Intern Q&A: Lukas Hoffmann

This week, we are introducing one of our interns at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Lukas sheds light on his experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Name:  Lukas David Hoffmann

Where you’re from:  I am from the heart of the Ruhr area, which everyone from the Ruhr area claims to be from. The area, often referred to as “Revier”, is historically known as an industrial location, especially for coal and steel. Supposedly the air is thin, but people are self-confident and down-to-earth. As a result of structural change, much of the former industry has given way to an industrial culture.

Where and what you’re studying:  I studied law in Hamburg and Rome. Internships have taken me to Frankfurt and Brussels, among other places. Meanwhile I am completing my legal traineeship in Düsseldorf, which has led me to the colorful Rhineland.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

From an academic point of view, the research on mobile work forms in the USA was certainly exciting: home office, telework, telecommuting and more. Overall, however, the visit to the many think tank events was the most instructive. Most of the events I personally went to were related to Russia, so that one learned a lot about the country and its people, which certainly provided a better understanding. Most of the time there was also an opportunity to talk to other participants, which often resulted in a closer exchange.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

Washington is even more international than I imagined it to be. In this city you really get everything you know from all over the world, if you are only willing to spend money on it. The city’s restaurant scene offers a great variety of international cuisine, too.

What do you miss about Germany?

The constantly bad, but predictable weather. Seriously, the weather in Washington is so changeable that you would have to take a whole wardrobe with you to cope with any type of weather.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

Law does not always have to be hard, but can also be very “soft”. International law as one of the (legal) foundations of diplomacy deals with the most important questions of human coexistence in this world. At the same time, no legal matter may be as dependent on the interpretation of the individual who seeks to apply.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Trying not to gain too much weight and not to spend too much money. Unfortunately, the prices for many healthy and fresh foods are very high, so these two challenges are not always easy to balance out.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

In the short term, I will return to Düsseldorf to complete another station of my legal traineeship in an international law firm. In the long term, I definitely want to work in an international environment as well.

 

Intern Q&A: Maria

Name: Maria

Where you’re from: I´m currently studying in Leipzig

Where and what you’re studying: Law

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

I was responsible for replying to all electronic and written inquiries from American citizens. It was great to read how many people from all over the US are curious about Germany and interested in learning German! I had fun answering questions I sometimes never even thought of myself, like “What is the most famous dog breed in Germany?” or “What is the most widespread insect in German forests?”

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

I’m a big fan of the European Union and I believe in the values and goals the EU stands for. But I understand that some countries and people in the EU don’t feel that way – one current example for this is the Brexit. The rise of right-wing parties all over Europe (Germany is not an exception), the lack of mutual support during the refugee crisis as well as continuous criticism of European frameworks has to be a wake-up call for national and European politicians. We have to start asking ourselves difficult questions and be prepared to hear new answers. The EU has to be a living organism whose working processes are adapting to the needs of its members. I know, this sounds utopic. But just because you already have a system it doesn´t mean you shouldn´t look for ways to improve it. The European Union is designed to be a platform of communication and peace on the European continent. These goals are worth the effort.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

The United States is too big and too diverse to talk about general cultural impressions. But in Washington I gained the impression that culture is everywhere. I spent most of my spare time at the free museums, at the National Mall or at concerts in the Kennedy Center. And if I got tired of all the “institutionalized” culture, I just kept walking around the city. Every part of Washington is unique and worth exploring. Sometimes I couldn’t believe that I’m still in the same city.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I was really surprised about how easy it is to find your way around town. As street names are either successive letters or numbers, I never felt lost. You cannot compare that with Germany, where every single street has a name – and where I’m constantly lost.

What do you miss about Germany?

A fast and efficient public transportation system. In Germany I’m used to just taking a bus or a subway to any place around town. Here I couldn’t really rely on that as much. I got the impression that there was not as much attention paid to enable people without car to move around the city.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

I have lived in the United States before, so the culture shock was kept in bounds. One completely unserious “challenge” I found myself confronted with on a regular basis was the size of dimes and nickels. Why is a nickel bigger that a dime although it has less value? This led to some embarrassing moments at cash registers. Thankfully everybody was really patient with me and ensured me that this is a problem foreigners are frequently struggling with.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I’m going back to Leipzig to continue my preparation for the bar exam in August.

