It's been a busy four weeks at my internship (which is no excuse for not writing, I know) and I finally feel like I'm settling in nicely.
Week one (and most of week two really) were crazy. The phrase 'drinking through a firehouse' was bandied about quite a bit, and I think that adequately describes work at Main State. There are tons of rules for keeping everything secure, there are dozens of formats for all the writing we do, and most of all there are the acronyms and jargon. S5? EAP? G+5?
Week two I discovered two things. #1 was that everyone knows more than me. And not just a little more. The people in my office have decades of experience, in the region, in the issues, even in the department. This inspires both a lot of respect and just a little bit of intimidation. #2 was that I am in the best bureau. My bureau really goes out of its way to introduce interns to everyone - even the higher-ups - and helps us learn the culture of State. If I'm interested in something they'll point me to the experts and send me links and take time out of their very busy schedules to explain the long, sordid political history of country X.
Week three I got to go on some 'field trips'. I don't feel comfortable sharing the details, but basically I learned that the government does a lot more communicating and sharing among the different agencies and departments than I thought, which was very refreshing.
Week four I took the first of the Pickering workshops, on writing and the FSOA. First off, the FSOA one was just a standard prep session, but they explained the logistics of passing and failing for fellows. No extra hints or practice. The writing sessions were really useful. They gave us sample exercises based on the day-to-day writing tasks at State and gave feedback for each and every one of us. Again, I really appreciated that. If you aren't a fellow, I'll sum up the lessons from those sessions. #1 Be concise. #2 BE CONCISE! (You aren't writing for your professor, where there's a minimum page limit. There's a maximum word limit usually and you must respect it.) #3 Be precise. (Did the minister agree? Or did he agree to think about it? Did the FSO sexually harrass the FSN or did the FSO allegedly sexually harrass the FSN? It makes a difference.) #4 Be clear. You aren't trying to impress them with what you know, you are trying to communicate. #5 Use the active voice. Or else.