Sean Di Giulio is a Rutgers University–Camden student who will graduate with a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in international public service and development while in Puerto Rico, working as a fellow for the Rutgers–Camden Public Administration-Community Development Program. He plans to one day work within the realm of professional civil service, to help people all over the world. He says that Rutgers–Camden was “home with all the advantages of studying abroad,” which helped him prepare for travel and then practically apply what he learned when traveling abroad to make a real difference.
Even while abroad, Sean continues to work as an Economic Development Intern for the Latin American Economic Development Agency (LAEDA), an economic development agency that provides small business training and development strategies to community members in Camden. The program’s mission is to create more commercial opportunities for minorities, in addition to aiding the growth of Camden. This work mostly entails calling recruits for their flagship entrepreneurial development program, doing administrative work, and economic analysis. “Some days are discouraging, but they are few and far between as LAEDA is great to work for…I could see real change when I saw an alumni of the program doing well in the business.” Before working for LAEDA, Sean was a constituent representative and intern for Congressman Rob Andrews and Congressman Steve Rothman, which, he mentions, is where he learned how government influences business. “The most interesting aspect of my positions in the congressional offices was the sheer exposure to information and people…the knowledge you gain from that exposure is invaluable to practical work.”
Sean has been in Puerto Rico since August 2014, working for El Centro Para Puerto Rico/La Fundación Sila María Calderón. “Working as a fellow was an enlightening experience,” Sean says. “The two main projects I am a part of have afforded me great insight into what makes a larger institution run and the practical knowledge in economic and community development.” He mentions that it can be hard work due to the small staff and vast distance from home, but it does not discourage him.
“Living abroad has been a mixed bag of emotions.” He says he has grown independent and confident by being on his own in an unfamiliar place, but the independence sometimes doubles as isolation. Despite the difficulties, Sean loves it. “I love being in a Latin American country…I have been fortunate enough to visit other Latin American countries, all of them unique in their own way, of course, but Puerto Rico is the definition of sui generis, both legally and culturally.”
Sean admits that he had to work at adapting for a smoother transition. “It dawned on me how American, Northeastern, and Philadelphian I am in the way I work. I am rush, rush, rush most of the time. Here, everything gets done…but without the anxiety.” The differences in the work atmosphere caused him to review his own attitude about work and even day-to-day living. “It took me a while to get used to it, but it was very refreshing…there are people everywhere working to make their communities better and that, despite all the differences, there will always be a need for professional civil servants.”
Sean said that the classes he took at Rutgers–Camden have significantly helped him beyond the classroom setting. “International Negotiation, taught by Dr. Marie Chevrier, Professor of Public Administration, helped me understand the positions and motives of those I am working with. Public Budgeting and Finance with Dr. Christopher Goodman, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, [helped me] understand how and why certain decisions were made due to budgetary concerns…Social Entrepreneurism [taught by] Dr. Shoko Kato, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship, and Social Entrepreneurship, opened my eyes to what the public sector can offer in terms of diversity and resources.”
After graduation, Sean plans to work for an economic development non-governmental organization or advocacy group. “Rutgers has helped [me] by preparing me professionally for what to expect in the workforce. I have been equipped with all the necessary tools to do well from public financing to international negotiations.”
Looking back, Sean says, he would give his younger self, and any other anxious students, this advice: “[I wish that I knew that] worrying only makes things worse and that I am more capable of meeting my goals than I would have ever thought…whatever path you pick, it does not really matter because nothing is more right or wrong than any other—just cultivate good relationships and do your work, whatever it is, and nothing else really matters.”
Written By Rebecca Grubb