Rosana Duarte, ’23, has been interested in politics since she was a teenager. Growing up in Bogota, Colombia, she sought to understand why her home country found itself in the challenging social and political condition it does today, a pursuit fueling her interest in the political science and foreign policy disciplines. In the spring of 2022, Duarte will take this passion to Washington, D.C. , where she will spend 12 weeks as a Congressional intern, a position awarded through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), which promotes young Latinx leaders seeking further awareness of issues facing the Hispanic community.
Duarte will be the second student at Southern awarded this highly competitive internship, awarded to just 23 applicants nationwide for the spring semester. Andreina Barajas Novoa, ’24, of Milford, Conn., was awarded the same internship for the fall of 2021 and encouraged Duarte to apply.
“I’m excited to be given this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to advocating for the voices of Hispanic people seeking grants, asylum seekers, and undocumented students,” Duarte said.
As an immigrant, Duarte’s commitment to helping those navigating the immigration process reflects her personal experience and love of service. In addition to holding a job at the Student Center, Duarte has volunteered as both a Spanish language tutor and translator for Translators Without Borders, providing English-to-Spanish translation of legal documents for a national database.
Patricia Olney, a professor of political science, explained how self-discipline and dedication to service and her studies helped prepare Duarte for the stressful, multi-layered application process.
“I knew if she made it to the interview stage, she would surely be chosen, as there could be no stronger candidate. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus could not make a better investment than Rosana,” Olney said.
Olney explained how Duarte has consistently outperformed fellow students in her classes.
“I have had Rosana in three classes, and in each, she was at the top of her class. She just handed in a research assignment that was easily the best in the class. Her self-discipline is unparalleled,” Olney said.
Through this internship, Duarte will have the opportunity to work with a member of Congress whose views most align with hers, a pairing selected through detailed surveys of Duarte’s beliefs and aspirations.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to see where policy comes from and where bills get passed. It’s so inspiring to be able to work in a place where decisions are being made that affect us all,” Duarte said.
Duarte spent most of her childhood in Bogota, the Colombian capital. Her father came to the United States in 2017, and she and her sister left Bogota two years later to join him, complete high school, and attend college.
Her mother, whom she speaks to daily over the phone, remains in Colombia while the family works through a protracted asylum process.
While Duarte acknowledges the adjustment to a new life has not been easy at times, she has continued to remain positive. Between her classes, her job at the Student Center, and her volunteer work, Duarte also attends the Geography, Environmental and Marine Studies Club (GEMS) when she has free time.
“I think we have adapted relatively fast. We’re trying to take advantage of all the opportunities this country has to offer,” said Duarte, who now resides in New Haven.
Duarte completed her senior year at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven before attending Southern.
“As an immigrant, and the first person in my family to attend college in the United States, I chose Southern because it’s a good school that is close to home,” Duarte said.
Always interested in social studies and politics, she at one time considered a career in pre-law before finding the political science discipline. “I realized that I liked political science and foreign relations between countries,” she said. “Understanding the connection between countries continues to be a passion of mine.”
Being awarded the CHCI internship will provide her with additional training and education in politics. In addition, Duarte will learn leadership and community-building skills through industry professionals.
“We work four days in the congressional office, except Mondays,” said Duarte, who detailed her internship tasks as being centered around constituent engagement, correspondence, and research, among others.
“On Mondays, we will attend seminars with professors, go on tours of different buildings, and see different museums throughout the city. We’ll also participate in community leadership activities.”
Once in Washington, interns are provided a furnished apartment to live in during their stay. Duarte will also receive a stipend, along with 12 academic credits toward her graduation.
Due to the demand of CHCI’s internship program, Duarte will not be taking any additional classes during the spring semester. But she said the experience would help prepare her for her next steps.
“This internship means so much to my family and me. It’s a huge accomplishment, especially considering I just came here almost four years ago to a new environment,” she said.
“I feel I’ve been able to get out of my comfort zone and show a lot of personal growth, which has helped me to overcome the challenges I’ve faced after coming here.”