Matthew Jernstedt is a student at Arizona State University studying political science. With the help of the Undergraduate Travel Support grant issued by ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies, Jernstedt was able to attend the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA).
SCUSA is an annual four-day conference hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The conference allows civilian students and West Point cadets to participate in roundtable discussions on topical issues.
After returning from his experience, Jernstedt sat down to tell us about his experience:
Question: What was it like to attend this conference?
Answer: I consider myself so lucky to have been able to attend SCUSA. Not only was the West Point campus beautiful and full of history, I had the chance to talk to students from around the country about the most pressing issues in the world today.
Q: What were some of your takeaways from this experience?
A: I took away the fact that in an increasingly globalizing and volatile world, dialogue is more important now than it ever has been. At the same time, it isn’t necessary to travel to become part of the solution. Many students already do good work at the local level, but few of them realize how easily that work could be scaled to make an impact on global issues. SCUSA also taught me to be optimistic about the future — the emerging generation of leaders are globally minded and care about tackling serious issues, including inequities in access to health care and education, climate change, refugee issues and more.
Q: How do you think this trip will help you attain your career aspirations?
A: As someone who aspires to work in the Foreign Service one day, any experience with global dimensions will help me attain my career aspirations. Before SCUSA, I was a participant in the McCain Institute’s Policy Design Studio and Internship Program, which is a semesterlong simulation of a U.S. embassy in our nation’s capital city. SCUSA complemented this by building on my communication and problem-solving skills in the context of a fast-paced and intellectually stimulating conference. Both experiences will help me stand out when I apply to graduate school, and eventually to the U.S. Department of State.
Q: What advice would you give those who are interested in a similar experience?
A: I would encourage students who are interested in a similar experience to build their networks and stay informed. I first heard about SCUSA in a monthly Pi Sigma Alpha newsletter; without that connection, I might not have even thought to apply! The School of Politics and Global Studies posts advertisements for dozens of events each month, so be sure to look at those upcoming opportunities and take the time to attend a few of them.
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