One hot day in the beginning of summer 2009, I was passing time by clicking around some government websites, idly wondering if a career in the U.S. Foreign Service would be right for me after I graduated college. I stumbled upon an application for spring 2010 internships on the State Department’s website. Apply to intern at one of the United States’ embassies? I thought to myself. Hey, why not? Spring 2010 felt so far away that an internship with the State Department seemed a faint possibility. Little did I know that filling out that application would land me here, in the exciting international center of Brussels, working for the public affairs section at the U.S. Mission to the European Union.
The U.S. Mission to the European Union (or USEU) is unique in that it works with the European Union and its institutions as a whole, not just with a single country (which would be a bilateral embassy). That means that as the EU grows and changes, especially after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, our relationship with the EU and each individual country is constantly evolving too. Despite my background research, I still didn’t know exactly what to expect when I started my internship in January. The first day was a whirlwind. I checked in and was introduced to a blur of names and faces that would soon become part of my daily life here at the Mission. By the end of the week, I had sat in on meetings on U.S. foreign policy, taken pictures of our Ambassador, William Kennard, for the website, and started planning my own programs for interns at the European Union.
I knew I had truly arrived when I stepped on the elevator one morning with the Ambassador himself. “Good morning, Claire!”, he said to me pleasantly. “How is your first week going so far?” You know you’ve got a great internship when a United States Ambassador knows your name!
After three weeks, I am finally starting to settle into the schedule of a member of the public affairs office. Now what, you may ask, does a PA intern for the State Department actually do? Every morning, the public affairs office sends an email to various U.S. Government departments full of the most recent news about what is happening in the EU. It’s really cool to think that my work on this email helps keep so many people informed and educated on current events. After the email is sent out, I often have several meetings I can attend, on everything from strategy on policy to tactics of public diplomacy. These meetings are always incredibly interesting, and not only because I feel like I’m in one of those suspense-filled government shows you see on TV. Everyone who works here is an expert in his or her field and the discussions actually affect what the United States does concerning critical issues with the European Union.
The rest of the day is filled with all sorts of projects that arise. I am in charge of planning several conferences for interns (or stagiaires) from the European Union, where they have the opportunity to talk to American diplomats about issues like climate change, economic policy, and humanitarian aid. We’re working to develop U.S.-EU communication with future European leaders, and it is interesting as well as a lot of fun. On other days, I accompany my PA colleagues to events where Ambassador Kennard is speaking, to take pictures, and record audio and video. These events include anything from a movie screening to a cocktail reception to a huge speech at one of the European Union institutions – and I have the chance to be there in-person! The public affairs office also arranges interviews and roundtables for the media, so I help with welcoming journalists and setting up for what will become tomorrow’s news.
In short, the U.S. Mission to the European Union is always bustling with activity and I get to be in the middle of the action! I’m looking forward to sharing more about my experiences in Brussels with you in the coming weeks. Feel free to comment and ask questions, and become a fan of the USEU on Facebook!