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My internship and my time in the Balkans has given me the opportunity to listen to some important stories of war and heroism, of hatred and sacrifice, from those who have experienced the brunts of the tragedy from the conflict in the Balkans. It has been an immensely humbling experience to be here.

While listening to these stories, however, a part of me wonders sometimes if what I will do professionally will ever be enough given the turmoil in the world. Listening to these stories reminds me of just how fragile our democratic institutions are. It is a reminder that justice and equality are not guaranteed rights, but rather ideals we must continually strive and fight for — just as many minorities know and feel every day. It is a reminder of what is at stake if we let prejudice and fear govern our societies. This realization has had a profound impact on the way I view the world, which is massively relevant for any and every aspiring policymaker.

These stories of suffering and injustice demand our attention, our outrage, but at times, when they get too tough and when I wonder if I can or will ever see the fruition of my hard work, I remind myself of the words that John Lewis once said on Twitter, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.”  I do not think it could be said any better.

This is a struggle, it has always been a struggle, a struggle that is beyond any one of us alone. I am immensely proud to make it my life’s work.

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