As the current public affairs intern at the U.S. Mission to the European Union (or USEU), I sometimes still can’t believe that I was actually selected for this position. When I was filling out my application, I had no idea if my academic and my extracurricular experiences would be enough to even put me in the running. I finally pushed “submit,” asking myself, “Will I be right for the job?”
That’s the same question you may be wondering as you read over the application for internships with the State Department. Fortunately, you don’t have to be majoring in political science or know everything about the U.S. Government in order to be considered (though those interests certainly don’t hurt!). I think the most important requirements are a passion for learning and sharing ideas, an international focus, and a desire to discover what the State Department is all about.
Take me, for example. My majors are French and psychology – not a combination you would typically think of for an intern in the U.S. Foreign Service. However, I ultimately want to use my language skills and my understanding of how people work in an international career. I think it gives me a pretty unique perspective of the work the State Department is doing. I polled the other interns here in the Tri-Missions community (that’s what we call the combination of USEU, the Embassy to Belgium, and the U.S. Mission to NATO) and found that some of their majors include political science, government, and comparative language studies. Having a variety of backgrounds and interests makes for some really interesting discussion in the office. All of us interns are similar, though, in that we all want to explore the international environment.
Now, you probably want to know a little bit about the application process, or how I got to where I am today. The application for an internship is usually due two semesters before it would actually start, which is why I applied in early summer for my internship now in spring 2010. Sign up to receive email updates from the State Department Student Programs website to keep up with when the application period opens! The application itself is fairly exhaustive. Along with other information, you are asked to submit a resume, a statement of interest, a transcript, and a student aid report if you’re applying for a paid internship (otherwise, the internships are unpaid – but you earn plenty of experience!) You don’t actually get to choose a specific location or embassy, but you do identify two bureaus for which you would like to be considered. For example, I wrote down the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, under which USEU and other European embassies fall.
After I sent in all my materials, I brushed off my hands and settled back for what I thought would be months of waiting before hearing any news. Imagine my surprise when only four weeks later, I received a call from a State Department officer in DC saying that they were interested in hiring me as an intern to the U.S. Mission to the European Union! After a short phone interview, talking about my qualifications and which department would suit me best, the officer told me to watch out for an email from her soon. A few days later I was offered this internship! I think my mom’s ears are still sore from when I called her screaming with excitement.
But the battle wasn’t over yet. My internship offer wasn’t official until I received my security clearance. Here’s where the real waiting began. After filling out the paperwork, I waited several months to hear back about whether I had passed my security clearance, alternating between pacing and biting my nails in the meantime. Finally, a week after Thanksgiving, I received news that I had received security clearance – I was officially going to Brussels!
All that waiting was definitely worth it, because the first half of my internship here has been really rewarding and lots of fun. Please feel free to comment and ask questions about my experiences, and look up USEU on Facebook!