Estefania Londono ’13 remembers the day the Panamanian president dropped by for a visit. She was working in her office at the Parlatino, the Latin American Parliament in Panama City where she interned over the summer, when a security team wandered in.
“They apologized for the intrusion and explained they were checking the building as the president was visiting,” she said.
Londono quickly found herself being introduced to President Ricardo Martinelli (pictured right with Londono), who was already aware of who she was and why she was there.
“He welcomed me in front of the media as a student intern from Mount Holyoke College, and said my internship demonstrated that the world was paying attention to the work of the Parlatino. It was in all the papers the next day,” said Londono.
It was not by accident that Londono interned at the Latin American equivalent of the United Nations, which serves as an assembly for its 22 member nations. Originally from Colombia, Londono describes her life experience as preparation for a career in international relations. She speaks Spanish, English, and some French, spent her sophomore year studying at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and interned in the press office of the French Consulate General in Miami in the summer of 2011.
As she prepared for her final year at MHC, Londono knew that to continue her career track, she needed a relevant overseas internship.
“Through my internship I wanted to do three things,” she said. “First, I wanted to learn the skills for the job. Second, I wanted to become a better researcher. And third, I wanted to develop a better understanding of where my career path could take me.”
After much research and several email conversations, Londono was accepted as an intern at the Parlatino.
Londono arrived in Panama City to find that she was the first intern in the Parlatino’s history. Since nobody knew what to do with an intern, she was encouraged to do work that followed her interests.
“I suggested that I do research on the Parlatino itself, to record the history of the institution in one place,” she said. Through this project, Londono learned about the Parlatino’s member countries and their interests and challenges, knowledge that came in handy when she volunteered to guide a delegation from Peru through the Panama Canal.
“Knowing about their country and issues made it easier for me to relate to the group,” she said. “We had a good time on the canal.”
Londono also wrote a research paper on the importance of the Panama Canal and its expansion, translated documents and meeting notes, and submitted a proposal for the development of an internship grant program at the Parlatino.
She returned from Panama ready for her final semester before graduation in December and now feels prepared for life after MHC.
“I learned many things from this experience, but above all I have a better sense of my personal clarity: who I am, what I like, and what I want to become,” London said.
Her plans include going to graduate school before embarking on her career, which she hopes will lead her into politics.
“I realized I want to be the politician. I’d like to be the one who says, ‘Make this happen,’ ” she said.