Leadership In Action: Chaitanya Venkateswaran

Chaitanya Venkateswaran, First Year, British High Commissioner for a day

Confident. Introspective. Outspoken. Eager to learn. Ambitious. Hard worker. Dreamer. Woman. Indian. Lifelong student. Dancer. Artist. Polyglot. Bibliophile. Culturally-grounded Globe trotter. Global Citizen. These are just a few words that can be used to describe me. Hi! I am Chaitanya Venkateswaran, a freshman at American University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Economics. I am also pursuing a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies and Certificate in Political Thought. Born and raised in New Delhi, India, I spent the first 18 years of my life at school, studying, volunteering, learning classical dance and creating art. I aim to pursue a career in economics and global public policy, and would like to create positive change in the lives of people around the world.
Chaitanya Venkateswaran (left) and British High Commissioner Jan Thompson (right)
Chaitanya Venkateswaran (left) and Jan Thompson (right)
Being British High Commissioner for a day has definitely been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look behind the scenes of the work done by diplomats to manage international relations between the UK and India. I applied by submitting a 1-minute video about the challenges and opportunities for gender equality due to the pandemic. As High commissioner for a day, I filled in the shoes of Ms. Jan Thompson, the senior-most British diplomat in India. I had meetings with the Heads of Section and senior diplomats in India where they reported their weekly agenda to me which allowed me to understand the wide-ranging, complex and crucial work done by them. I had hour-long interactions with veteran journalist and editor Ms. Ishani Ray and senior IPS officer Ms. Anuradha Shankar which were truly inspiring. They were great learning opportunities for me to learn about the careers of journalist and the police force, and the obstacles faced by successful women on the path to building their career. I also launched a STEM tracer study by the British Council which was also a fascinating experience, and helped me understand the work done by the High Commission and the British Council in promoting women’s education and empowerment. Overall, this was a wonderful experience, and I am unlikely to forget it anytime soon!
The day was a full of learning opportunities, especially during my interactions with Ishani Ray and Anuradha Shankar whose ambition and achievement in their sphere of work really inspired me! As someone interested in diplomacy, I was also inspired by my conversations with Jan Thompson. Her anecdotes and experiences helped me understand the pivotal work done by diplomats in a world which is moving from away from war to peace which relies heavily on diplomacy to maintain international relations.
My advice is:
1. Always take a chance to try new things! – I did not expect to get selected to be High Commissioner for the day, yet I took a chance and it turned out to me a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me!
2. Diplomats have a hard job! – As High Commissioner for a day, even without the stress and confidentiality of the job, I was knackered by the end of the day. So anyone planning on a diplomatic career will definitely be looking at a hard job, but with satisfying work and great change-making potential!

You can reach out to Chaitanya on Instagram (@chaitanyavenkateswaran) or by email (cv0844a@student.american.edu).

Read more Leadership in Action blog posts here.