Megan Poole - TAM Class of 2014
It was the first day of my summer internship with Political, Development and Security section of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the USA in Washington, DC. I was tasked with attending and reporting on a conference hosted by The Atlantic Council on the future of NATO. I wandered into the conference proudly donning my EU-US lapel pin and meandered my way into some small talk over muffins and coffee. Joining a conversation between some interns from think tanks around DC and representatives from various foreign policy organizations and foundations, I introduced myself as an intern from the EU Delegation. An older gentleman in the group spoke up in response saying, "Ah, you must be here with the Norwegian Ambassador." I paused, took and a breath and said, "No…Norway is not a member of the EU."
This was a disheartening way to start my summer. As a TAM student it is sometimes difficult to step back from the stockpile of background knowledge in the history of European integration and European institutions to realize that across the US and across the world, the EU is not well understood.
During my first year of TAM, the question of the EU's foreign policy role arose incessantly in class debates and informal discussions. This investigation of the EU's role on the global stage left me with more questions than answers about EU foreign and security policy. All of these questions came back into my mind on that first day of my internship as I walked away from the gentleman who was left pondering why Norway was not a member of the EU. As I took my seat in the conference hall, I could not help but wonder, am I interning for the foreign policy arm of a polity that is not even recognized in the foreign policy realm?
The skepticism I brought with me on that first day of my internship towards the role of the EU Delegation in foreign policy and diplomacy has since been met with examples of the EU's value as a global actor and foreign policy player.
I. High-Caliber Diplomacy
The Delegation is headed by an Ambassador with full diplomatic recognition and staffed by diplomats and civil servants working at the intersection of American and European politics. Despite the European External Action Service's (EEAS) recent genesis, here in DC the EU's diplomatic service is pulling its full weight. Joining the EEAS is predominately a mid-career choice, with EU diplomats being drawn from member states' national foreign services and other European institutions. The ranks of EEAS are therefore filled with seasoned officials bringing a diverse array of experience together in the EU's foreign service. This recruitment, along with the benefits of pooled resources, allows the EEAS to conduct high-caliber diplomacy despite the organization's comparative youth. In essence, while the EEAS was established by the Lisbon Treaty, the EEAS did not start from scratch, but rather began carving out new space in an already established European diplomatic community.
In the short time I have spent in the EU Delegation I have celebrated Croatia's accession to the EU and observed the launch of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). I watched the management of the transatlantic fallout from Edward Snowden's leaks concerning NSA surveillance programs and the formation of an American and European response to the ousting of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt.
II. Added-Value for Member States
The work of the EU Delegation is inarguably of added-value to EU member states' diplomatic presence in Washington. For example, the Political, Security, and Development section of the Delegation hosted multiple briefings within the Delegation each week which gathered political counselors from the EU and the EU-28 embassies for briefings by White House National Security Staff or State Department officials. After attending my first briefing I was in the elevator with the Head of the Political section who explained to me that, outside of the State Department, the EU Delegation is one of the most frequent stops of National Security Staff in DC. The regular congregation of EU-28 diplomats and EU officials presents a critical mass that attracts visits from senior US officials. Gathering member state diplomats in the EU Delegation allows these European representatives to secure face time with US officials that they might not otherwise be granted as individual member states.
Further, the EU Delegation hosted a weekly Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) meeting in which the DCMs from each member state embassy come together with the EU's Deputy Head of Delegation to consult on current developments and coordinate diplomacy. These institutionalized weekly consultations enhance communication between member state diplomatic missions and provide the EU a platform to present its own foreign policy initiatives and priorities to its member states.
III. Reception in Washington
Beyond the nine-to-five activities of the Delegation, the reception of the EU in Washington foreign policy circles solidified my realization that while the EU’s foreign policy looks different than expected, the EU plays a unique and impactful international role. In the statements of US Administration officials, Senate and House hearings, and conversations with other experts engaged in foreign policy, the EU was recognized, named, and valued on an array of global issues. The launch of T-TIP was an obvious global extension of the EU, but in other policy areas, from talks with Iran to responding to turmoil in Egypt, the EU is considered a leading foreign policy player.
