Spending her summer with Engage Cuba, Natasha Wood (C’18) was not only granted the opportunity to work for the leading coalition in ending the US Cuba Embargo, but was also able to see bipartisan politics in action. “This is really bipartisan work,” she told PPI. “Cuba - US trade and agricultural interests very much cross the aisle in terms of policy.” Through our conversation, Natasha spoke of her passion for US Cuba politics, her dedication to Penn Rowing, and her surprising love of DC’s robust political atmosphere.
What areas of public policy interest you?
I am most interested in public policy as it pertains to the work that I’m doing with the Cuban trade and travel embargo. It involves advocacy work and foreign policy, as well as multiple sectors of public policy including agriculture, energy, education, healthcare, and technology, all of which tie into our work on the embargo.
What does a typical day in DC look like for you?
I’m part of the Penn Women’s Rowing team, so I’m keeping up with my training this summer. I get up around 6:30am and either go out for a row on the Potomac or train at the gym. Then I get some coffee and breakfast and get to work around 9:30, catch up on my emails, and log any mentions in the media that we had on the previous day. I leave around 5:30 and go out with Penn friends or other folks from the office. I’m also working as a hostess at Peacock Café, so sometimes I have a shift. Lastly, I’m spending some time in the evenings reading; I’m trying to learn a lot more about the history of Cuba and U.S - Latin America policy in general. Two favorites right now are Marc Frank’s Cuban Revelations, as well as Jorge Castañeda’s Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War.
Have there been any surprises regarding living and working as an intern in DC?
Working at an advocacy group that is trying to influence important policy makers has taught me a lot about the real forces at play in D.C. The more I learn about how many decisions are made by the most important elected officials in our country, the more surprised I become.
Name one object that you brought with you to DC that reflects your personality.
I was in Havana for a few days during the beginning of my internship, and I brought back lots of vintage books and manuscripts, mainly by Russian authors. I was impressed and excited by the rich literary culture that I found in Havana, which partly has to do with the Soviet presence in Cuba in the 1980’s. Part of my mother’s side of the family is Russian, so reading these Russian texts in Spanish has proved an interesting crossroad for me between my family’s origins, my Spanish degree, and my interest in Cuban history.
In 30 years, what will you remember about living and working in DC?
This summer has been amazing and very formative; I now know that I would like to focus my job search on DC. Amongst other things, I will remember this summer as the time when I discovered my obsession with the political buzz and atmosphere that surrounds the city.