Embark on the compelling journey of TFAS alumnus Zach Welch ’23, an international relations major hailing from Wheaton College. Zach’s immersive summer in Washington, D.C., under the International Affairs track, unfolded a dynamic blend of hands-on experience and profound insights into the intricacies of global trade and diplomacy.
🎓 University: Wheaton College
📚 Major: International Relations
📍 Hometown: Louisville, KY
🧭 Program Track: International Affairs
💼 Internship: International Trade Administration
What was the most interesting thing you did at your internship?
Interning for the International Trade Administration in the Department of Commerce gave me practical exposure to the economic facet of national security. Through exposure to bilateral and multilateral trade meetings in the Office of Western and Northern Europe, I witnessed firsthand how the American government works with foreign dignitaries to promote joint prosperity.
Whether preparing a brief on a breaking news story with potential relational implications for U.S.-European trade or sitting in on consequential meetings, the internship radically transformed my understanding of the transatlantic relationship in a way that revolutionized the rest of my undergraduate research.
What did you like most about living in Washington, D.C.?
Washington is the best city in the United States for young, driven individuals, all similarly intrigued by questions of politics, philosophy and economics.
I spent many nights wandering through the National Mall or seated on the Capitol steps dissecting U.S. Foreign Policy, National Security and Economic Statecraft in the shadow of the real-life decision-maker’s offices. It felt like a movie.
Every day, I met an influential policymaker or shared a meal with someone who might someday fill the halls of power. Thanks to TFAS, my roommates and I had endless opportunities to explore and learn.
How did you grow professionally during your time in Washington, D.C.?
During the summer, I prioritized meeting as many practitioners as possible. From professionals working in government consulting to staffers on the Hill to lobbyists, lawyers and nonprofit directors, I treated each coffee chat as an opportunity to discern better what I might want to do after graduating college. I emerged from the summer with even more purpose and direction than I had hoped.
What was your favorite TFAS event?
My favorite TFAS event was the diplomatic simulation of a Russia-Ukraine peace summit near the end of the summer. About 40 of us were assigned to 18 countries with unique aims, hoping to facilitate a resolution between Russia and Ukraine.
Though no consensus could be reached (an apt reflection on the current situation), the simulation enlightened my understanding of the difficulty of compromise and consensus as part of the Hungary delegation ‘hosting’ the summit.
The exercise honed my public speaking skills, taught me the power of backwater communication, and tested my persuasive ability to its limits.
What advice do you have for future TFAS students?
Through the TFAS program, I learned anew the power of networking. There is a unique art to meeting people in D.C.
So many people only look for opportunities for self-advancement. Rather than seeking transactional benefits from meeting people, focus on befriending and understanding their interests and passions. This way, networking becomes about befriending rather than using and, in my view, makes meeting strangers less daunting and more exciting.
Above all, do not become so stressed about the enormity of the work and the opportunities at hand. Cherish each moment!