Interning with the EU Delegation has given me a microscopic snapshot into the EU's active foreign policy and diplomatic role in Washington, DC. Beyond an added-valued to the EU member states' diplomacy, the EU is carving out its own space for an autonomous and impactful foreign policy role for years to come. The ranks of the EEAS are filled with believers in the European project, cognizant that their foreign policy role is entangled with member state competencies and cumbersome intergovernmentalism but still presents great potential for global weight. As the Deputy Head of the Political section proudly put it, "we are here to push Europe to do more." So while the euro crisis may have caused Europe and the world to reevaluate the nitty gritty of the Eurozone and Europe's economy, the EEAS is reaching out to the world on behalf of the EU and its member states in a unique way, one fitting of the political experiment in which Europe has engaged.
Zack Dunnam - TAM Class of 2013
I first began contemplating potential internship opportunities for the summer break at the beginning of my TAM studies last fall. At the time, I frequently imagined spending my summer conducting research for a think-tank or online publisher of international affairs. An internship with the Council on Foreign Relations or Foreign Policy Magazine seemed ideal. After all, I had returned to graduate school because I enjoyed researching and writing about Europe, so it was only fitting that I try to gain as much experience as possible doing just that. And I did eventually apply for internships at both of those places, although by the Christmas break I had my eyes set on a different opportunity.
Thanks to my resourceful and wonderful graduate advisor, a TAM alum came across my résumé, recognized my potential, and contacted me about interning for her in Annapolis, Md., at iJET Intelligent Risk Systems. To avoid rewriting the vague company profile on the corporate webpage, let me instead state that iJET provides a service to multinational corporations and government organizations that allows them to track and monitor all of their traveling employees and overseas assets, distributing real time informational and security alerts relevant to their location anywhere on the globe. For example, imagine you are a corporate security or travel manager for an oil company who just sent ten employees to Nigeria to conduct a standard inspection of one of your refineries. Through iJET’s service, you would be automatically informed through email and on our web-based platform that an attack conducted by the Boko Haram militant group 10 blocks away from the hotel in the central business district of Jos, where your employees are staying, has just occurred. You would then be able to contact all 10 of those employees simultaneously (they would be getting the emailed alerts to their smart phones as well) and be aptly prepared to follow any contingency plan to ensure their physical safety. Without such a comprehensive and rapid response, organizations risk tragic and/or costly setbacks to normal operations. In essence, iJET wants to help maintain a clients’ resiliency in the face of unpredictable and rapidly evolving events.
To provide this service, iJET has its own operations center that constantly monitors, analyzes, and even forecasts any and all incidents that may affect our clients’ operations. As a graduate student who loves to read, research, and write about all things European, one would think I would make a perfect fit for the Europe regional watch team. In fact, a few Georgetown political science students with interests similar to mine intern there. But since I already had experience monitoring and researching political and security developments in Europe at a company somewhat similar to iJET (STRATFOR Global Intelligence), I decided I wanted to interact directly with clients. My internship with Client Services at iJET has provided me that opportunity. In my first six weeks, I’ve had several opportunities to prepare and present travel/assets risk management reports to an international consulting firm, a European car manufacturer, and a worldwide electric company. I have also been tasked to assess, strengthen, and standardize current procedural practices in the client services department to prepare for a potentially large expansion of the client portfolio in the coming months.
Although I am not researching and writing about European affairs on a daily basis, I am very appreciative of my chance to work directly with organizations that operate internationally every day. I really enjoy learning about their specific concerns and interests when they send their employees or operations abroad, but most importantly, I enjoy being part of the team that ensures clients are seeing the tremendous value our services provide. Because my TAM studies equipped me with a foundational understanding of international relations, a working knowledge of contemporary developments in the concept of security, as well as strong analytical and communication skills, I have been able to not only manage the responsibilities given to me but go above and beyond what is expected of me, so that iJET and I both get the most possible out of this internship . I continued my internship with iJET by working remotely for the Europe regional watch team during my studies in Amsterdam and am now employed there full time.
