A Tibetan American’s experience as a Lodi Gyari Fellow on Capitol Hill

My name is Tenzin Rangdol and I am a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with concentrations in conflict management and international economics. This summer, I interned for the democratic staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) as a Lodi Gyari Fellow for the International Campaign for Tibet. I was initially drawn to this fellowship to develop a deeper understanding of the American legislative process. Through ICT, I was able to place an internship that met both my desire for congressional experience and my academic interests in international affairs.

During the six-week internship, I worked on a variety of projects that ranged from drafting legislative summaries to conducting research for policy memos and preparing documents for congressional hearings. In my first week, I drafted the official summary for the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R.3190— the BURMA Act of 2019). The BURMA Act of 2019 includes congressional findings on the human rights abuses in Burma, sanctions responsible actors, and authorizes humanitarian assistance to support the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities displaced by conflict in Burma and Bangladesh.

Last semester, I took a class on global forced migration, which explored the challenges of reconciling state sovereignty and human rights in refugee and forced migration policy. Through that class, I learned about the contemporary challenges the Rohingya face in their homeland in Burma and the ecological and infrastructural challenges the government of Bangladesh faces in hosting over 700,000 Rohingya refugees. This first project allowed me to apply my understanding of the refugee crisis to legislation addressing the plight of the Rohingya. This was a very meaningful experience as I not only applied what I learned in class to practice but also helped advance legislation that advocates for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Throughout the rest of my tenure on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I worked on organizing cosponsors for the bill and helped oversee the introduction of the bill into the committee.

While my first project was within my scope of study, I also worked on several projects in functional and regional portfolios that I did not have previous experience with. The policy memo I wrote on fifth generation (5G) technology required me to conduct research on the technical mechanisms of 5G and the implications of first-mover advantage within the telecommunications sector. In the past, I had read about 5G in relation to Huawei and great power competition between the U.S. and China, but I did not have a thorough understanding of 5G and its distinct features compared to 4G LTE. Similarly, when I was preparing an information sheet on Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Marshall Islands for a congressional staff delegation to the Pacific Islands, I got to learn about a region that I was previously unfamiliar with. These projects allowed me to simultaneously expand my understanding of important issue areas and strengthen my practical skills in research and memo writing.

In addition to the projects I worked on, the opportunity to network on Capitol Hill was an integral component of my internship. In conversation with senior professional staff and policy analysts, I learned about the different avenues through which legislation is conceived and the process of shepherding a bill from inception into law. I learned how staffers were able to champion issue areas they were personally passionate about and the process of devising strategic legislation to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. On a more personal level, I was able to connect with staff who were alumni of my school and learn about their career trajectories post-graduation. They took a genuine interest in learning about my career goals and offered unique insights into available opportunities within government and beyond.

During my internship in Capitol Hill, I saw first-hand the threads of civic engagement and service that make the United States unique. I witnessed the diversity of the American experience and the important role the United States plays throughout the world. I am confident that the knowledge and experience I gained on the Hill will guide me as I pursue a career in foreign affairs.

By Tenzin Rangdol, member of the first class of Lodi Gyari Fellows

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The International Campaign for Tibet's blog periodically features guest blogs by individuals who can provide unique insight to ICT programs and current events.

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