November 24, 2015

My Path To International Relations

            I was sitting on a plane home from Minneapolis to DFW after spending a month in a place I’d never been, living with people I’d never met, studying a language I’d never heard before. How did I get here?
            Rewind a little less than 5 years ago. Thirteen-year-old me is standing on the steps of Texas’ capital, giving a speech on SB 27 to a crowd of 100 and not knowing that this was just the beginning. The Legislation Coordinator from Austin Families with Food Allergies was so impressed by my presentation, that she invited me to testify in front of the House and Senate Education Committees. Both testimonies went swimmingly, and I have reasons to cherish them both, but it is what happened after my testimony in the House that stands out: Representative Mark Strama came down from his stand and asked me a question, “Have you ever considered doing debate?”.  This question, this timing, had the ability to alter the course of my future.
            I took Rep. Strama’s advice and searched out a local debate team. By the fall, I was writing a case, finding a partner, and competing. Over the next four years, I competed in Team Policy and Parliamentary Debate, qualifying for Nationals four times and, my Sophomore year, finishing 30th in the nation.  I also began competing in a speech event called Extemporaneous. This event required me to read and learn about current affairs. In competition, I have 30 minutes to recall information I had researched and write a six-minute speech about a topic assigned to me.   I LOVED this event. My coach saw my adoration and, in my fourth competition year, made me Extemp coach. Up until then, I thought I was destined to become a lawyer, but Extemp helped me realize that career path was not the one I had a passion for.
            I thought long and hard about what exactly I wanted to do with my life, now that my top career option was now off the table. I Googled, read, and questioned to find something new that incorporated all the things I adored about Extemp: learning about and analyzing current events, trying to find solutions to global problems, being able to use the communication skills I had acquired, and ever changing circumstances. What I found was the nebulous field of International Relations.
 The more I researched, the more enamored I became with the idea that I could study topics I loved then go on to make a difference. International Affairs, Foreign Relations, or what ever title you assign to this expansive field of study, fulfilled all of my parameters. It focuses on using your knowledge about the world and how it turns to resolve conflict, all while having to take into account the vast variables that could help or hinder your cause. I have found my field and am determined to pursue my passion for it.

            So here I am. Sitting on an airplane. Thinking of how incredible it is that one speech at 13 could impact so much. There is no way that I would have pushed my parents to send me to the Russian language immersion camp I’m on my way home from. No way I would have discovered the beautifully intricate field of Foreign Affairs. My journey to here has been incredible, and I look forward to the ways these ripples will continue to influence my life through my future in Foreign Affairs.