Claire Cassedy - TAM Class of 2013
When I first began the summer, things seemed bleak. I had been applying for summer internships since fall semester, handing my résumé out like a guy with flyers on the street. And yet, here I was back at home in North Carolina with no prospects, wondering whether the coffee shop where I had worked would need any extra help over the summer. As I forged along, my new strategy was to search for a part-time position that was unpaid and vaguely relevant to my field and to pair that up with a part-time food service job (as I had a lot of experience in that department). In the process of applying for internships during the school year, I had realized that while my academics were up to snuff and I had carried a job since I was 15, I had a lot less professional office experience than many organizations wanted. As I considered how to try to gain that experience this summer, I first looked to a temporary employment agency that specialized in finding office work for people with bachelor’s degrees. I was immediately placed in a position in which I spent the next three weeks working full-time in Red Hat’s human resources department. Although I was certainly glad to be making a decent amount of money, I also knew that this job was not closely tied to my studies. During my last week at Red Hat, I interviewed and was hired for two part-time positions that have allowed me to gain the professional experience I had hoped for, to develop new skills for future positions, and to work in fields more closely related to my studies.
The first position involves working at North Carolina State University in the College of Education. I work for the International and Distance Education Alliance as a research assistant/grant writer. The main focus of my position is researching grant opportunities and drafting grant proposals for the international side of the department. I am working on proposals to support their student teaching abroad programs in Brazil, Russia, and China, the assessment of said program, and a new endeavor to bring visiting student teachers from their partner institutions to NCSU. It has been a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills, do some professional writing, and support study-abroad programs (which as those of us at TAM know, are invaluable). As I will likely work for an NGO or other non-profit at some point after the end of my TAM studies, I am excited that I will have grant writing experience to add to my repertoire.
The other part-time position that I have this summer is as an intern at the North Carolina Democratic Party. Despite all my studies of political science, I had never before considered working on the pre-election side of governmental affairs. Soon after I returned from Prague, I submitted my application on a whim in my flurry of local internship searching. A couple weeks later, I was called in for an interview and started working the next week. This internship has proven to be an exceedingly valuable experience. There is so much behind-the-scenes work and coordination that goes into politics and campaigning. It seems that each day I have a task for which I have to think on my feet, come up with creative solutions, practice a high level of organization (i.e. not losing a Congressman’s personal credit card information), and even use new computer software and functions. This year is also an incredibly exciting year to work at the NCDP. In this presidential election year, NC is a battleground state, there is a hotly contested NC governor’s race, and the Democratic National Convention will take place in Charlotte, N.C. Thanks to the late start of the semester at the University of Bath, I will be able to go to Charlotte for the week of September 2nd and work the full convention schedule for the NCDP and its events.
This summer has not ended up at all the way that I imagined it would back around the fall semester. Instead it has proven to be a wonderful opportunity to gain new professional skills, recognize and hone previous talents, as well as explore other potential career options. My jobs this summer have been truly beneficial experiences that will greatly add to my resume and will provide the professional accompaniment to pair perfectly with the academic richness of the TAM program. Although my work this summer is not directly focused on European politics or transatlantic relations, my TAM studies have given me a strong background in critical thinking, research and writing skills, and a broad knowledge of government and world affairs that I have found useful in my jobs.
