Intern Q&A: Lukas Behrenbeck

Name: Lukas Behrenbeck

Where you’re from: Köln/Cologne

Where and what you’re studying:  I’m studying International Administration and Global Governance in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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

There is no doubt that Chancellor Merkel’s visit was a highlight. Sitting up close during her press conference with President Trump in the White House felt surreal, since clearly every word they uttered and every move they made mattered a whole lot politically. But I was also glad to have been involved in the surrounding logistics of her visit.

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

Although Germany’s new international role has started to materialize since as early as the 1990s, the process of adjusting its foreign policy vis-à-vis its international commitments and expectations is far from over. The questions about German history which my non-German friends ask me shows not only that it still matters, but also that German foreign policy must remain inherently multilateral. At the same time, I am convinced that foreign policy is a fluid process which needs outreach and steady engagement with society. Thus, managing domestic and international expectations is a major foreign policy challenge I believe.

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

Many cultural aspects are often portrayed as “typically American”, something unique and at times bizarre to non-Americans. Short-term visitors may feel vindicated, but a closer look reveals that the US still is such a diverse country. Anything that seems strange has a more familiar counterpart. Maybe that’s simply because of the big population, but maybe that’s also a result of the powerful narrative as a land of the free.

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

I lived in Columbia Heights, which has many faces but its Latino influence really struck me. I absolutely loved that.

What do you miss about Germany?

More convenient public transportation.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

From afar, diplomacy sometimes seems like a perfected discipline performed by high-flyers. However, diplomacy is in fact a fragile network that hinges on the commitment of every involved individual. And yes, just as in real life, small acts of friendship and gratitude can make a big difference. In practice, this means that you can approach basically anyone if you are open-minded and affable.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Staying healthy. Lots of interesting evening events curtail your time for cooking, and nutritious products are rare in supermarkets as are supermarkets themselves. You can go running, but there are only two calisthenics parks in town.

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

For any Kölsche (someone from Cologne), moving out of sight of the cathedral is a painful step. However, international relations and especially the Middle East are big fascinations of mine, which draws me back to that region. Ultimately, I’ll do what I’ve planned on since high school and apply for the Foreign Service.

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: 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: Jana Hofmann

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.

German Embassy intern Jana spent many early mornings compiling the daily press report.

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?

“Kaffee & Kuchen”

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.

German Embassy intern Jana spent many early mornings compiling the daily press report.

Intern Q&A: Julia Reich

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

Name: Julia Alida Reich

Where you’re from: Empfingen, a small town in the beautiful Black Forest area in southern Germany

Where and what you’re studying: Berlin, Political Science and Business Psychology

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?  I enjoyed participating and helping to set up the event „E-mobility: The Future of Transportation: Opportunities and Challenges for the U.S. and Germany“ at the Convention Center. We had a very interesting panel and I think it is a very important topic for Germany and the US to be working more closely together in the future.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges?
Growing up and learning about the past the narrative seemed to tell that after WWII and the collapse of the Berlin Wall we would see the “end of history”. As seen nowadays, history has not come to an end, but we are living in times of political change and political surprises. I think Germany within its position in the European Union should never stop to advocate for peace, security and prosperity. Also, Germany should take efforts and patience to explain the complexity of this tumultuous world.

What are some impressions you gained of the United States? As I’ve lived in the US before as an exchange student 7 years ago in a suburban area around Houston, Texas; I gained a new impression of the US through living in a city on the East Coast. I think we in Europe forget sometimes how big the US is and it is impressive that this size of land and diversity of people is being managed as one nation.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington? The weather! I would have never imagined the weather could change from -16°C (3°F) to 18°C (65°F) within 24 hours.

What do you miss about Germany? My family, friends and my cat.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship? Never forget to carry your room key with you, in case your colleague steps out and shuts the door 😉

Where do you plan to go after your internship? As I just finished my studying I’ll be heading back to Berlin to work for KPMG.

Intern Q&A: Hanna Rohde

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

Name: Hanna Rohde

Where you’re from: Frankfurt am Main

Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying International Relations (M.A.) with a focus on Peace and Conflict Research. It’s a cooperative program and I take classes at both TU Darmstadt and Frankfurt University. The latter is also where I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Legal Philosophy.

Why did you apply to intern at the German Embassy? Because of my passion for cultural exchange and my interest in global political issues, the Federal Foreign Office – and international work environments in general – has always fascinated me. And leaving university campus behind for a couple of months to witness in action what’s usually theory has been an amazing experience.

The German Ambassador’s residence in the snow. ©Zacarias Garcia

What is your favorite project or experience at the German Embassy so far? Being an intern with the protocol department I feel lucky to have a varying everyday work life. Assisting the Ambassador’s chief of staff allows me to do research on a variety of interesting topics. Helping prepare and attending events at the Ambassador’s Residence grants me some insights into the multifaceted diplomatic work. Therefore not one single project but the variation at work would be my favorite experience at the German Embassy.

What are some impressions you have of the United States? People are very friendly and polite and treat each other with respect in everyday life situations. According to my experience, usually everyone you interact with will greet you with a smile and a few nice words. That’s one reason why I find it easy to feel as a part of the community.

What is your favorite part about living in the United States? What I like about the United States is that the country itself is so diverse. Living in a city on the east coast is a completely different experience than living in a rural area out in the Midwest. If I had to pick my one favorite part about living here that’s simultaneously somewhat representative of the US as a whole, I’d say it is the easiness with which one can get into a conversation with people.

What do you miss about Germany? I miss my friends back home.

Where do you plan to go after your internship? I plan on going back to Frankfurt to write my Master’s Thesis. And after that I’ll hopefully be on my way to another exciting part of the world.