Intern Q&A: Adele Kirschner

Name: Adele Juliane Kirschner

Where you’re from: Stuttgart, Germany

Where and what you’re studying: I studied law in Heidelberg and Geneva (CH). I am currently clerking at the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt (The clerkship is a requirement for German law school graduates to take the bar exam).

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

Working in the legal and consular department I was sometimes tasked with following current developments in US (legal) politics and law, such as reporting on new laws or Supreme Court decisions etc. In connection with this I went to see a hearing at the US Supreme Court. It was not only fascinating to see these venerable and eminent judges at work, what captivated me the most was the how the lawyers were constantly interrupted and questioned, requiring them to instantly respond, often not being able to complete their argument. You could see some very brilliant minds at work and a very fascinating “battle” indeed! There is not so much action in court proceedings at home.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

I think Germany has to balance between being aware that it needs to raise its voice with regard to current developments in the EU as well as with regard to its (EU) future direction, while on the other hand trying not to act in a way that is perceived as too dominant by other countries. I thinks it’s important to side with allies and like-minded countries in this case and try to push for a common agenda in appreciation of the values on which the EU is based – such as e.g. with France.

What are some impressions you gained of the United States?

Generally speaking I would say it’s much easier to start a conversation with a stranger in the US than at home. People are very open and often curious to learn about where you are form when they hear a foreign language.

Diversity it another thing that strikes me and I mean this in every sense, starting from the diverse cultural backgrounds of its people, over the diverse landscapes to the diversity, of rather variety, of choices you are offered in your everyday life – starting at the supermarket which e.g. offers over 200 different kinds of beers (note I am saying this as a German!) and types of cheddar cheeses (albeit the choice of cheese type is then again not quite as diverse)! I always take quite a while for my groceries 😉

People take the car a lot – often even short distances people will take the car instead of walking. That’s something I am not so used to – even though I’d say DC might be a little different in that respect, think of M-Street in Georgetown or some busy areas down-town, but I hardly ever see children walking to school for example.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

The weather, I was expecting a much milder climate and was hoping to escape the long German winter! Also it’s crazy how you can enjoy an ice cream and summery temperature as well as a pot of tea on a snow-day all in one week!

What do you miss about Germany?

Bäckereien – German bakeries or rather their bread, riding around town with my bike and of course my friends and family!

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

I wouldn’t call it a lesson in this sense, but I must say that I gained a deep respect for the US-Constitution or rather the political system as a whole which has been in place all these years. Of course it has needed amendments and is interpreted differently at times, but it has nevertheless created a framework for stable and prosperous democracy, that has persisted and will surely survive many a crisis to come. Not many countries can look back at such a long history of successful democratic governance!

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I will return back to Frankfurt and start with the next chapter of my clerkship, where I will be working at an international-law firm for a few months.

Intern Q&A: Helena Falke

This week, we are introducing one of our interns at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Helena sheds light on her experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Where you’re from: I am from Bonn, which used to be the capital when Germany was divided into East and West. It is now the second seat of the government, so a lot of ministries are still based here. Besides its political history, Bonn also offers a huge cultural history as it’s the hometown of Beethoven.

Where and what you’re studying: I have just obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law & Economics from the University of Bonn. This interdisciplinary study program is quite unusual in Germany, because normally one starts with law school right away, as it is not a graduate program and a full time occupation. When I graduated high school I didn’t want to commit to one field of study right away, but rather gather experiences in different subjects. After my return to Germany I will continue to study law.

In the science and economics department, Helena learned about new generation vehicles.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

As an intern in the economics department, I worked a lot with my colleagues from the science and transportation sections on new generation vehicles and China’s emerging markets in this sector. These projects were especially exciting for me because this is a topic I normally do not come into contact with at university. It feels good to be at the pulse of innovation, especially because these new technologies will affect me and everyone else in our future.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I actually imagined Washington to be much more busy and stressful. Even though being the capital, there are many quiet spots to relax after a long day at work and you don’t feel that urge to get out of the city on the weekends like in New York. But at the same time it never gets boring because there are always enough events going on.

What do you miss about Germany?

