Building cultural bridges

Jean-Claire Peltier

Photo By Nick Pike

Jean-Claire Peltier, a sociology and Latin American studies major at Chico State, recently returned from a 10-week internship for the U.S. State Department in Panama City, Panama. Peltier, a senior, is no stranger to traveling—she grew up in California and Washington, D.C., and has done NGO (non-governmental organization) work in Peru, where she picked up her Spanish. After spending the summer in Panama, Peltier is back in Chico but eager to go abroad again soon.

Tell me about the internship—what did it entail?

I worked with the U.S. Embassy in the public affairs department. The main idea was to improve messaging between the United States and Panamanians. I did a lot of work with cultural outreach and NGOs as well as kids programs and other cultural programs.

How did you come upon this internship and how difficult was the process?

I luckily had help from Kate Buckley in the [Chico State] career center who suggested that I do this internship. She hooked me up with the diplomat resident for the Western United States, who really helped me through the application process. The process isn’t intensely difficult; it’s just a lot of paperwork. They basically own you with all the information you give them.

What was your favorite part of the job?

I really enjoyed teaching English classes to adult women who were from an area that was completely destroyed from Operation Just Cause, which was our attempt to get rid of [Manuel] Noriega. The women apply because they want to work in the service industry. It was really cool giving speeches to school children and teaching them about our Independence Day celebration and their Independence Day celebration.

How was it going from Chico to Panama City?

I really missed walking. Panama is in a period of rapid construction and rapid development but their sidewalks are lagging, so I didn’t get to walk very much. We drove cars everywhere we went. The weather down there was really monsoon-like and it rained every day, which was strange walking from that weather into over-air-conditioned buildings. There’s the joke that Panama is the coldest city in the tropics because the affluent areas love to ruffle their feathers by using their air-conditioning.

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What’s in store for you in the future?

I’m a super senior who’s trying to stay one as long as I can get away with it. I’ve got at least one more year at Chico State and I’m really enjoying my time studying here. I’m planning on going abroad for my last year. I’m a double major, so I want to finish my sociology at Chico then hopefully finish Latin American studies in Spain. After that I’m planning on grad school.