Tag Archives: National Security

Ivan Ponomarev Looks at Threats Inside Aviation

I spent this fall in Washington D.C. as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. After spending a wonderful summer here, I had decided to continue my studies here this past fall. It was important for me to get the most out of my final semester in the program, and so I took two classes and participated in an internship as well.

My internship was at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a research center at the University of Maryland. It focuses its studies on the causes and consequences of terrorism, as well as on national and international responses to terrorist groups and activities. START conducts extensive firsthand and secondhand research and works with vast quantities of data, as evidenced by its Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which it describes on its website as “the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world.”

Ivan Ponomarev at START

More specifically, I have been part of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) division. This division studies terrorist use or potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The project that I have been working on is the Aviation Insider Threat project, which is working on the development of the Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT) to help detect vulnerabilities within the air cargo supply chain which may potentially be exploited by insiders looking to commit illicit or terrorist activities. My tasks have included, but have not been limited to, conducting research on air cargo supply chains and potential vulnerabilities within them, conducting red-teaming exercises with CAITAT to help refine it before it is finalized in December, and assisting with the preparation and editing of
CAITAT training materials.

I am eternally grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I had this fall, as it was certainly one to remember. This has been quite a unique experience for me, as my previous two internships were very different from this one, and I have learned a great deal about national security and counterterrorism. I will always look back at this fall as an important building block in the person that I will become and am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead in my future.

Ivan Ponomarev is a recent MAIR graduate. He also interned at Nonviolence International and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in DC.

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Ivan Ponomarev Wastes No Time with Two Internships in DC

Scott Clements, International Law Enforcement at DOS

This summer, I have had the amazing opportunity to serve the State Department as an intern in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) in the Management Assistance and Program Support Division (MAPS). As a bureau, INL works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

As a Bureau, INL consistently receives a heavy amount of appropriated funding to continue to carry out its meaningful mission. INL is a program heavy Bureau and is subdivided into Program and Functional offices which help to carry out its overall mission. INL program offices consist of Afghanistan and Pakistan (AP), Africa and Middle East (AME), Europe and Asia (EA), and Western Hemisphere Programs (WHP). INL’s functional offices consist of Aviation (A), Anti-Crime Programs (C), Criminal Justice assistance and Partnership (CAP), and Policy Planning and Coordination (PC). Finally, The Resource Management Division Offices (RM) consist of a variety of supportive offices including MAPS – the division that I worked in.

During my time at INL, I got to work on a multitude of trainings, department projects, and bureau protocols. When I first started at INL, I was responsible for being part of the planning and oversight team for INL 101 – a crash course on the bureau, and its capabilities, aimed at foreign and civil service officials, in between their time at embassy posts, or headquarters assignments. This experience served as a great opportunity to familiarize myself with the Bureau and gain in depth knowledge of how INL functions as a greater part of the state department, while being able to converse and network with high level foreign and civil service personnel.

Additionally, I was given a leading role in the development, creation, and manipulation of several critical accountability databases for the departments property, construction, and contractual information at overseas embassy posts. Engaging in this detailed analytical work really gave me a better idea of the overall scope, mission, and capability of the INL Bureau, and just how broad and global their reach is. Other projects throughout my tenure at INL involved establishing current points of contact (POC) with embassy and program officials for the department, as well as attending and participating in high level meetings, trainings, and educational events put on by the division, bureau, and greater state department.

While the exposure to working in the Federal Government was certainly informative and beneficial to my career goals, I was also blessed to work with a team that was incredibly welcoming, and supportive of my efforts, and contributions to the departments mission. I established a variety of long term relationships, and critical contacts with experienced individuals that I am grateful for. Overall, working at the State Department and INL as an intern has been a great learning experience, and I will be better off professionally and personally for having served in such a role.

Scott Clements in front of the State Department in DC

Scott Clements completed the MPA degree in 2018.

MPA Degree at the Maxwell School

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Jacob Wisenbaker, National Security Innovations at MD5

Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Crystal City, Virginia is a small team of men and women who are working to completely transform the Department of Defense. Created in October of 2016, MD5 is a program office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked with creating new communities of innovators to solve national security problems. We do this by partnering with those individuals who are typically not associated with the DoD. These include students, entrepreneurs, university professors, startup companies, venture capital communities, city governments, and private accelerators/incubators. We collaborate with our above partners to bring solutions to the national security problems of our customer, the DoD.MD5 is organized into three distinct yet integrated portfolios: Education, Collaboration and Acceleration. The Education portfolio is tasked with building a DoD workforce that has strong innovation skills and an improved problem framing capacity. The Collaboration portfolio helps to develop the novel solutions that are put forth by our partners in addition to creating new communities of innovators. Lastly, the Acceleration portfolio works to improve the viability of dual-use ventures and solutions for defense market entry.

