Shayla Watkins had the opportunity to spend six weeks virtually studying with the School for International Training’s South Africa Internship in Diplomacy, International Relations, and Conflict Resolution. During this time, Shayla participated in discussions regarding South African relations to the U.S., political risks, diplomatic career expectations, and current events of the South African state. Watkins was assigned to a partner NGO of SIT known as the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD), where she took part in researching the African National Congress’s (ANC) prior and current foreign policy. Through this research, she conducted a topic-specific blog post for IGD’s website discussing South Africa’s political interactions with Cuba, focused on how the COVID-19 virus affected these relations.
Due to the virtual format of Shayla’s experience, she utilized her spare time watching and reading News24, a national South African news station, as well as keeping a weekly journal reflecting upon her experiences throughout her internship. With this, she was able to practice real-world application of her classroom discussions through inspired conversation with friends and family at home, increasing both her own knowledge of worldly topics, as well as those around her. She developed a foundation of interpersonal skills and built a strong confidence in her ability to spark important conversations regarding diplomacy and international relations. Watkins utilized a surplus of resources provided by her program and partnered with an NGO to build upon her knowledge of worldly issues and develop her post for IGD’s website. The content of this post explored South Africa’s historical relationship with Cuba, as well as how recent global issues (e.g., COVID-19) have affected them regarding trade, foreign policy, and public opinion. Though the urgent developments of COVID-19 provided unusual circumstances, Shayla found a new appreciation for local travel through the duration of her program, and while global exploration is still a dream and priority for her future, she has learned that adventure comes in many different forms with the right mindset. She looks forward to representing both SIT and the Heinz Foundation as a woman in global leadership through her future endeavors upon graduating from Washington & Jefferson College this spring.