Georgetown Women in International Affairs (GWIA) kicked off the fall semester with a well attended wine-and-cheese introductory mixer followed a few days later by an intimate talk with Ana Palacio, who was the first woman to serve as Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain.
The mixer saw record attendance with students mingling and learning about how to get more involved with the group after listening to Dean Lancaster wish them a good year and encourage them to help each other and work hard. The students got a chance to chat with Dean Lancaster and Associate Dean Jennifer Windsor and ask for some advice – something they will continue to do through GWIA as the year progresses.
A week later, GWIA sponsored the talk by Palacio. A lawyer by profession, specializing in international and European Union law, arbitration and mediation, Palacio has held senior positions in the government, business and academic worlds. She has been appointed senior fellow and lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
Palacio spoke about the necessity of jumping into the unknown and dealing with life’s “trump cards,” such as her cancer diagnosis. “I was told in a quite a brutal way: You are dying,” Palacio told the group, but she said she decided to live with cancer not because of cancer and didn’t hide it. “This period is where I realized there is much more generosity than you think,” she said.
“One has to be ready to adapt to new circumstances,” Palacio told about 30 people in McGhee Library on September 20. “Had I just thrown in the towel then can you imagine what I would have missed?”
Palacio said she’s always had jobs and has jumped from job to job when the opportunities presented themselves.“When you jump and accept risk, you are rewarded,” she said. But now she’s living what she calls a “composite” life, doing different things that interest her like consulting, writing and teaching. She said that the best way to deal with life’s transitions or when it comes time to reinvent oneself, to do it enthusiastically and to stop wishing for an old life.
From there, students started asking Palacio for advice.
“In order to get anywhere, we have to work much harder than men,” she candidly told the group of mostly women. She followed by saying that women should make sure to pick something they’re passionate about as careers since they’re going to have to work very hard.
Palacio reiterated the importance of networking, urging the students to attend as many events, speeches, gallery openings – all different kinds of events – as possible because they never know who they will meet or what they will learn. She stressed the importance of relationships and generosity. “Helping people without expecting anything in return is the best investment you can make in your future,” Palacio said.
Palacio wrapped up by saying that there are no recipes for a successful career and life, but to not be timid.
“Be bold. Just go for it,” Palacio said.
Jen Lennon | October 2011
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