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Nation's Capital Serves as a Study Abroad Destination

For many, a study abroad experience usually means traveling to a different country in order to take part in a cultural learning experience. St. Lawrence University students, however, also have the opportunity to study abroad right here in the United States, including Washington, D.C.

Take the example of Iqra Khan ’16, who took part in The Washington Center program during her Fall 2015 semester. Iqra was born in Pakistan just before her parents moved with her to Queens, New York, while she was a still a baby. Then at the age of 10, she and her parents moved back to their familial homeland of Pakistan. But as she grew older, Iqra knew that she wanted to return to the U.S. to attend college, specifically in New York State, which eventually lead her to St. Lawrence.

Majoring in sociology and minoring in Arab studies with plans to graduate in May, Iqra had two internships during the summer of 2015, the first being with Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Washington, D.C.

“I went to an ISNA Ramadan event in Canada, looked it up afterward, interviewed and got accepted,” she said. “They’re highly involved with government in D.C. and promoting interfaith relations in communities.”

After completing her second summer internship in Islamabad, Pakistan, Iqra went back to Washington to begin her semester with The Washington Center, a program that delivers coursework and provides students with internship placements. She was paired with Jubilee USA for her internship, an alliance of 75 organizations, 550 faith communities and 50 global partners that promotes economic policies for the world’s poor. Iqra was specifically assigned the duty of researching debt relief for Puerto Rico in order to help the organization influence World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy.

During her time in Washington, Iqra attended Congressional hearings, took part in White House functions, and networked with hosts of people across the city, including St. Lawrence alumni. She also decided to become actively involved with The Washington Center, serving as an ambassador for international students.

“I have not had an experience like that before,” she said. “You realize just how accessible these things are when you’re actually there in person.”

Inserting oneself into certain professional and social circles, particularly as a college student, can often seem daunting, Iqra said. Yet, she advises students to start building their professional networks early on in their college careers.

“You have to be good at networking, and you have to do it all the time,” she said. “When I first started at St. Lawrence, I didn’t realize that. Now I see that it’s all about connections and experiences. During the summer, students should make use of their free time. They should look to upper-class students and professors for advice. Staying in touch with people is key.”

After graduation, Iqra hopes to work for an NGO, possibly related to education for young women entering the workforce. While she is currently applying to jobs in both the U.S. and Pakistan, she understands that building relationships is key enhancing her professional future.

“I’ve always been interested in learning about societies and cultures, and I always wanted to build bridges between communities,” she said. “St. Lawrence is helping me achieve my dream.”

For more information about The Washington Center through St. Lawrence University, visit the Center for International and Intercultural Studies.