Witnessing Political History in León, Spain
Kayla Self ’21 has been listening to her Puerto Rican mother speak Spanish at home since she was a child, but she didn’t get much practice speaking it herself. After enrolling in a few Spanish courses at Hamilton, she decided to take her oral communications skills to the next level.
This summer, Self is in León, Spain, for an internship with the Consulate of Spain. This opportunity was supported by the Levitt Center's Public Service Internship Fund.
She’s working as an assistant in the office of the Mayor of León, the Department of Commerce, and the Consulate’s office. In addition to her work in the Consulate, Self is helping run the town’s newspaper, Leonoticias. She hopes to learn the ropes of news reporting through the many press conferences and interviews — and get a better grasp of the operations of a provincial government. (Article and photos by Kayla Self in Leonoticias.)
“My favorite part is meeting and connecting with people,” Self said. “I want to understand what drives them to work in public service and what impact they hope to make. I also enjoy learning about the public perception of the politics in Spain, especially during such a pivotal point in its history.”
Major: World Politics in Latin America and Caribbean
Potential Minor: Hispanic Studies
Hometown: Mukilteo, Wash.
High School: Kamiak High School/Ocean Research College Academy
While Self was inspired to seek out a leadership role because of her work with the Levitt Center, she got this internship through old-fashioned networking. “I’ve canvassed and phone banked for my district legislators, and they have a strong relationship with the Consul of Spain in Seattle. They put me in touch with the Honorary Consul of Spain Luis Fernando Esteban.”
She put both her Spanish speaking skills and her ties to the United States to good use during a week-long trade mission in Madrid. Working with a delegation from her home state of Washington, Self met with Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, U.S. ambassadors, Spanish senators, and the president of the REAL Madrid foundation.
The work was difficult, but Self was up for the challenge. “It was tough learning the workplace vocabulary fast enough,” she said. “Many terms and phrases were new to me and learning about a political system I’m not accustomed to in my second language definitely pushed me. I struggled at first, but I think I came out of it with valuable experience in Spanish immersion and better insight into how international relations functions on a provincial level.”
As a world politics major with a concentration Latin American and Caribbean studies, Self hopes to get a degree in international law. “This exposure to another government, especially in a Spanish speaking country with such strong ties to the United States, will definitely contribute to reaching my goals,” she said.
Although she was looking forward to the career experience, Self was most excited about the immersion in a new political climate. “I was very lucky to be in Spain during their change in prime minister, due to a no confidence votes. Rajoy’s replacement was truly an exciting time and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to witness history in Spain.”