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U.S. Embassy, London

By Heidi McFarland

Internships act as a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in the professional world. Having completed a ten week internship serving as an intern in the executive office in the U.S. embassy in London for the United States Department of State, I can further agree with the above statement. My internship has allowed me to gain experience in foreign diplomacy and U.S. government. Furthermore, I have been able to increase my knowledge of U.S. foreign policy and how it works, gain new skills, and learn how an embassy functions. Additionally, I have been able to connect what I have learned in my university courses to the real world and see how such concepts and facts apply in the action.

One of the great advantages of doing an internship at an embassy is being able to experience diplomacy firsthand. It is different than diplomacy in theory. At the embassy, you are in the heart of the ‘action’ and represent the U.S. government as if you were a diplomat. During my time here, I was able to liaise with U.S. diplomats, also referred to as Foreign Service Officers, on a daily basis. I was able to ask questions and gain valuable insight on what their professional life entailed. Considering a career in the State Department myself, I found this information very useful. Additionally, my supervisor helped with networking opportunities for me to meet with other departments within the embassy that I was interested in looking into as a future career option.

Another advantage I found was that this internship allowed for me to work within the government. Once I started, I was exposed to everything within the embassy and how it functions. I handled classified documents for the office and helped plan for high level visits. I learned about embassy and government protocol. Security briefing and operations were also part of the curriculum as an intern. Working in the executive office also allowed me to further interact with other branches and departments within the embassy in order to do my own job. This facilitated a more detailed overview of how work in the embassy flows from one place to another. I feel that this is one accomplishment of my ten weeks – getting to know who does what and why – because I have a better understanding of the goals of the United States abroad and how we are helping to reach those goals one post at a time. I noticed that the other interns did not share this advantage and stuck mostly to their section without branching out to others.

While serving as an intern, there have been some important world events that I was able to experience via the government diplomatic approach to the issue. Examples of events that affected me in London are: the occupy London/St. Paul’s Financial protest, UNESCO Palestine vote, the attack on the UK embassy in Iran, the European Union euro crisis, the G-20 meeting, the U.S.-UK Extradition Treaty renewal, and the post Libya operations NATO talks. Through these events and work I was doing at the embassy, I was able to make connections to what I have studied. I would refer back to what my professors and textbooks taught about a specific subject and compare that with how real diplomacy, the concepts, and principles were being applied to each situation.

My position in the front office of the embassy also allowed for a different selection of tasks and duties. I was able to meet about a dozen Congress representatives, help plan the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit to London for the Cyber Conference, and propose the celebrity guest list for the UK official State visit to the US next year. I was also able to meet several high ranking members of the U.S. military and government, including General James Mattis, David Cohen, and General Martin Dempsey. Overall, this experience has been great. I feel that I was able to add value to my office, learn about the State Department and Foreign Service, diplomacy, and international relations. It was an excellent opportunity to put my classroom knowledge to the test and see how it applies on the world’s global playing field.