Interacting with foreign policy in high school: the Foreign Policy Work Group at First Colonial High School (USA)

By Brooke Habit, Senior, First Colonial High School

I've always had an interest in international affairs. It increased when I began studying French in middle school. It was the first time I was formally introduced to another language and culture and I found it fascinating. From that moment on, I had a desire to know more. As I entered high school at First Colonial in the Legal Studies Academy, my interest in foreign policy grew. I was being educated on U.S. law and criminal justice, and with this came discussions of how various countries' laws differed. My interest in these discussions only grew and I found myself wanting to learn more about foreign policy. I was introduced to Mr. John Sutton, advisor to the Foreign Policy Work Group, and began going on trips to Washington D.C. with him and other students who shared my same interests. These trips have offered those of us in Foreign Policy Work Group the opportunity to meet with people of varying professions involved in international affairs.

One of the first people I met, Ms. Rebecca Frankel, serves as an editor with Foreign Policy Magazine. She works closely with the photojournalism aspect of the magazine and has authored "War Dogs," a book which chronicles her research into dogs in the military. Speaking with her offered me a perspective of women in journalism. Ms. Frankel described some of her work in the Middle East and brought us into her personal office to view photos from her most recent trip. After this meeting, I knew I would never be able to remove myself from the world of international affairs and I wanted to know any and everything. Each subsequent trip to D.C. gave me more information. I became more committed to studying foreign languages and found myself watching the news every morning before school so I could begin each day with an understanding of things outside my personal bubble.

Through being a part of Foreign Policy Work Group, my worldview has shifted. I've always known there is something to be learned each day, but now I know that they are not just things from my world, but the world. I know global issues have no limits and am convinced I have the ability to play a pivotal role in how they are resolved. After becoming a part of Foreign Policy Work Group, I want to assume this role. My plans after high school are focused on what I would like to study in college that will allow me to continue to be involved in foreign policy. Young women today are not generally introduced to all that a career in foreign policy could offer. I had never considered this before joining Foreign Policy Work Group, but I now know it is a path I'd like to follow and I am considering a double major in international studies and French. My experiences and knowledge gained through my participation in Foreign Policy Work Group have played an intricate role in reaching this conclusion.

The University Series: What is it like to study at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service?

Georgetown University by Flickr user sillymonkeyphoto. Distributed under Creative Commons License.

My name is Aisha Babalakin, and I recently joined Women in Foreign Policy team as a contributor. This January, I moved to San Francisco from New York City, where I worked for The Glover Park Group, a strategic communications and government affairs firm, and Ara, an African Bone Marrow Donor Recruitment Program. I still serve on the board of Ara, but I moved to the West Coast for a little more sun and to further my interest in design, film, and media. 

Last May, I graduated from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University (The SFS), with a degree in International Politics and Arabic. The SFS, the McDonough School of Business, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Georgetown College make up Georgetown University. The SFS is one of the world’s leading international affairs schools. It is continuously ranked among the top 10 undergraduate International Relations schools in the country. Our Faculty boasts of former Cabinet Members (Madeleine Albright), prominent figures in International Affairs, Policy, Law, and Economics (Dennis Ross, Yvonne Haddad, Elisabeth Arsenault, Marc Busch, Anthony Arend), former Government officials (Rajiv Shah) and Brookings Fellows (Elizabeth Ferris). SFS students are fortunate because Georgetown is located in the heart of Washington, D.C. For a politics nerd like me, choosing to attend the School of Foreign Service counts as one of the best decisions of my life. Some of my favourite moments from my 4 years at Georgetown include: 

- “Storming” the White House on the night of Obama’s re-election 

- Venturing to the Supreme Court to hear Oral Arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas (2013) 

- Visiting the National Portrait Gallery’s “Portraits of the Presidents” too many times to count - I could never pick a favorite, but Richard Nixon's comes close

- Attending lectures given by Madeleine Albright, Michael Walzer, Bill Clinton, Muhammed Yunus, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to name a few. 

I also chose to attend Georgetown because I value the university's commitment to its Jesuit values, and to service in general. Being a man or woman "for others" is important to Georgetown students, and the university sets out to instill a sense of community, understanding, and awareness within the student body. Everyone had a different way to serve their community outside of the classroom. In my case, I tutored after school during my first two years, joined the Tour Guide Society, and became heavily involved in "GIVES" - Georgetown Individuals Vocal and Energetic about Service. In my opinion, “community service” shouldn’t be an allocated number of hours per week. Rather, I believe that we should introduce a sense of service into everything we do. 

The most valuable lesson I learned at university is that one has to take advantage of all the resources provided to you. It is important to seek out mentors (whether they be your peers or someone older than you) and pay attention to their advice. I am so thrilled to be contributing to Women in Foreign Policy because I want to do everything within my power to help get more women interested in the topic, and grow the community. If you’re interested in International Relations, you should look up the Summer IR Institute for high school students. 

By Aisha Babalakin. Find her on Twitter | LinkedIn