In January of 2010, I sat in a cubicle and could feel the sweat beading on the back of my neck as I dialed the German Economic Minister’s private phone number. In my first week interning with the Congressional Study Group on Germany I had repeatedly questioned my choice not to simply take an on-campus job where I could sit and get homework done while manning a desk for hours on end. Instead I was asked to decide what issues should be the focal points of a Congressional luncheon with the German ambassador, sat in as one of three people on conference calls with Congressmen, and now I was calling Berlin questioning the strength of my foreign language skills with each ring at the other end. By the time I went home Friday afternoon I was both exhausted and invigorated and knew exactly why I had chosen this internship. In the course of the past years, I have come to thrive on the opportunity to put my skills to the test and to push the limits of my own comfort. Feeling “comfortable” is no longer a part of who I am or what I strive for.
If this statement seems too bold or simply pretentious, I would like to note that for most of my life it has been far from the truth, and that getting to the point of being comfortable with discomfort—with true personal challenge—has been both the most difficult and most rewarding aspect of my undergraduate experience.
Every stage of my undergraduate experience has been marked by challenge—challenge of my beliefs, my intellect, and my skills—in my academic, social and professional environments. When I chose to come to GW I knew that as a conservative Christian I would be in a noticeable minority group, but could not have anticipated the hostility I would face or how unprepared I was to defend my views. Within weeks of beginning school I had been marked a “gay hater” by peers who knew nothing more about me than the labels “Evangelical” and “Republican.” I had been berated for my conservative stances on such issues as affirmative action and illegal immigration by professors who were more interested in pegging me as insensitive or racist than in knowing that I myself am a Hispanic minority. By the end of my first semester I was shell-shocked, and the affronts to both my beliefs and my intellect led me to the conclusion that I either had to transfer to a place more hospitable to my beliefs or form a different perspective on confrontation, uncomfortable conversations, and divisions of belief.
When I returned to GW, I delved into the questions of constitutional law and began to devote much of my free time to reading and journaling about the issues that I had been confronted about or was struggling with my position on. I also developed a timely friendship with my current best friend, who as a liberal atheist challenged me to expand my thinking on issues of religion, law, and politics without ever asking me to compromise an interpretation that I can defend, even if we will never agree. My academic interest in law and the development of this challenging relationship grew hand in hand as I allowed myself to step out of my comfort zone and sincerely engage in conversations with an opposing viewpoint about the constitutional, political, and personal divides that we struggle daily to better understand.
I am prepared to enter a new community of diverse, motivated individuals who are striving to be right, prepared to be proven wrong, and thriving on the challenge of leaving their comfort zones behind, knowing that the issues on which we differ are far too important to skim over for the sake of comfort. I am also ready to articulate my beliefs beyond social conversations and learn about the legal parameters in which these debates translate into social influence and to further engage in hands-on professional and clinical opportunities that will put my academic knowledge to the test for practical purposes. I am convinced that Northwestern’s Law and Social Policy Program will be an ideal environment in which I prepare to pursue a career as counsel within the federal government, and devote myself to never again shying away from the difficult questions that will arise there.