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The American Dream and the IWP Internship Experience: Rafael Peres

In this article, IWP spring 2024 intern Rafael Peres, originally from Portugal, reflects on his experience of America, from his college experience in Indiana to his internship at IWP in Washington, D.C.

Rafael Peres

During my time at Earlham College, I experienced America for the first time in a new light while canvassing for a class project. Walking around the heartland town of Richmond, Indiana was an experience I will never forget. From houses left in ruins, you can smell a stench that shouldn’t be there, and you wonder if several blocks of houses with broken windows, broken doors, and holes in walls represent the promise of freedom.

Do the bruises on the body of the woman who answered the door, or the stories of abuse shared by many others, represent a demonstration of democracy? Are the kids left in one of these desolate towns with no ambition, support, or quality education the promise of the American dream?

In such an environment, it is easy to fall into a rabbit hole of disbelief. It is easy to be swayed by the persuasive arguments of less democratic political actors who promise immediate change. It is easy to paint conservative institutions and thinkers as the source and sustainers of such an unfair reality.

What’s not so easy is building bridges of cooperation between differently minded people and realizing that regardless of the political spectrum, we all seek to improve human dignity and quality of life. At least, it wasn’t as easy until I came to IWP, a place grounded on academic inquiry, data-driven analysis, and an unmatched commitment to humanism driven to improve the lives of everyone.

IWP is a truly inspiring place that reignited my belief in the potential of democracy, liberalism, and all the components of the political matrix that underpin Western society. The Institute fosters inclusiveness, kindness, justice, and growth in every human soul.

Rafael Peres with Umbrella

Stepping into the corridors of IWP, I was met with a whirlwind of opportunities and enriching encounters that reshaped my perspective. Attending classes led by esteemed scholars, collaborating on research papers, and engaging in career preparation sessions were all a testament to IWP’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence and personal growth. Guided by mentors like Missy Pratt and scholars such as Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley, IWP became more than an academic institution for an intern; it became a beacon of hope and empowerment, fueling and reinforcing my commitment to effecting positive change.

In just four months, I found myself immersed in a variety of experiences at The Institute of World Politics: four classes, over 20 events attended, three papers published, one awarded fellowship, several summer internship offers, and a tremendous amount of learning from a caring and thoughtful team concerned about your success and well-being—these are just some of the drops in the vast ocean of opportunities waiting for you at the truly transformative internship experience offered by IWP.

Hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, and studying in Indiana, the prospect of immersing myself in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., initially seemed like a distant fantasy. Yet, with each passing day at IWP, that dream crystallized into reality, all thanks to the unwavering support and guidance of an exceptional team of mentors and colleagues.

At the forefront of the intern experience stood Missy Pratt, whose meticulous attention to detail ensured that every aspect of our experience was carefully curated. Her dedication to fostering an environment where curiosity thrived, and ideas flourished played a pivotal role in shaping my journey. Through thoughtfully organized excursions to think tanks and government agencies, as well as engaging career preparation sessions with esteemed scholars and professionals like IWP’s Founder Dr. John Lenczowski, Dr. Saba Sattar, Ambassador Aldona Woś, Professor Aaron Danis, and Mr. Derrick Dorth, Missy not only expanded my horizons but also deepened my understanding of global affairs, presenting unmissable growth opportunities every week.

In the realm of economic inquiry, Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley emerged as a guiding light. Under her mentorship, I delved into economic research, exploring social issues through various lenses and uncovering perspectives that challenged and built on my prior worldview. Dr. Bradley’s commitment to academic excellence culminated in collaborating on three challenging and gratifying research papers, an experience I cherish deeply. Her principles, rooted in integrity and rigor, epitomized the ethos of IWP and enriched my scholarly pursuits.

Rafael Peres with coffee

Dr. Sara Vakhshouri and Professor John Tsagronis generously allowed me to attend their classes. Their willingness to engage with eager minds like mine facilitated a mutual exchange of knowledge, offering insights into economic policy, energy security, and corporate statecraft. Under their mentorship, I not only gained a nuanced understanding of geopolitical dynamics but also became more informed on how to effect positive change on the world stage for the greater good.

To the dedicated events team—Sarah Dwyer, Svetlana Houle, Carlos Alatorre, Noelle Heineman, and Lindsey Schulenberg—assisting them has been a privilege. Their natural kindness, dedication to teaching us about event diplomacy, attention to detail, and readiness to act with elegance and grace made being with this group an incredible learning opportunity.

Last but not least, Ashton Earl and Jennifer Alexander from the Office of Graduate Recruitment team exemplified the essence of IWP’s supportive culture. Their dedication went above and beyond to ensure interns received the necessary support, whether it was with visa processes, scholarship applications, or unbiased advice for my future applications to graduate school both at IWP and competing institutions.

IWP is more than a business seeking clients; it is not an organization seeking cheap intern labor or participating in the ‘evil’ machinations of ‘oppressive’ capitalism and free market dynamics. It is an institution with heart, soul, and an unwavering commitment to whoever offers their time to its advancement and mission towards building a better and freer world.

I carry with me the lessons learned and the experiences gained at IWP, confident in the knowledge that the American Dream is indeed ever-growing and ever-evolving, in part thanks to IWP.

Rafael Peres
Intern, Spring 2024
From Earlham College

Learn More About IWP Internships

Washington Monument, Photo from Rafael Peres