As an Innovation Fellow with MD5 I have had the opportunity to work at the headquarters located in Crystal City. My tasks over the summer have ranged from writing policy recommendations for how the program conducts itself to meeting with various DoD entities to better understand the problems they face. I have been tasked with constantly seeking more innovative and streamlined ways in which MD5 can complete its mission. By enabling better communication processes, developing publications, consolidating and distributing workflows, and optimizing MD5’s vast troves of data, I am helping MD5 team members to better serve our customer.

Before coming to work for MD5 I had little understanding as to what innovation truly meant. Many times the word is used as a buzzword that few people efficiently know how to employ. MD5 actualizes this abstract concept by teaching hard skills relating to Human Centered Design (HCD), Lean Launch Pad (LLP), Mission Model Canvas (MMC), and Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With these skills the DoD will undoubtedly hold its competitive edge in the 21st century.

Jacob Wisenbaker is a recent graduate of the MAIR program.

Jacob Wisenbaker

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Chris Tonsmeire, Peace Operations Initiative at DOD

The U.S. Department of Defense’s USINDOPACOM headquarters is located on Camp HM Smith, Oahu, Hawaii.  It was recently renamed from USPACOM to reflect the importance of India in USINDOPACOM’s Area of Responsibility.  USINDOPACOM is unique among the Global Combatant Commands (GCC) because it is the only GCC with its subordinate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Commands co-located in the same state and island.  Additionally, the island of Oahu is home to Joint Interagency Task Force – West (JIATF-W), the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Asia-Pacific Security Studies (APCSS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research facility.  An internship with USINDOPACOM offers an amazing opportunity to learn about all of these organizations.

Seal of USINDOPACOM

My position was as a Visiting Fellow in the J372 office.  The J372 is a sub-category of the J3 Operations directorate.  The J372 office consists of Multinational Programs and Theater Security Cooperation Exercises.   Multinational Programs, where I interned, consists of two programs: the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) and the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).  While my internship was officially with GPOI, I was also able to work extensively with the MPAT.  GPOI was created in 2004 as the U.S. contribution to the broader G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations because of the strategic importance of international peace operations to US national security.  Increasing the capability of partner nations to conduct international peace operations was seen as a cost-effective way of increasing world stability and sharing the burden of conducting peace operations. To meet this objective, GPOI funds training, equipment, and facilities building capabilities worldwide for USINDOPACOM’s twelve regional partners. GPOI is unique in that it is a US State Department program that is executed by the US Department of Defense to build capacity of partners to train and sustain peacekeepers who deploy to United Nations missions around the world.

Like the GPOI team, the MPAT works to improve the capabilities of multinational partner forces.  Unlike the GPOI team the MPAT is regionally focused and was an initiative developed by the regional Chiefs of Defense in 2000 with the goal to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or augmentation of a multinational force headquarters (MNF HQ) and/or other multinational military and civil-military coordination mechanisms.  In order to improve the ability of regional multinational response to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and any other operation in USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility that fall short of war, they have developed the Multinational Forces Standing Operating Procedures (MNF SOP) and conduct the TEMPEST EXPRESS exercise.  The MNF SOP is a living document that collects best practices, compiles and defines new terminology, and standardizes methods for all of these operations.  Yearly MNF SOP conferences are conducted to update the document as well as create relationships between military planners and civilian organization leaders active in the region.  These relationships are seen as added benefits that decrease response time when different organizations arrive to deal with a real-world crisis.  The TEMPEST EXPRESS and other theater security cooperation exercises are where the planners try to “break” the MNF SOP.  It is a scenario-based exercise that allows the planners to work together using the MNF SOP to deal with a simulated crisis.  Flaws exposed by the TE exercise and from real world use are then compiled into the MNF SOP at the next conference.

Getting to attend the MNF SOP 20 conference in Wellington, New Zealand was undoubtedly the highlight of my internship.  The conference sought to update and complete sections on Defensive Cyberspace Operations, Protections of Civilians, Logistics, Inter-agency Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response, and the Glossary.  I was assigned to the Glossary section which compiles new terminology, acronyms, and definitions from the other working group.  This allowed me a great opportunity to see what every section was working on as well as meet experts from foreign governments, USAID, the IFRC and other NGOs, and different directorates of the US military. I was also asked to research options for a regional case study to include in the Inter-agency Cooperation section.  This greatly increased my familiarity with multinational operations in USINDOPACOMs area of responsibility.

