Connecting with Shared Aspirations
By Lindsay Lee
Lindsay Lee is one of eight participants in the 2014 Youth in International Development and Affairs (YIDA) internship program. She and other YIDA interns will be writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with the YIDA program this summer, to be posted at this blog. USICD coordinates the YIDA internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area. Lindsay Lee is completing her YIDA internship at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Learn more about the YIDA internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257. Read Lindsay Lee’s biography, and the biography of other YIDA interns in the summer 2014 program, at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=269. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.
I first heard about the YIDA internship when someone forwarded me an email from USICD looking for applicants. The email talked about “disability” and “development,” only one of which I had any real experience with. But I decided to apply because it seemed like a good first step toward my future career in public health. I was about to graduate with my Bachelor’s in math, and I didn’t have a plan for the summer, so I thought, “well, why not?”
I was lucky enough to be awarded the internship opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier. First of all, it’s great to live in DC. It’s a center for so much important work domestically and internationally, and a place I can clearly see myself in the future. We get to live here for free while gaining an incredible amount of valuable and relevant experience, while so many other interns in DC have to pay their own way to gain even just a smattering of relevant experience.
Even after just the first day here, my perspective changed. I have met so many dedicated people who are doing exactly the kind of world-changing work for people with disabilities that I want to do in the future. For so long I had been the only one in my world standing up for my rights as a person with a disability. It has always just been me against every single system that threw obstacles in my way. But here with this group of interns and staff and professionals in international development, I feel like the individual struggles I’ve had are validated. Outside of this world, it’s always been rare to find places where I could get together with other people with disabilities and share experiences. Here, I finally know what it is to share camaraderie with people who can understand what living with a disability is like. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer brings!