Neil Decenteceo is a first-year, graduate student pursuing his Master’s degree in Political Science, along with a Public Affairs Certificate, at the University of Florida (UF). This summer, he is interning at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
One major responsibility I’ve been tasked with is to be the point of contact for foreign visitors who want to meet with experts at the United States Department of Agriculture. It requires me to be in constant contact with numerous people within the USDA, as well as the State Department, and non-governmental partner agencies. Another project that I’ve been assigned is to help compile years of information about the gifts given by the USDA to foreign dignitaries, and vice-versa. A third project I’m taking part in during my summer internship is to help plan for and execute the Foreign Agricultural Service Global Conference, which will include a swearing-in ceremony for new foreign service officers. I am definitely excited about all of these projects, but I am especially looking forward to handling all of the foreign visitors cases, especially because I get to test my hard-earned skills of event planning that I honed during my undergraduate career. I guess the only difference is that I am now planning for government events and not student events.
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
I think I realized I wanted to explore public service after taking an online Intro. to Public Administration class at the University of Florida. Not a super cool story, but it really helped me to see that there is much more to public service than just running for office. Another experience that solidified my desire to go into public service was my summer internship with a nonprofit called the Borgen Project after graduating undergrad in 2016. After advocating for a stronger International Affairs Budget and global poverty-fighting legislation, I developed a great appreciation for the advocacy side of public service. I think those two things definitely made me want to explore public service… oh yeah, and the results of the 2016 election.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
My goals after this internship are to further explore my interest in international development and finish my last year of graduate school. Hopefully, after a summer of making important connections, I will be able to find a start to my professional career in public service. As for goals this summer: eat at great fried chicken places, review them all on Instagram, speak and make connections with professionals who work in a field I am interested in, and make some long-lasting friendships. 🙂
What are you looking forward to in DC / where your internship is located?
I am looking forward to everything D.C. has to offer me! Food, friends, museums, visits from friends back home. My internship is located at the USDA building on Independence Avenue, which is very conveniently located to a number of those things I just listed!
What do you do for fun?
For fun, I like to sleep, eat, watch YouTube videos of strangers playing Nintendo games, read current events, discuss social justice issues, and use all of my family members’ streaming services to watch some of my favorite shows (Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Steven Universe, etc. etc.)
What has been the most interesting/ meaningful thin you’ve learned from CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program so far? Why?
For those who want to apply to the CAPAL program, I would recommend you do the following: try to figure out what you are honestly passionate about and learn how to effectively write and speak about it with some vulnerability. It can be hard, but figure out what makes you cry (I know that sounds weird)! I grew up in a family where crying wasn’t an encouraged thing, but I realized growing up that knowing what makes you cry can be a really great source of strength and knowledge about yourself in the end. Also, try to connect with people who have gone through the internship program! I will offer my perspective for future reference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or something. Or Facebook. lol. Also, ditto for those who want to go into public service: find out what makes you cry, learn how to communicate with others about it, make connections, and take action to the best of your ability.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Nattacha Munakata
Nattacha Munakata is currently a rising sophomore at George Mason University, studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-med). On campus, she is Peer Health Advisor, working to raise awareness and educate students on health issues. She is also involved in TEDxGMU and Thai Student Association. Outside, she likes to volunteer for local organizations and events, such as the DC Sakura matsuri and her local FIRST robotics team. During her free time, she likes to watch Netflix dramas and explore new music.