Randall Denison - TAM Class of 2013
In May 2012, I was offered and subsequently accepted the opportunity to serve as an intern for the Political-Economic section of the United States Embassy in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. After speaking with a UNC alumna who previously served in this position, I was aware that interns were treated with respect and offered top-notch assistance from onsite staff. In early June, I began my internship in Bratislava with a midday meeting which included multiple officers who represented various fields in the Foreign Service. Though this meeting took place only one hour after a 16-hour trip from Singapore to Slovakia, I mustered all of my strength and began my nine-week internship unabated. Within the course of two days, I introduced myself to the majority of the embassy staff, adjusted to the working environment, and started to build upon my background.
In regards to the development of my portfolio, I covered the following issues in detail: the development of political corruption within the Slovak Republic, religious affairs, financial transparency of the national budget, occupational and health standards for laborers, matters of foreign affairs, the transnational question concerning the treatment of Roma, and controversial reforms to the national pension system. In hindsight, I am considerably pleased with this relevant experience; a majority of these issues were discussed in my UNC TAM courses during the fall and spring semesters. This is perhaps one of the strongest advantages of serving as an intern for the US State Department. Another advantage is that interns are generally provided the ability to perform projects that resonate with their interests, especially those individuals who serve in small embassies. Though large-scale embassies are important sources of knowledge and experience for any intern, the lack of personnel necessitates that small embassies depend heavily on the enthusiasm and dedication of their interns. This in turn provides interns with rare opportunities for academic, professional, and personal exploration.
In short, if you are provided the choice to represent your fellow citizens by serving as an overseas intern for the US government, then I urge you to accept it. You may feel overwhelmed, confused, or even uncertain. However, you will develop your professional skills and expand your international experience. More importantly, you will gain a significant appreciation for the men and women who lay down their lives in the protection of the USA, her citizens, and the freedoms that they perceive as inherent rights.
Gaby Horta - TAM Class of 2013
During the summer following my first year in the TransAtlantic Masters program, I interned at the San Diego Diplomacy Council. I had first heard about the organization from a TAM alum when attending the alumni reception in Washington, DC, during the fall of the first semester. The San Diego Diplomacy Council primarily works with the US Department of State in the facilitation of the International Visitors and Leadership Program (IVLP). The purpose of IVLP is to build mutual understanding between the US and other nations by designing short-term visits to the US for current and emerging leaders whose interests reflect the foreign policy goals of the US.
The San Diego Diplomacy Council sends proposals from organizations that are able to receive international visitors. These proposals are then sent to agencies that work with the IVLP program at the national level. The agencies, in turn, select a maximum of three cities that can best address the professional interests of each visiting delegation. Once San Diego has been selected as a host city for a delegation, the Council sets up meetings with the proposed organizations. The Council is also responsible for arranging hotel or home stays, transportation, and occasionally makes dinner and other entertainment reservations.
My specific role as an intern at the Council was varied. However, I spent the majority of time working on the first phase of receiving delegations. Through database and personal research, I compiled San Diego professional resources that were applicable to the visiting delegation’s interests. Additionally, I identified organizations that had not yet worked with the San Diego Diplomacy Council to host international visitors but would be appropriate potential hosts. In conducting this research, I became more aware of the public and private services offered in San Diego County.
In preparation for incoming delegations, I also contacted local organizations to arrange meetings for the international visitors, completed required federal documentation on visiting delegations, helped run local events, and even met with some of the visitors. Throughout my internship, the San Diego Diplomacy Council received delegations from Croatia, the Philippines, Ukraine, Qatar, France, North Africa, as well as South and Central America.
I enjoyed interning at the San Diego Diplomacy Council because I got to be a part of the process that “promotes global understanding through dialogue.” I was also able to network and meet several people involved in the international relations community. More specifically, my favorite day at the internship was when I attended a local event on government transparency. The visiting delegation that attended represented more than 10 countries from South and Central America. After some prompting, I gained the courage to use my Spanish skills and speak with some of the visitors. We not only discussed their perspectives on government transparency, but also spoke about their home countries, cultures, and more. I even received invitations to their cities. The event showed me how influential international diplomacy can be. The internship itself reinforced my professional goal to work in international education and diplomacy.