Laugenstangen, Laugenbrötchen, Laugenbretzel – basically everything that is made out of the soft pretzel dough and it is very hard to find whole wheat bread that is similar to ours in Germany. I also miss being able to walk and ride my bike almost everywhere. Bonn is a rather small university town, so getting around in a huge city like Washington was different. I mostly used the metro or Uber.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

Being in the diplomatic service requires a commitment that expands beyond working hours and has a great impact on your private life. But one is rewarded by a rich diverse experience of interesting communicative challenges, cultural differences and a multitude of perspectives.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel around this beautiful country like some of my fellow interns, because university starts the day after my return home. In the next months I am going to start with a preparatory course for my first state exam, for which you normally prepare and study for over a year.

Intern Q&A: Sandra Metzger

This week, we are introducing one of our interns at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Sandra sheds light on her experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Name: Sandra Metzger

Where you’re from:  I’m from Rosenheim, Bavaria. People usually do recognize the name of the city as it lies between Munich and Salzburg, is close to the Alps and has its own crime series on German TV, “Rosenheim Cops”.

Where and what you´re studying: I’m doing my master’s in Governance and Public Policy at the University of Passau.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

Working in the political department I was able to attend panel discussions at think tanks on a weekly basis. The amount of knowledge one experiences there is unbelievable. Above all I got deeper into the topics North Korea and nuclear weapons, but also for example the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, cybersecurity and US-Mexican relations. You meet real experts, senators, congressmen and congresswomen. Attend congressional hearings was also a highlight of my time at the Embassy. Sitting inside the Rayburn House Office Building and hearing testimonials on post-Mugabe Zimbabwe is not something you experience very often.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

Germany’s position in the EU is of crucial importance. Our country now faces challenges that it has to bear together with its allies. The rise of populist parties – not only in Germany itself but also in the rest of Europe – poses a problem. We benefit so much out of the EU and that is something we should clearly voice out loud and stand up for.

What are some impressions you gained of the United States?

I have been to the United States before, but again I realized how huge this country is. Trying to see “the most interesting parts” of the US within a 2 month internship is simply not possible. There are too many throughout this country. What I really enjoyed was that – not only in Washington DC but also in Philadelphia or New York City – history is so alive. There are museums, memorials and references everywhere and it is so easy to just go out and explore and broaden your own horizon.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

With regard to my internship and Washington DC being a political capital I imagined daily life would be about politics. But still I was surprised by how open and how often people talk politics. It doesn’t matter if you speak to your colleagues, people you meet at Think Tank events, Uber drivers or people you meet at a bar – everyone seems to have an opinion about current politics and the city kind of vibes together in this. I was also surprised by how well Democrats and Republicans seem to work together.

What do you miss about Germany?

My family, friends and Schwarzbrot.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

It’s all about networking! It started inside the German Embassy: I was very grateful that people took the time to talk to me and to give me insights into a diplomat’s life. Being “in the field” at events in DC, you just realize that the whole city lives of the contacts made there and you should always have your business card ready for handing it out.

What is coming off these contacts made is amazing: next to new information you learn about career opportunities or you simply make new friends. One thing I definitely loved about DC was the creation of a very friendly, sometimes funny but also very professional network in only a few months!

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

First I will spend a week in New York City. After that I go back to my university to do my master’s thesis and finish my studies. And then who knows what’s waiting for me out there.

Intern Q&A: Anja Hornbostel

Name: Anja Kristina Hornbostel

Where you’re from: A small village near Hanover in the north of Germany.

Where and what you’re studying: At the moment, I am a legal trainee at the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg. Before I started my legal training, I studied law at the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

During my time in the cultural department, I enjoyed following US education politics and I was able to attend some events that covered this. One event I will definitely remember was titled “A Conversation on Education in America”, hosted by the news platform Axios. Three US governors were interviewed on this topic. When I signed up for it, the starting time was set to 8 a.m. However, on the morning of the event, the organizers decided to send around a message saying the start time was to be changed to 7:45 am! I have rarely been to a talk starting that early, but the discussion was absolutely worth it. Another project I enjoyed was the visit of the German a-Capella group “Vocaldente”, which held a concert at the Embassy and a workshop at the German school in Potomac. It was wonderful to see how the musicians encouraged the kids to try and use their little singing voices confidently.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

