Sixty-one percent of Hamilton students study off campus for a semester or full year. Last summer and fall, Annie Whitehurst ’16 was one of those students, studying abroad through Hamilton’s Associated Colleges in China (ACC) program. After a summer and semester in Beijing, however, Whitehurst was not ready to leave China for good. She returned to Beijing this summer as an intern with the Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy. With support from the Scott Steven Morris ’86 Fund managed by Hamilton’s Career and Life Outcomes Center, Whitehurst spent the summer planning events, conducting research, and enjoying more time in China.
After six months studying in Beijing, Whitehurst had developed advanced Chinese language skills and grown attached to China. She realized that an internship would enable her to utilize her Chinese and spend more time in a city she had grown to love. She said, “After ACC, I wanted to return to Beijing and experience the city in a different capacity than as student. I love living in Beijing. The city each day offers something unique.”
The Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) at the U.S. Embassy was also a good match for her academic and professional interests. She explained, “As a Chinese major with minors in economics and government, the Foreign Commercial Service in Beijing seemed like the perfect option, as it combined Chinese, government, and also gave me insight into the world of private sector.”
FCS’s primary role is to promote trade between the U.S. and China. Within FCS, Whitehurst worked on the services team, which focuses on education, travel and tourism, and manufacturing. Her first major project was helping to plan a promotional screening of a film about U.S. national parks. The event was a massive undertaking, with a guest list of 200 people including the U.S. Ambassador to China and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Whitehurst managed the invitations and RSVPs, which became challenging when she found out it was common for guests not to RSVP. She then had to individually call each guest to establish a guest list. In the end, her hard work paid off, and FCS hosted a smoothly run event with plenty of attendees.
After the movie screening, Whitehurst’s responsibilities included attending meetings, updating data, creating PowerPoint presentations, and compiling a research report on e-learning in China. This last project was of particular interest to her. E-learning, as Whitehurst describes it, “strives to use technology to expand the reach and potential in education.” Whitehurst put together a report on the political and economic environment towards e-learning in China. She found that sharing her research was one of the most rewarding parts of her internship, commenting, “It was really exciting to share something I am passionate about with other people.”
Whitehurst also appreciated the opportunity to learn from others at the U.S. Embassy. She stated, “I am most grateful for being able to learn from the officers, all of whose backgrounds are incredibly diverse. They all bring a breadth of experience from the private sector.” Learning from this range of experience taught Whitehurst to keep her options for the future open.
She hopes to explore different career areas and may even live abroad again. One area she remains passionate about is e-learning, and she is interested in working for an e-learning startup in the future. No matter which area Whitehurst goes into, she is carrying the enthusiasm and dedication characteristic of her internship experience forward into the future.