USINDOPACOM Area of Command

My background as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant has given me exposure to planning on the tactical level and this internship expanded that planning knowledge to include the operational and strategic level.  My main projects working for the GPOI team was to create a spreadsheet that compiled the GPOI partner nations’ military force pledges to United Nations peacekeeping and identified the priorities for training programs location and subject.  Creating the pledge tracker required research into all of the different types of military units that are sent to support UN missions.  These included infantry, engineering, force headquarters support, medical, military police, reconnaissance, riverine, special forces, transportation and logistics units.  For the MPAT I was assigned the task of incorporating the changes to the MNF SOP from the conference in New Zealand.

Oahu is a great place for recreation as well as professional development.  The close relationship with my office was increased with participation in the MPAT fencing club and attendance of the MNF SOP 20 workshop.  There are numerous hikes, beaches, and coral reefs that are great to explore with other interns in the program.  The food is also unique due to the many cultural influences from Hawaii’s diverse immigrant population.  Hawaiian poke is a personal favorite.  Getting to know all of the great people in the office: Tak, Dan, Bernie, Joe, Bob, Bobby Ray, Murray, John, and Scott was a lot of fun.  Additionally, getting to know all of the other interns from Texas A&M, University of San Diego, University of Hawaii, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and other schools was great as well.  I want to especially thank Steven “Tak” Takekoshi, Crysti Woods, Dr. John Wood, Professor Robert Murrett, the Global Programs Coordinator at Maxwell, and Gerald B., and Daphna Cramer for their support during this experience.

Chris Tonsmeire completed his MAIR degree in December 2018.

Chris Tonsmeire in Hawaii

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Libby Kokemoor Receives Crash Course in Defense Strategy in Hawaii

In June 2018, I arrived on Oahu to begin my internship as a Summer Fellow at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM. One of six geographic combatant commands under the Department of Defense, USINDOPACOM had recently assumed a new name (formerly, U.S. Pacific Command) as well as a new Commander, Admiral Phil Davidson, less than two weeks before I arrived. USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility covers nearly half the earth’s surface and stretches from the west coast of the U.S. to the west coast of India, bringing with it a set of challenges as diverse as the region itself and encompassing several of America’s most steadfast allies. The dynamism of the Indo-Pacific was highlighted when my first week coincided with President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

As part of the Strategy and Policy branch, which develops strategy and plans for the command’s area of responsibility in accordance with national guidance such as the National Defense Strategy, I grappled with a new language – Department of Defense acronyms – but received support and encouragement, and a crash course in the Napoleonic military staff structure, from those around me. As a joint command, USINDOPACOM’s staff includes personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Department of Defense civilians, contractors, and liaison officers from other federal agencies, each bringing different perspectives to the work of the command.

One of the highlights of the summer was observing the 2018 Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise, which takes place every two years in Honolulu. In addition to improving interoperability between forces of different countries (such as Vietnam, participating this year for the first time), RIMPAC is an opportunity for building international trust and cultural exchange. This was on full display during open ship tours, as vessels from the U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, the Philippines and other countries welcomed visitors aboard (with the Peruvian sailors offering samples of RIMPAC pisco aboard their ship!).

Working at USINDOPACOM throughout an eventful summer gave me an unparalleled opportunity to apply my academic work at Maxwell in national security and Asia-Pacific affairs to thorny strategic questions in a rapidly evolving environment – with just enough time to enjoy the beauty of Hawai’i as well.

Libby Kokemoor is a joint MPA/MAIR student in her final semester. She is also a Robertson Fellow. During her second Fall Semester, she also interned at the U.S. Department of State.

Libby Kokemoor in front of the naval hospital ship USNS Mercy during RIMPAC ship tours

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Emma Buckhout, Internal Communications at USCIS

This summer, I participated in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Summer Enrichment Program at headquarters in Washington, DC. As “student trainee,” or intern, with the Internal Communications (IC) division within the Office of Public Affairs, I supported internal workforce communication for 19,000 government employees and contractors. Among other tasks, I provided primary support on USCIS’ tri-weekly internal newsletter, editing and publishing articles for the agency intranet site.

Through my MPA/MAIR studies at Maxwell I am concentrating on immigration and refugee policy. I applied for this internship with hopes of learning first-hand what USCIS actually does and how it operates. USCIS is the component within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tasked with, as its mission statement says, “adjudicating requests for immigration benefits.” I had previously worked on immigration and U.S.-Mexico border policy for two NGOs in Washington, DC, but had focused primarily on political debates, border enforcement issues, and migration through Mexico. I was eager to learn more about how the actual U.S. immigration services are carried out and more about the granular process of immigrating to the U.S. and gaining citizenship.