Germany has an important role as a member state of the European Union. As one of the founding member countries, it bears a particular responsibility for the future of the EU. I am very thankful that I could grow up in this comparatively peaceful part of the world and I think that the EU is a key factor to a lot of my life’s quality. For instance, I am more than happy to be able to call my friends in The Hague for very little money or to visit my friends in Antwerp without having to stop at any border.
When Britain decided to leave the union, when populists continuously gain more and more votes and when threats from terrorists try to create fear among people, we have to remember how lucky we are to be a part of such a bigger idea, despite one or the other legitimate point of criticism. The rich cultural diversity that we have among all EU member states is something that amazes me again and again. Germany should work hard to stabilize and deepen the bonds that were created by this union and also to persuade people that might be in doubt about the strong advantages the EU has.

What are some impressions you gained of the United States?

Right at the beginning of my stay I got a very positive impression of how helpful people are in the U.S.: I rented a room from a (usually very active) 78-year old lady. Sadly, just before I arrived, she had an accident and broke her arm and wrist very badly. During my first week we had so many people visiting from the neighborhood, dropping off food for her and fixing things around the house that she hardly had time to worry about her condition. I have never seen such a caring community before. By now, she is almost fully recovered, which is probably because of the good care she got from her family, friends and neighbors. Furthermore, I was impressed by all the facts I learned during my conversations with Uber and Lyft drivers. They have such different backgrounds and every time I am ordering a car I am curious who will drive me this time and what his or her story is.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

The weather. One day it was freezing cold, around -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). The next day the temperatures were as high as on a summer day back at home in Hamburg and we were able to sit on the banks of the Potomac in T-shirts. That was more than confusing. Also on a more professional level, the very political vibe in D.C. surprised me. I did expect the city to be political, but I never experienced a place where political opinions were discussed so openly even in small talk. That is something I had to get used to at first, but it also led to a lot of interesting conversations that I would not want to have missed. Maybe I will take some of the vibe back with me to Germany and “spice up” some of my conversations there a little bit…

What do you miss about Germany?

Spending an afternoon with my family and friends in one of my favorite coffee spots in Hamburg and to cycle to work every morning with my Dutch Bike.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

It was very impressive to see how many different means of diplomacy there are. Apart from the communication among diplomats, so many important messages are also sent through cultural and other rather informal events, for example. It basically already starts by just being – and staying – curious about other cultures and by looking for meaningful dialogues with one another.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I will go back to Germany to finish my legal traineeship. After that, I will see what the future holds for me…

Intern Q&A: Henri Dörr

This week, we are introducing one of our interns at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Henri sheds light on his experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Name: Henri Dörr

Where you’re from: I´m from Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, a small city in Bavaria half an hour north of Munich.

Where and what you’re studying: I´m just finishing my undergraduate studies in European Studies Major at the University of Passau.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

I had the great opportunity to take part in and report on the State of the Net-Conference, an annual summit of experts and politicians, where current and future developments in the field of internet policy were being discussed., e.g. blockchain, 5G and net-neutrality.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

The Brexit and the rise of Euro-skeptical parties throughout Europe is and will continue to be one of the biggest challenges. Germany has to take a leading role here and protect, defend and foster the values and achievements of the European Union together with the other remaining 26 member-states.

What are some impressions you gained of the United States?

Without a car it’s quite hard to get around. In the bigger cities you can always find a public transportation system, but if you want get a little bit outside the bigger towns, a car is definitely necessary. Apart from that, I got to know Americans as being very polite, open and interested in Germany. They are always open for a quick chat and it´s much easier to start a conversation here.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

There are so many things to do and see here and most of them are for free. (The Smithsonian, National Archives, Library of Congress, Arlington Cemetery, Memorials, etc.) People in Germany are more focused on New York, Florida, and the West Coast and see Washington mainly as the seat of the US government and not as a cultural hub with so many amazing museums and places to see.

What do you miss about Germany?

I miss the public transportation system, which is more tightly knit and a bit more reliable in Germany.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

If you’re in Washington, even as an intern, you need your own business cards. At every event I attended I was handed several and experienced surprise and sometimes even irritation when not being able to hand one of mine back.

Where do you plan to go after your internship?

After my internship, I have two weeks left here in DC, which I will use to visit the museums at the National Mall that are still missing on my list and make a short trip to Philadelphia. After that I will return to Germany to apply for a master’s degree in the field of political science.