Location of Mauritius
Her project will involve studying maritime law, identifying user groups, analyzing data and interviewing government officials, businesses, fishermen, the local coast guard and other marine experts. The end result will be a plan that will guide the use of the island’s marine resources. Jessica will present her plan to the government of Mauritius and when she returns to the U.S., she will present her findings to a workshop at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
In an interview for the newspaper in Mauritius, I asked Jessica how this project will relate to her future work in the Coast Guard, especially since the agency has developed a more domestic focus given budget cuts and the agency's move into the Department of Homeland Security.
There’s been an emerging interest within the Coast Guard in the Africa region, she says, especially when it comes to maritime security (think Somali pirates) and fisheries and marine conservation. But more importantly, she believes that having the experience of living in a different culture and dealing with people of different backgrounds will help her become a better Coast Guard officer back home.
“As an officer, our ability to communicate well and make decisions is often based on little information and requires us to work with people who we don’t know and perhaps don’t like,” she said. “Embedding myself in a foreign place will teach me communication skills that will be invaluable. I will have to work in an environment in which I will be the underdog.”
In addition, Jessica says she will learn how to deal with fishermen and will better understand the challenges they face at sea. The marine model she will develop might also become useful in addressing fisheries resources in the U.S., she hopes. “Studying a small island nation with a smaller government would make it easier to come up with solutions rather than getting bogged down in a big federal system,” she said. “There’s the potential to learn things we might not know.”
After serving in the Coast Guard, Jessica says she’d like to continue her passion for Africa by eventually joining the U.S Foreign Service. “I hope what I do as a representative of the United States in Mauritius on this Fulbright will help strengthen U.S. ties to the Indian Ocean.”
This shows lots of maturity and wisdom from someone who is just 21.
The Coast Guard is smart to encourage young officers like Jessica to pursue such international experiences, as they enrich the leadership skills of the individual and of the agency as a whole.