Fall 2019 was the perfect time for a Tunisian to intern in Washington D.C.: September 15 was the first round of our presidential election, October 6 was the parliamentary election and October 13 was the second round of the presidential election. It was an extremely busy political schedule for the country and for myself since I decided to volunteer in observing these elections.
The election polling center was the Tunisian Embassy in D.C. which was a few blocks away from the World Learning office. My supervisor was very understanding and supportive. I give her in advance the elections schedule and she had no problem in allowing me to have days off in those days. Since I would still send emails to my colleagues to let them know I would be away from office, I managed to get them interested in following the elections. Hence, after being apolitical at the polling center due to the nature of my work, I had to answer all kinds of political questions from curious colleagues the next week.
These three elections were a great opportunity to meet with the Tunisian diaspora in the United States. People came from all over the East Coast to vote in this polling center and through networking, I managed to meet people who worked in the fields of education and international development. Most of the people I met worked at either the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. But I also met university professors, education development professionals and fellow graduate students.
I knew the networking really paid off when I got an invitation from the embassy to attend a formal reception in honor of the Tunisian government’s delegation to the IMF and the World Bank. It was a great honor to be attend the event and talk to people who work in international development in different capacities. With frequent missions to different regions of the world, people who worked at “The Bank”, as they like the call the WB, had their own lifestyle.
When I first applied from Philadelphia to become an observer for the Tunisian elections, all I had in mind was a good volunteering experience in the civil society. It turned out to be a networking opportunity which led me to meeting Tunisian ministers, a former US ambassador to Tunisia and to making new friends who work at international organizations and share the same values and interests.