Since mid-May I have been working on political matters at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. This amazing internship experience is where the practice of my academic studies in Public Policy, Political Science, and Southeast Asian studies converge. As the United States continues its pivot to Asia, the Philippines has taken on greater importance in relation to our foreign policy goals.
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My arrival to the Philippines comes at a critical time for the country in the political arena. The Philippine Supreme Court is set to decide the fate of a US-Philippine agreement to allow U.S. forces limited access to military bases while the South China Sea dispute has heated up as the Philippine’s arbitration case proceeds at the UNCLOS tribunal hearings. Meanwhile, the country is on the verge of passing legislation to establish basic law for an autonomous Muslim region that is hoped will pacify Islamic insurgent groups in the south.
My work has spanned a range of subjects from human rights to security issues. I was immediately tasked to support a visit from Professional Staffer of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Michael Schiffer. I had the opportunity to coordinate Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s participation at a human trafficking consultation hosted by the City of Baguio. I drafted the Ambassador’s remarks for the LGBT reception in Cebu only a few days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling for LGBT rights. These are only a few of the highlights.
The work has so far taken me to venues like the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Senate, the University of the Philippines, the American Residence in Baguio, the Spanish Embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce, and other locations for various consultations.
My best experiences haven’t been all work related though. After all, it’s more fun in the Philippines! The Philippines has over 7,000 islands and over 7,000 ways to have fun. Mountain climbing and scuba diving have been particularly exciting and memorable. It also doesn’t hurt that Manila boasts two of the top five biggest malls in the world amidst a culture dedicated to the best shopping and dining experiences. However, the best part is that I can still find the maize and blue represented everywhere I go here.
Nathaniel Samuelson graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a B.A. in Political Science, a Minor in Southeast Asian Languages & Culture, and a Commission as a U.S. Army Infantry Officer in the Michigan National Guard. He previously held an internship with the City Manager's Office of Royal Oak, MI where he developed policy recommendations for the City. His interests include International Development, National Security Policy, International Finance, as well a regional interest in Southeast Asia.