Last fall, I had the opportunity to support the implementation of US policy by working with the US Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. As an intern for the economic section of the embassy, I got to spend ten weeks researching macroeconomic issues and providing context around those issues to help inform US policies.
As someone who studies International Political Economy, is interested in macroeconomic development, and cares about the interaction between the public and private sector, this was a dream position for me. The economic section of an embassy, particularly in a smaller embassy, handles everything that isn’t directly political or consular in nature. In Sri Lanka, this means that the economic section covers everything from commercial policy to research and development, which is particularly exciting in the area since there are a lot of research vessels in the Maldives.
My primary project focused on creating a report on debt sustainability in Sri Lanka. The covid-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn in many countries, Sri Lanka included, resulting in challenges making debt payments. To help inform US policy, I researched reports from commercial banks and think tanks and created models showing different outcomes of possible mitigations to address the debt issues.
Though my experience was meant to be in person, the pandemic made it into a virtual experience instead. What would have been an exciting few months in Sri Lanka was instead an exciting few months spent working from home in Washington, DC. Having missed out on some of the opportunity to be in person and meet people that I worked with, instead I had opportunities to join remote meetings with other interns and work with my supervisors to create a better experience for future interns who would also be coming on during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges around interning in a virtual environment, I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the kind of work that the embassy does and use that to inform my future career goals.