I’m well aware my current life offers more opportunities than I dreamed possible. I grew up with relatives in rural Mississippi until, at age 10, I reunited with my single mom in small-town Illinois. We didn’t have the kind of money that covered family vacations, so I didn’t dip my toes in an ocean or sit in a plane’s cabinet until later in life. As I kid, I just thought: My life will be what it always has been. I support internationalism and exchange programs because they expose participants to different worlds. Having studied, lived, traveled, and worked abroad & learned languages, I’m grateful for those life-changing experiences.

At the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.

At the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.

I was recently invited to attend the U.S. Department of State’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour event, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. I participated in a policy briefing about U.S. sports diplomacy efforts and digital strategy, met former U.S. Men’s National Team soccer players Cobi Jones and Tony Sanneh, and sat 5 or 6 rows from the stage as Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden addressed our group.

“The world cup highlights that soccer is truly a global sport. It recognizes no border, no language, no belief, and no disability.” Sincerest thanks to the U.S. Department of State; I’m incredibly grateful for the invitation and experience. Here are five lessons attending the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour event taught me:

 1. Tony Sanneh is even more handsome in person.

Twanna A. Hines and Tony Sanneh

Twanna A. Hines and Tony Sanneh

Look at that cute little face. Now, check out his charity. Totally adorbs.

2. Bill Shankly was right.

The former Liverpool FC manager joked: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death … I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” At the FIFA event, a dude in our group scoffed about meeting Joe Biden: “There will be how many Vice Presidents? Yeah. There’s only one World Cup Trophy.” You’ve gotta hand it to that guy; he has a point. :)

3. I should support women’s sports more actively.

Yeah, I admit it: Drooling over hot, male players’ quads is a soccer-watching bonus. At the State event, Evan Ryan reminded us: “It is no accident that 80% of the female executives of Fortune 500 companies played sports while they were growing up.” In high school, I shook pom-pons and competed in cheer competitions. My hometown paper, The Daily Pantagraph, ran my first-ever print publication: a teenage letter to the editor detailing why sports are good for girls. I will write about women & sports more often.

4. Wear What Makes You Feel Comfortable & Professional.

I fully support American women’s right to bare arms. Years ago, when other women showed up at the German Ambassador’s evening, summer cocktail social wearing pants suits, I wore this. I got tons of compliments, and it turned out to be an appropriate choice for the event. If you want to “dress to impress,” it helps if you like your clothes — which is, of course, the first thing people notice when they look at you. Be professional, but also be authentic.

5. The United States is kind of awesome.

I really love the U.S., and I was impressed to hear about our sports diplomacy. Seriously, if you’re interested in learning more, check out State for details.