My obsession with the Olsen twins was extreme when I was growing up. I can look back at their videos, pictures, absolutely anything of theirs and pinpoint things I did based on what they had done. It makes me stop and think about how much Hollywood influences young girls, especially their aspirations.
But, I do have to thank them for making a movie about going to a Model United Nations conference, which in turn got me to attend the first Model UN meeting my high school had when one teacher decided to re-start the club at our school in Kenosha, Wis. My sister called me out on my reasons for going, but what she did not know was that after the teacher had explained the whole role-playing aspect (i.e., acting, like the Olsen Twins do), I was quite intrigued.
I went to that conference representing Rwanda, a country I had never heard of, let alone thought about. I clearly remember when the head delegate of our Rwandan delegation told me before English class that our country had had a horrific genocide a couple years ago, leaving its rivers running red with blood. I was in shock. But, the fact that I had been alive during that genocide (unlike World War II, which I had only read about in history textbooks), and had not known about it was the harder concept to wrap my head around.
At the Model UN conference, I met so many other students who knew all about global issues, and I wanted to be a part of that informed community. I did not want to let something like the Rwandan genocide happen again without everyone knowing about it and how to help stop it.
I joined a political campaign a month later and continued with Model UN in high school and then as a staff member for that same Model UN conference once in college. This past school year was my junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite living in Washington, D.C., for an internship for the duration of the fall semester, I was actually able to organize that same 600-student spring Model UN conference that forced me to stop focusing on myself and to start focusing on the world around me. As the Secretary-General for the 40th anniversary of the Wisconsin High School Model United Nations Conference, I hope I was able to inspire high school students to pursue internationally based careers or at least to continue having an international mind-set in whatever field they would choose.
At UW-Madison, I have also joined AIESEC, the largest student-run nonprofit in the world! With a mission of global understanding through international internships, AIESEC has allowed me to learn about the world from international students my own age who are working in Madison and from my AIESEC friends who have interned abroad. Although my internship opportunity to teach English in China had to be canceled because I had to have knee surgery, I still plan to travel the world and learn about it firsthand.
After representing Rwanda in that first Model UN conference, my focus on the international community has never moved from Africa. This summer I have returned to The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, the Washington, D.C. nonprofit that I worked for during the 2008 fall semester. We work to unlock human potential by teaching self-help practices and drawing attention and investment to the continent during our biannual summits there. This summer is the Sullivan Foundation's biannual Honors Ceremony (opposite the summits) in Washington, D.C., celebrating those that have been exemplary in their contributions to helping the poor and disadvantaged worldwide.
The essay I wrote in She's Out There! Essays by 35 Young Women Who Aspire to Lead the Nation is from my senior year of high school; now, with my International Studies major and African Studies minor, I am beginning to envision the path of a nonprofit worker turned PeaceCorps or World Vision volunteer turned Foreign Service Officer turned Secretary of State.