International affairs studies translate into successful capstone experience in top think tank

by Patricia Bloom

When Wandi Huang ‘11 and Shaher Zakaria '11 traveled to Washington, D.C. this summer, it was for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. They had been chosen through a competitive process to serve as research assistants in one of the world's top think tanks.

Both students applied seeking real-world international affairs experience. They were not disappointed.

“As a staff intern, it was my job to summarize Chinese and Korean archives for future use and also to help with various conference preparations,” said Huang, a graduate of Beijing Foreign Studies University. Huang was intrigued by her work with recently declassified Chinese documents from the 1960s. “All of these files discussed China's relationships with other socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, Korea, and several nations in Eastern Europe. Many of the Korean archives discussed how to unite the entire Korean peninsula in preparation for war,” she said.

Wandi Huang '11

Huang would like to help solve conflicts in East Asia. “There are currently many disagreements occurring over territory, ethnic issues, and commerce. I would like to work for a third party organization involved in mediation or negotiation such as the United Nations or the Carter Institute,” she said.

Shaher Zakaria '11

Zakaria's internship allowed him to explore Middle Eastern Affairs. He is in the process of applying to doctoral programs and would like to focus his career on public and foreign affairs and Middle Eastern issues, possibly in Kuwait. As a research assistant for Dr. Bruce Hoffman, an expert in terrorism and counterterrorism, and Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, a specialist in 20th-century Middle Eastern history, Zakaria spent much of his time conducting online database research related to the Middle East, terrorism, and national security. “One of my research projects included translating Arabic newspapers. My translations will not only be used for the Woodrow Wilson Center but also for the Library of Congress,” he said.

Zakaria and Huang enjoyed the academic atmosphere. “I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to work at one of the top ten think tanks in the United States,” said Zakaria. “We had incredible access to some of the main lobbyist organizations, think tanks, and other international organizations, which was an experience I will never forget.”