"Never Be Afraid to Walk Through New Doors”

Angela Vasovic ‘22


Angela Vasovic


Angela Vasovic '22 was born to parents who immigrated to America from Yugoslavia. Growing up, Vasovic developed a profound interest in global perspectives during family visits to Serbia and decided to begin her journey in diplomacy at the City College of New York. Her commitment to international affairs and human rights led her to an early internship with International IDEA, and her participation in the Colin Powell and S Jay Levy fellowships at CCNY paved the way for an internship with the Department of State during the pandemic, and opened the doors to her professional future. 

Where are you from and what is your background story? 

I was born and grew up in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. My parents are immigrants from former Yugoslavia, today’s Serbia. As I was growing up, my parents and I would visit our family in Serbia in the summertime. This inspired in me a deep interest in the world and a love of learning about other countries. I believe growing up with immigrant parents has helped me have a wider understanding of different perspectives and the role culture plays in how people view the world.

Growing up in New York City and meeting people from diverse backgrounds further strengthened my interest in the world. In my classrooms, there were rarely kids who looked like me or had the same story as me. Yet, I never noticed it growing up. I later understood that no matter how different you may seem from someone, there is always something in common.

What brought you to CCNY and to the Colin Powell School?

In my Sophomore year of high school, I realized I wanted to do international work as a career, possibly through the State Department or the United Nations. I made my decision to come to City College rather late in my Senior year of high school. Initially, I thought going to a big school away from the city was a step I had to make and what was expected of me by typical American standards. In my case, going away would have meant in-state tuition and SUNY. However, living in a small town and being away from home never felt right for me. By the time I had to decide on where to go, I chose what meant the most to me — a school in the city that would lead me to my ideal career.

The opportunities presented by CCNY excited me — I had been to its beautiful campus before, and I knew that the Colin Powell School offered programs I liked and opportunities for career support. I thought that going to school in New York City would give me a chance to pursue internships to gain practical experience much more than doing so elsewhere in the state.

What is your passion or purpose behind pursuing what you did at City College?

When I look back at my undergraduate experience, I was very active in making the most of my time. My family's experience with the Yugoslav wars is what initially fueled my passion for my studies and career. I want to protect the lives of civilians and uphold a universal understanding of human rights. Hearing my classmates’ first-hand knowledge about injustices happening around the world, in the places where they come from, further motivated this purpose. In my first year of study, Professor Sarah Muir tasked us with an assignment to make a 5-year plan for our life. This activity helped me turn my hopes and aspirations into concrete steps I tried to follow, even with the pandemic affecting some of them.

Briefly, how has your career unfolded? 

My career started in my Freshman year of college with a chance encounter with Dr. Tommasoli who taught at CCNY and also worked at International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization affiliated with the United Nations. Getting an opportunity to do an internship with International IDEA so early in college — attending meetings at the UN and writing reports on democracies around the world — was an experience that started the ball rolling for me. I also received the Colin Powell Fellowship and the S Jay Levy Fellowship, both of which provided great professional support. I am so thankful I had these opportunities very early on in college. 

In my Junior year, during COVID-19, I did a virtual internship with the Department of State, and I was able to do it due to the fellowship support. This experience opened the door for me with the State Department, and I started a full-time position there at the end of my studies through the Pathways program. I spent my first year at the DoS with the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) and was a part of the White House initiative to open new embassies in the Pacific Islands. This winter, I did a three-month contract as an Adviser to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) office of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. On behalf of the U.S., I negotiated General Assembly resolutions which was an amazing experience. I recently started a new position with the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation as a Program Officer for the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction. I learned a great deal from my fellowships on how to present myself professionally and how to seek new opportunities.

Do you have any significant memories or accomplishments from your career or time at City College / Colin Powell School that you would like to share?

I am proud of my ORCA summer research fellowship experience. I worked with Professor Cronin from Political Science on a research topic that I care about very much — the protection of civilians during armed conflict. I did a case study on the 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq examining armed forces, casualties, and damage to the city. It was my first time doing extensive academic research, and the process taught me useful skills. 

What advice would you give to current students or recent graduates majoring in your field of study?

Any time you have an opportunity to do something, seize it! It is never too early to look for professional opportunities. I initially thought that I would look for an internship in my Senior year of college, but when an opportunity presented itself in my Freshman year, I jumped into it. I changed the classes I was going to take, I made room for it in my schedule, and I am so glad I did it. One door leads to another, never be afraid to walk through it, you never know if it will be there later. If things don’t work out the way you hoped or planned — change your plan. Discover your passion or your purpose and work towards it. 

What are your future aspirations for your career?

I am working on completing my Master’s degree in International Relations at the CUNY Graduate Center now and hoping to grow in my career with the Department of State. When I first considered a career in international relations, I thought I would seek a position as a Foreign Service Officer. I have since discovered other aspects of State Department work and I genuinely like learning about them. I hope to be more directly involved in foreign affairs policy-making, but I also will seek a variety of opportunities to round off my professional development. I appreciate that the DoS offers rotations, and I hope to do more of them in the future, including internationally. 

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