Emma Buckhout addresses fellow interns and a USCIS audience at the USCIS Summer Enrichment Program 2018 closing ceremony

While internal communications may seem removed from the actual immigration and refugee adjudications, and even farther from the big-picture policy work, it was the perfect window from which to learn how all of USCIS’ varied components fit together. My office cleared and sent out any policy directives and announcements from USCIS or DHS leadership to all USCIS employees. At the same time, we received articles and announcements from field offices across the country on special events, accomplishments, and trainings. To properly edit and publish them, I not only had to learn the agency style rules, but I also got to learn a little bit about what each agency component does.

The USCIS Summer Enrichment Program also provided invaluable learning and professional development opportunities for the cohort of over 60 interns. We visited a regional USCIS service center, where we heard from the officers who review the applications for specific immigration benefits, and the Virginia asylum office, where officers explained how they conduct in-person asylum interviews. We also attended a naturalization ceremony in which we got to witness dozens of people complete the rigorous process to become U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the internship program worked with several headquarters offices to host career panels and skills workshops, as well as a talk with USCIS Director Cissna. As a result of my participation, I was honored as one of three Summer Enrichment participants chosen to speak at Intern Closing Ceremony.

In the end, I succeeded in learning more completely about the structure and work of USCIS. I also built invaluable relationships with my talented Internal Communications team, and gained a renewed respect for the value of communication, clear writing, and editing in any professional field.

Emma Buckhout is a MPA/MAIR student and Robertson Fellow focusing on immigration and refugee policy.

Emma Buckhout with the USCIS-DHS seal

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Sarah Buell, How DOD Does International Cooperation

Sarah Buell came into the MAIR degree as a Fast Track student directly from Maxwell’s BA International Relations program.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for the Department of Defense, in the Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, in the International Cooperation Directorate. Essentially, International Cooperation (IC) works to form long-term armaments and military partnerships with our allies and friendly countries. It creates agreements with these countries on weapons and communications systems, vehicles, aircraft and other technologies. It is almost like the diplomatic component of acquisition at the Pentagon.

I gained a lot of experience with prepping our Undersecretary and our International Cooperation director with preparing to engage with an international counterpart. On one occasion, I was able to write all of the briefing materials for a meeting the IC director had with an ambassador. I then got to attend the meeting and watch the director use the talking points that I had come up with. It was extremely satisfying to see that the work I had done could actually be used.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon

Interestingly enough, this internship taught me about a lot of coordination, and showed me that I had more backbone than I thought I did. Among other things, I was put in charge of handling reservations for a trip that the Undersecretary was supposed to take. When the trip got cancelled, I was then in charge of cancelling all of them. When a cancellation did not go through, I spent a long time on the phone calmly with the hotel explaining why we should not be charged. I got a partial refund. Everyone in my office said that they were impressed that I was able to assert myself like that. It gave me the confidence I needed to be able to handle more difficult tasks in the future.

This internship introduced me to how the Department of Defense interacts with our allies. I learned that diplomacy and long-standing relationships are important, even for our defense interests. I also learned how to assert myself in an effective manner. In short, I learned policy and practical skills while increasing confidence in my professional self.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon Visitor’s Center while assisting with escorting around the building

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  • For more about the Fast Track BA/MA program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino,  at comolino@syr.edu

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Liad Roytfarb Works in Technology Accelerator at DoD

Liad Roytfarb is a current student in the Atlantis Program, a unique dual degree MAIR/MPP program with the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He participated in the Maxwell in Washington Program over the summer.

During the summer of 2017 I had the opportunity to intern in Washington DC at MD-5, also known as the National Security Technology Accelerator. MD-5 is an emerging Department of Defense program which attempts to promote Civil-Military industry innovation, and seeks ways to spur innovation across the department. The program focuses on three broad fields: Education, Collaboration and Acceleration. It is situated at the National Defense University, which enables it to tackle all three fields effectively. The goal of the program is to maintain and promote the role of the United States as a global leader in defense; the initiators believe that this can be achieved by building bridges between the technology and security sectors.

