Il Resto è Storia!

Katherine Wallentine’s journey from US government affairs to EUPS

M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies

By Katherine Wallentine

I was drawn to political science from a young age, partly due to the influence of my dad. He explained world events to me and he encouraged me to be an informed, engaged citizen. While I was an undergraduate student, I had six internships. They opened my eyes to all of the potential paths I could take after graduation. Working in defense and security was not what I had always planned on, but it is a field that I have enjoyed learning and growing in. Then I decided it was time to consider pursuing higher education. I was considering my grad school options in January 2022. I had been heavily leaning toward a part-time Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at George Mason University, which made sense logistically because I was an Arlington, Virginia, resident and could walk to evening classes while working full-time. However, while at a restaurant with my close friends Richard and Alexis Shapiro (EUPS Class of 2018), they suggested I consider their program, as well. Ultimately, they convinced me! I decided to take a chance and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had been working in the Washington Navy Yard for almost a year and a half when COVID hit the US. Working in an office every day, then transitioning to 100% remote telework was a strange and isolating experience. However, I grew to enjoy teleworking, especially while supporting the Department of Homeland Security. I thought about the more recent graduates — the ones who came out of college into a wildly changed corporate world. Teleworking presents a certain challenge to networking, in my opinion. In making the shift from full-time in-person employee, to full-time remote employee, to full-time graduate student in Italy, I learned that I am indeed quite flexible and adaptable.

Based on the orientation sessions, I was fairly certain that I would be the oldest person in the EUPS program, so I was a bit unsure as to how that would translate when living and working with my classmates, most of whom have recently completed their bachelor’s degrees. Regardless of those nerves, I was so excited to live in Florence. I had visited once before on vacation, but I knew this would be entirely different. I expected learning a new language and interacting with the locals on a daily basis to be daunting, but once I moved here, my nerves quickly dissipated. I acclimated quickly to life with both my new American and European colleagues. I largely owe this to my years living in a metropolitan area where I had to be quite independent. I push myself to speak Italian every day, including learning new words and phrases, mixing my languages in verbal responses and testing out pronunciation. I have found that most Italians appreciate that I am trying my best to speak their language and that I am not just another American tourist on a two day Florentine excursion!

I began this program in August feeling as though there was a fork in the road of my career. I discussed this with Dr. Blake over the summer. On the one hand, I felt called to continue my path into program management. On the other hand, I was curious about what a path into true policy work would entail. As an undergraduate, I had wondered whether a nonprofit/think tank workplace would align with my goals and abilities. Even while working as a private contractor providing direct federal client support, this thought would cross my mind from time to time. As such, I thought that the EUPS program’s policy analysis focus would help me answer that lingering question. At this point in time midway through the academic year, it has reaffirmed that pursuing a program management track feels like the right fit for me. 

I look forward to applying what I have learned from the EUPS program in my future positions, wherever they may be. While it seems likely that I will return to D.C. upon graduation, I am certainly keeping my options open. I have found that I really enjoy the European way of life and I am currently considering job openings in both the US and EU. After all, I had never imagined that I would pursue a master’s degree in Italy in the first place! I have had such rich academic and cultural experiences, which have ignited new professional interests for me. I feel that my future is unknown, but bright. With much gratitude to my time here in Florence, I am excited to see where life takes me next!

To anyone that is going back and forth, thinking "maybe I will apply for graduate school" or "maybe I should make a career shift" — take that step. Who knows where it will lead? As my former federal client advised me: "Just say yes to every opportunity!"

Katherine Wallentine is an EUPS student pursuing the Foreign Policy and Internal Security track. She received a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in United States Studies from The College of New Jersey in 2017. She began her career working in a New Jersey state government agency, then moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a contractor directly supporting federal clients in the U.S. Department of Navy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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