I came to GW from Miami, Florida, knowing that I wanted to join the Foreign Service and become a diplomat. I was one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, and I was the only person in my family to have ever left South Florida. As a first generation American this was daunting for all of us, but I knew coming to GW would fulfill my dreams to see the world and change it.
My transition to GW was very difficult for me. It took a community to get me here, with friends and family helping to provide dorm supplies, books, flights, and even warm clothes for the winter time. Aunts and uncles even stepped in to co-sign my loans. I arrived on campus wondering whether attending GW would really be worth all of the risks and sacrifices my family had made for me.
Over the next four years, I took classes led by three ambassadors, countless diplomats, lawyers, practitioners, and world-class scholars. The Elliott School curriculum allowed me to study abroad, study two foreign languages, and craft a personalized curriculum combining courses in security, religion, and peace studies.
World-class professors taught me to challenge traditional views on international relations and conflict resolution. Classmates from around the world broadened my perspectives and gave me my first taste of diplomacy. I once found myself working in a group with students hailing from four different countries; not one of us had learned English as our first language. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to meet and hear from some of the greatest leaders and diplomats of today, including Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, John Kerry, and Thomas Pickering.
As my family in Miami had, the Colonial community came together to ensure my success at GW and beyond. The GW Colonial Connection and the Office of Annual Giving employed me for four years, new friends took me in during holidays, and university and alumni awards helped meet my financial needs.
In my senior year, the Director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, Michael Tapscott, suggested I apply for the State Department Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship. With the help and guidance of [GW professor] Ambassador Gutierrez and the GW Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, I was selected as a 2012 Rangel Fellow. I went on to get my Master’s degree at the Elliott School and was selected to spend the summer of 2013 working at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium. I am happy to say that GW has been worth my family’s investment.
On June 30th, I began my career as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat for the United States of America. As I prepare to leave for my first assignment at the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico, I am overcome by excitement knowing I will get to represent my country and this institution wherever in the world my career may take me. My name is Michelle Suarez, Class of 2012 and 2014. I am a Cuban-American, a woman, a diplomat, and a Colonial. And because of GW, I am making history.
—Michelle Suarez, BA ’12, MA ’14