Liad Roytfarb

As an international student, I found the internship a unique and challenging experience. The main obstacle was familiarizing myself with jargon from different spheres, such as technology and military, a task that proved to be difficult. Moreover, it had to be done effectively and swiftly in order to contribute to the diverse set of tasks handed out on a daily basis. Luckily, my boss and mentor, Mr. Justin Dunnincliff, is a Maxwell alumnus, who assisted me in every aspect and helped integrate me into the team since day one. This enabled me to learn quickly and, I hope, to contribute to a wide range of tasks and ventures. It was an interesting experience for me, because I got a close look at the Defense departments’ efforts to achieve a set of its vast organizational goals. The ability to implement methods and ideas from my own country and past experience was very rewarding; altogether this was a huge lesson I will take with me.

I would recommend this internship for any graduate student interested in private-public partnerships, working relations in the US government and DOD programs in particular. The organization and the internship have a very clear ‘on the go’ nature, which should suit any candidate who likes fast paced and ever-changing tasks. I enjoyed learning from the deep knowledge and practical experience of all senior staff in the program, as its small size enables close knit working relations.  Since the program was launched just a year ago there is much place for growth and implementation of ideas by interns and staff alike. This constitutes a great opportunity for any Maxwell student in DC and, in my opinion, would be an unforgettable experience.

Liad Roytfarb Gains European Experience in Berlin

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Mark Temnycky, Greetings From DOD

My name is Mark Temnycky. I am a Ukrainian-American pursuing a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations. I am also seeking a Certificate of Advanced Study in the European Union and Contemporary Europe, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in National Security Studies.

This fall I was fortunate to intern at the U.S. Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy (DoD: OSD), located at the Pentagon, where the duration of the internship lasted 16 weeks. During this period I assisted in developing U.S. and NATO strategy and policies; represented the DoD in interagency meetings, ensuring Department equities are protected while facilitating accomplishments of U.S. policy objects; prepared briefings, decision papers, and action memos for senior DoD officials; and interacted weekly with officials in the National Security Council, Department of State, Intelligence Agencies, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Mission to NATO.

During my days off, including the weekends, I was able to explore the numerous riches that Washington, D.C. has to offer. For example, I visited many of the memorials, visited the various Smithsonian museums throughout Washington, and attended numerous cultural events at embassies and festivals. I was also exposed to the sports culture in Washington, where I met some players from the U.S. men’s national soccer team; some friends and I attended the U.S. vs. New Zealand friendly at RFK Stadium, and we watched the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Washington Redskins in an NFC East division game at FedExField.

Overall I am very blessed and thankful for this experience. I learned more about the various administrative processes of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. NATO Policy, the various issues that NATO faces during the twenty first century, and the strength that the NATO Allies have in order to overcome these issues. The experience was simply surreal. Thank you Washington!

Mark Temnycky at the Pentagon.

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Emily Ma Takes Unexpected Path from DC to Turkey

Emily Ma is a MAIR student who wrote this post last summer. She is currently interning at the U.S. Commercial Service in Taipei, Taiwan.

The course of my summer in Washington D.C. did not turn out as expected at all. I accepted an internship with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services under the Department of Homeland Security as a Pathways Intern. On the first day of the internship, I found myself assigned to the Refugee Affairs Division. Blindly diving into this internship, it has turned out to be a profoundly rewarding experience, and a potential turning point in my career.

A division that works rather under the radar (my supervisors have admitted), the Refugee Affairs Division is the adjudicating authority on all refugee applications into the United States.  The RAD Office (as the US Government – USG – is so fond of acronyms), is comprised of several different sections, but I was the intern for the Refugee Corps. Refugee Officers within the Refugee Corps are sent on monthly details around the world to adjudicate refugee applications after they have been referred to the United States by UNHCR. I had heard about refugee resettlement within the US, and RAD is the final security check, pre-arrival.

The first project with which I was tasked was to organize and coordinate a large hiring surge of officers for the division. I organized resumes, collected letters of recommendation, and had the opportunity to sit in on several interviews.

After successfully completing the first project within the first three weeks working at RAD, my supervisors decided to send me to Turkey as a fingerprinter on the next detail. Despite the several setbacks due to recent events in Turkey, the US Embassy in Turkey confirmed that it was safe for our team to continue the mission. So, somehow, here I am writing this blog post in Turkey. I’ve been working directly (fingerprinting can be surprisingly difficult at times) with refugees, and the Refugee Officers on my team allow me to observe their interviews with refugee applicants.

Working with refugees and leaving the country had most assuredly not been in my plans when I moved down to DC this summer, but I guess it just goes to show that you’ll never know where life will take you.

P.S. Refugee Officers want to make it clear that refugee adjudications are made by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Refugee Affairs Division, not the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Emily Ma at the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey
Emily Ma at the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey

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Emily Ma Finds Taiwan Unforgettable While at Foreign Commercial Service