This week, we are introducing one of our interns in the press department. Our Q&A with Jana sheds light on her experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!
Name: Jana Hofmann
Where you’re from: I’m from Menden, a town in the Sauerland, a region in Germany famous for winter sports.
Where and what you’re studying: I’m doing my master’s in Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Marburg.
What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?
I am so thankful for the many doors the Embassy opened for me: I was able to visit the White House, participate in an intern exchange with our co-workers from New York at the United Nations, and was included in media briefings with Ambassador Wittig. Every other week, I had the morning shift, starting at 5 AM, and did a press screening. As a news junkie, I enjoyed reading the papers and working on our daily press report . One highlight during my internship was the visit of our Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier. I was allowed to cover his meetings for our social media channels and shadow the press secretary’s work.
What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?
Growing up in a peaceful and united Europe, I can’t imagine Germany without the EU. I can travel through most of Europe without passing “real” borders and even pay with the same currency. I am thankful for all of the benefits my generation has because of the EU. That is why I am worried about the rise of extremism and populism in Germany and in Europe. I think my generation needs to stand up for the EU and speak up against populism and hate. The U.S. is our most important ally and we should strengthen the German-American friendship.
Besides, I have met so many Americans who have either served or lived in Germany. Our personal ties are tight, and we shouldn’t forget that the Germans and Americans are close on the personal and business level, while discussing and solving political differences.
What are some impressions you gained of the United States?
I am always happy to go back to the U.S. for a visit because people are so friendly and easy to talk to. I love that everyone greets you with a smile and starts small talk. Every time I visit, I realize again that this country is too big to explore in one trip or to understand from one experience. There are still so many places to visit!
What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?
How much the city has changed in just four years! I studied here for one semester during my bachelor’s and really fell in love with D.C. — the cute neighborhoods in Georgetown, the “I am in a movie”-feeling while walking past the White House, Capitol, and the monuments. When I first got here, it was sometimes hard to find restaurants and cafés that were not part of a chain. Now, there are so many up and coming neighborhoods.
I am, however, worried about the change of the city’s vibe. Everyday life has become even more politicized, if that is possible in one of the world’s most vibrant political cities. At least it’s more visible, and yet it has a positive flip side: people are standing up for their values and discussing what policies work best for the US and the world as a whole.
What do you miss about Germany?
My family and friends, and my boyfriend. I think you can get most German products in the US, and technology makes it easy to stay in touch, but I miss having a typical German “Kaffeetrinken” (drinking coffee) with homemade cake or cookies with my loved ones.
But I wouldn’t mind having my D.C. roommate’s chocolate cake when I’m back home!
What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?
Ask questions – and, to quote a former professor of mine: “Do what makes your veins throb!” For me, the Embassy is more than a fancy building; it’s the people working here that make German foreign politics move forward, and everyone is doing his or her part, everyone has a story to tell. I loved learning more about a diplomat’s life and I am thankful my co-workers always made sure to take time to answer all my questions. I was also able to get to know people from the other departments and talk to them about their work. There are so many different people at the Embassy and when you talk to them, you can hear that they love their jobs. You can learn so much from those conversations, and many people are happy to give you advice – may it be on what to do and see in D.C. or helping you figure out what could be your next career step. You just have to ask.
Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?
I’ll be staying in D.C. for two more weeks to do some sightseeing and visit the Shenandoah National Park. I feel like I’ve had enough snow and cold for one winter, so I’m really happy that I’ll end my stay in the U.S. with a trip to Florida.