“Networking” has always been a scary word for me. The idea of reaching out to strangers for professional advice seemed terrifying. How could I possibly hold a conversation with someone who has 10X the experience I do? Networking seemed intimidating, but after this summer I’ve learned how helpful, and actually fun it can be.

For example, this past Sunday I took an Uber out to Potomac, Maryland to meet my Grandma’s cousin and her family. I had no idea that I had extended family living in the DC area, so when my mom told me about Maura, I decided to reach out. Turns out, Maura and her family lived in Italy for several years, while Maura worked for the State Department. Since I’ll be going to Bologna next semester, and hope to work in foreign policy one day, I figured we’d have plenty to talk about.

When I arrived Sunday evening, I was welcomed by her whole family. We talked for hours about Italy, the State Department, and their plans for the future. They even took me to their favorite pizza place- the only one that tastes the closest to real Italian pizza! When I left, they all hugged me, wished me luck, and told me to keep in touch.

Also thanks to networking, last week I got the chance to go somewhere really cool for lunch: The US Treasury building. One of my close friend’s dad is the¬†Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade and Investment Policy, a field I am very interested in (see my last post about my trade podcast!) Freshman year, he gave me some feedback on a paper I wrote about the Trans-pacific Partnership. Since then, I have kept in touch with her family, sometimes going over for dinner this summer. When he asked if my friend and I would like to see the inside of the Treasury, we both enthusiastically agreed. It was super cool: we got a tour of the building, saw the Secretary’s office, and even got to have lunch in the Executive dining room, which overlooks¬†the White House!

Networking may seem scary at first, but trust me, it’s worth it. Don’t be intimidated by the successful people you meet, or fear you won’t have anything to add to the conversation. Instead ask lots of questions, find out how they got to where they are, and what they think about the future of their field. Follow their advice, stay in touch, and most of all: have an open mind!