FIU in D.C. panel: ‘Find what makes you unique in a very sharp town’


On June 29, FIU students, alumni and friends gathered at FIU in D.C. to network and speak with established professionals in the international field about how best to jumpstart a career in international relations. Watch the discussion via webcast. Interested in a career in national media? Stay tuned for upcoming panel announcements.

Attendees begin to arrive for the “International Careers in Washington, D.C.” panel

Twenty-six members of the FIU community poured into FIU in D.C. the last week in June for an interactive panel discussion about international careers. Nearly 100 additional members tuned in that evening via webcast.
The panel consisted of four seasoned professionals in the international field:

  • Laura Rodriguez, senior state department official at the U.S. Dept. of State
  • Santiago Foldvari, director of investment at Austrade
  • Robert Kurz, scholar and author of “War Gaming for Leaders”
  • Joaquin Ferrao, deputy inspector general and legal counsel for the Peace Corps

Rodriguez, Foldvari and Ferrao are all FIU alumni.
Audience members asked how best to market themselves effectively in a competitive field. They also asked the panelists’ advice on building a strong professional portfolio, one that is more likely to be considered by competitive scholarship programs like Fulbright and the Peace Corps, or the jobs of their dreams. The general consensus: Success in international relations “is not a straight line.”The panel kicked off with each of the leaders telling listeners about the development of their careers. The second part of the event featured a Q&A session.

Attendees listen as panelists share their tips and tricks for jumpstarting international relations careers

They advised listeners to inch closer to their goals every day by taking on work that brings them incrementally closer to where they want to be.

“Success in Washington is tenacity and perseverance,” said Kurz.

When asked about what personal work individuals can do in order to shape themselves into the professionals they aspire to be, panelists stressed hard work, flexibility and humility.

“Have a network. Don’t try to be an expert on everything,” said Foldvari. “Internships and/or programs like the Peace Corps, traveling and understanding what you can offer the employer — not what the employer can offer you — are key. Find what makes you unique in a very sharp town.”

Panelists also offered practical career advice applicable to any field: 1) never take no for an answer, but be respectful in the process; 2) keep in touch with contacts from previous internships; and 3) develop strong communication skills.

The biggest surprise of working in government?

“What’s on TV isn’t what I see in my day-to-day,” Rodriguez said. “We do have good relationships with our political counterparts. At the end of the day, we’re all just there to do a good job.”

After time for questions concluded, panelists and attendees were able to mingle in the office, touch upon further inquiries and share professional passion points.

Panelists and employees of FIU in D.C. after the panel

“The panel was very insightful. It was great hearing the firsthand experience of professionals in the field,” said Omotola Oladapo, FIU student and intern at the Peace Corps.

Interested in an international career? Connect with FIU Career & Internship Success Manager Ethan Starkey at To learn more about FIU in D.C., visit, or follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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