in the Latin American country’s capital city of Quito.

“I really got an incredible hands-on experience, and it showed me that this is exactly what I want to do with my life,” said Leopold, a fourth-year political science major. “It’s so interesting to observe the culture and see how it’s different, and then being in an embassy and seeing that it is really something they want to promote.”

In her role as a political intern, Leopold met with local politicians and non-governmental organizations to learn what assistance the embassy could provide. She also performed outreach for the embassy, giving presentations to Ecuadorian students on American topics such as Women’s History Month.

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Leopold got the opportunity to meet President Aoun when he gave a speech on the future of higher education at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Courtesy photo

She furthermore helped Ecuadorian nonprofit organizations secure international and alternative methods of funding. One woman with whom Leopold worked closely had started a cultural center that not only helped women grow their businesses, but also promoted the culture of Afro-Ecuadorians, who are discriminated against in the country.

When the embassy learned that the woman was attending the Summit of the Americas this past April, they nominated her for a chance to meet President Barack Obama and she was selected.

“It was so amazing to hear how grateful she was for that experience and how it impacted her,” Leopold said. “Meanwhile in her own country she and other Afro-Ecuadorians don’t get rights or equality from their own government.”

On the political side, Leopold was tasked with monitoring Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s crackdown on free speech, who publicly identified people who criticized him on social media. She was tasked with monitoring the situation and reporting her findings to the U.S. State Department.

“It was really interesting to be able to truly research an issue in-depth and determine how the U.S. might feel about it,” Leopold noted.

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