Friday, August 5, 2011

The End. (of my summer internship)

So this is it, my summer internship is officially over. My colleagues threw me a goodbye party, I wrote one last 'quickie' piece, and I went through the whole check-out process. It was very much bittersweet, because I would continue working with my office all year if I could.

When I initially got the fellowship I thought of this internship as more of an afterthought. I think the word 'whatever' sums up my feelings nicely. But now I can't imagine how people can just jump right into the foreign service without this experience. It was immensely helpful.

For example, I learned maybe 75% of the acronyms that I'll need as an FSO. I can find my way around Main State - maybe not with my eyes closed, but definitely squinting. All of my questions, from fair share bidding, to the tranche system, switching cones, evacuations, unaccompanied posts, tenure, language designated posts, dissent, cable writing, protocol, were answered.

I also had all the resources of State right at my fingertips, and whenever I didn't have lunch with friends I spent it at my computer, looking at real bid lists, or post reports (did you know that in Juba you get 90% extra pay? or that in Geneva, if I read it right, you get 120% for COLA!?) or all the optional programs available to FSOs - like the out-year lanaguage program, the public policy masters program, or the one where you can swap jobs with someone from another foreign ministry for a year. (Doesn't that sound fun? You could go work for a year in the French foreign ministry for example, before spending a year at Embassy Paris.) I checked out the strategic plans of all the missions I'm interested in. I read about how to write briefing checklists and action memos and all the rest.

I learned that despite it's seemingly daunting size, State is a small world. Everyone seems to know everyone. Even with only 10 weeks under my belt I ran into a dozen people a day that I knew. Now I understand why they spent so much time talking about corridor reputation. Because it's not just the 'corridors of main state' that matter. Those people travel to post too, and pretty soon everyone knows everyone (almost).

So to sum up, it was a great and very educational summer. I contributed what I could, but mostly I just soaked it all in. And now I'm twice as excited to be joining for real in 2012.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a little bit of R&R before school starts back up!

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