Twins at TFAS: Ava and grace share their Summer Program experience

By: Emily Schroen ’19, International Affairs Program Advisor

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

University: Villanova University

Internships: American Academy of Diplomacy (Grace), D.C. Policy Center (Ava)

Ava and Grace Lundell ’21 find me sitting outside the coffee shop where we agreed to meet ruffling through my bag and trying to get myself organized. Grace spots me first, and when she calls my name I pop my head up like a groundhog coming out of a hole. The first thing I notice about them is their smiles. Grace tells me how happy she is to get the chance to speak to me in a more personal setting and Ava eagerly shakes my hand and introduces herself. Despite my hectic day, the girls’ smiles and excited attitudes immediately put me at ease and make me excited to learn more about them. 

After ordering smoothies and tucking into chairs in a comfy corner of the coffee shop, the Lundell sisters are eager to ask me questions and talk about their own experiences. They aren’t identical twins, and if I didn’t know already I might not have even identified them as sisters, but the way a narrative effortlessly bounces between them makes me wonder if they have secret psychic twin powers. We easily chat for 15 minutes before I even think to start asking interview questions.

Unlike most TFAS students, Ava and Grace grew up in Washington D.C. Their mother works as a consultant for Deloitte and used to do a lot of international work with USAID. Grace recounts stories of her mother working all around the world in places like Germany, Bosnia, Egypt and Kosovo, and from a young age, she had an interest in traveling and following in her mother’s footsteps. Their father owns a consulting company in the city and has hosted TFAS interns. He was excited when the girls told him they wanted to be a part of the program.

Grace Lundell ’21 attends a walking tour of historic Alexandria, VA.

Also unique about Ava and Grace is their schooling. Growing up, the girls attended a British international school in Georgetown that mostly catered to the children of European diplomats and internationals. The girls’ lives were so internationally-based that Ava told me she felt a sense of culture shock when they transitioned to their U.S.-based university, Villanova. Grace tells me, “Our pop culture references and shared experiences were totally different. Even things like prom and AP classes were different. We weren’t able to bond over those shared experiences.” For Grace especially, who wants to be a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department, this helped fuel her desire to work internationally and informed her cultural education. 

Although Ava and Grace were excited about TFAS, they thought they knew everything about D.C. since they had grown up there. The sisters were originally planning study abroad trips for this summer when the pandemic threw a wrench in their plans. There was some initial disappointment that they weren’t exploring new cities abroad, but Ava told me she was surprised at all the new things she discovered about her home city. She tells me, “I never really paid attention to little things like street names or where the orange line goes. We either walked or drove places growing up, so this is the most I’ve used the Metro in my entire life. The little things make you appreciate the city even more. I thought I knew everything, but you can never really know everything.” Grace also conveys a playful frustration that the team she and her sister were on for the scavenger hunt during TFAS Orientation didn’t have any comparative advantage despite them being D.C. natives. Regardless, she says it was a great bonding experience to explore the city with new friends from across the country.

Ava is interning at an independent think tank called the D.C. Policy Center this summer. The organization provides analysis on policy issues that affect the District of Columbia with a singular focus on the District’s economy and demographics. Although she’s majoring in English and has a passion for reading, she has a minor in public administration that she believes will help advance a career in education policy or human rights and provide her with some concrete skills. While her sister is confident in her career path, Ava tells me she is still exploring her options and wants to be open to opportunities she isn’t even aware of yet. When asked what she values about her sister, Grace says, “Ava is just genuinely sweet… She really cares, and sometimes she cares a little too much, which really relates to why she wants to go into education policy and women’s empowerment.”

Grace’s internship is at the American Academy of Diplomacy, an independent, nonprofit association of former high-level government officials and senior U.S. ambassadors whose mission is to strengthen American diplomacy. They are particularly interested in hiring students with a passion for foreign service, which is right up Grace’s ally. After graduating with a double major in French and political science Grace plans on pursuing a master’s degree before taking the foreign service test and applying to be a public diplomacy foreign service officer with the state department. Although she’s aware it’s a competitive environment, Grace tells me, “Once I set my mind to something that’s what I’m going to do. There’s no question about it. That’s what I’m going to do.”  Just hearing Grace talk confidently about her goals is inspiring, and given her already impressive resume and relentless drive for success, I have no doubt she’ll achieve them.

“You just need to talk to anyone you’re sitting next to… It’s about saying yes to everything, but those personal connections specifically.”

Grace Lundell ’21

When asked what advice they would share with next year’s TFAS students both girls emphasized the importance of new relationships. Grace compares the experience to her freshman year of college saying, “You just need to talk to anyone you’re sitting next to… It’s about saying yes to everything, but those personal connections specifically.” Both girls ended up making great friends, particularly among their roommates, and are excited to keep fostering those connections going forward.

“We both really want to use what we’ve been given to help people. If I’m given some sort of opportunity to do that I’m going to take it.”

Ava Lundell ’21

As our meeting draws to a close and we start cleaning up our table, I find myself thinking that I have to keep an eye on these girls. It’s not often you meet people who you can envision being secretary of state or leaders of huge humanitarian efforts. It is clear to me that these strong young women have been fortunate to receive great mentorship and support in their lives. While it would be easy to take these resources and use them for selfish ends, that never seems to cross Grace or Ava’s minds. Ava tells me, “We both really want to use what we’ve been given to help people. If I’m given some sort of opportunity to do that I’m going to take it.”   I have no doubt that these girls will do great things with their lives!