Lesotho is a tiny, land-locked nation surrounded on all sides by South Africa, and this summer, Thomas Becker ’15 traveled there with the State Department for a one-of-a-kind internship.
“I’d set my sights on this type of work way back in high school,” says Becker, “and an international experience like this was just way too good to pass up. I couldn’t say no.”
The economics major spent the summer with the Political/Economic and Public Affairs Sections of the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. He wrote reports for section officers; attended high-level government meetings as an observer; covered media events for the Embassy; helped coordinate American Corner and EdUSA programming; and created guides for new officers coming to the Embassy.
Most of the Embassy’s work revolves around solving some of the Lesotho’s most pressing social issues.
“Lesotho has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world,” says Becker, “as well as one of the highest GINI coefficients [measures income inequality] and a serious problem with poverty.
“Our mission in Lesotho is that of goodwill for a nation that is struggling to develop,” he adds. “We fund programs that range from private sector growth to easier healthcare access. And to be honest, American assistance makes a huge impact.”
Though halfway across the globe, Becker’s Centre connection remained strong—he even got to meet up with a fellow student, Maggie Heine ’16, who was interning at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, at the time.
“We spent the day going around Cape Town, taking in sights like Table Mountain and the Victoria and Albert Waterfront,” says Becker. “We had an awesome time!”
For Becker, working with the State Department was a major step forward for his academic and professional careers.
“I got to interact with so many remarkable people, doing work that officers in the Foreign Service are usually tasked with,” he says. “Working with the State Department is a priceless experience.
“I don’t think I would’ve done this internship without Centre,” he adds. “I had some great assistance from the Bonner Program, Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud and Deb Jones in Career Services, all of whom really helped me out during the process of applying and preparing for my time over in Africa.”
While Becker traveled to Mexico with Centre Singers as a first-year student, he feels this trip and work experience in particular internationalized his outlook.
“Centre opened my eyes to the incomparable importance of being a citizen of the world,” he explains,” and the best way to learn what that truly means is to actually go abroad.”
By Mariel Smith