Intern Q&A: Victoria Hiepe

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

Name: Victoria Hiepe

Where you’re from: Berlin, the capital of Germany.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying Politics and Administration as well as Sociology at the University of Potsdam, which is located in the capital of Brandenburg.

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

Since I worked for the Protocol Office I spend a lot of time at the Ambassador’s Residence during events. The nature of this work is to see many important personalities of Washington DC engage, which was a great opportunity. The highlight of my internship was helping with the biggest event of the year: the celebrations of the Day of German Unity, during which the Ambassador hosted over 2,500 guests on the residence grounds.  The opportunity to join this event and also take part in organizing this day was definitely something very special which I will keep in my memory.

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Intern Q&A: Tijen Ataoğlu

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

Name: Tijen Ataoğlu

Where you’re from: I am from Cologne which is located in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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

Since I worked for the economics department, I participated in many interesting projects and activities. Attending an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was my personal highlight. He came to Washington in order to negotiate trade tariffs with President Trump. Following their meeting he held a speech about the importance of the partnership between the European Union and the United States.

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Intern Q&A: Clemens Schleupner

Name: Clemens Schleupner

Where you’re from: I’m from a little town near Düsseldorf, called Willich.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying International Relations at Sciences Po Paris.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy? Organizing the EU Open House was certainly my highlight. I got to work with a wonderful team, take responsibility, make mistakes and learn a lot. It was a very intense project, but it’s safe to say that I have never seen anything more rewarding than 7000 happy visitors in the embassy.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it? With political shifts abound, Germany needs to step up and take responsibility in the world. It needs to shape its opinion on issues like the future of the EU and stand for values like integrity and consistency in order to find its place in these challenging times.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States? I’ve lived in DC before, but working in the embassy has made American optimism and the energy of Americans even more apparent to me. It was interesting to see Americans and Germans work together so closely, with all the cultural differences and similarities. I believe that combining both points of views can be nothing but beneficial to any project.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington? Even though I’ve known many corners of DC, I was surprised by how this city always has something new and exciting to offer. I kept discovering new places and activities. After long days in the embassy for example, I appreciated all the green and open spaces that gave me the opportunity to recharge my batteries.

What do you miss about Germany? This summer in particular I missed the German Soccer culture. Regarding our team’s performance, I wish I could have yelled more at the TV without being looked at weirdly.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship? Taking responsibility helps you grow. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be capable of taking on a major role within such a talented and well-functioning team, working on such a big project as the EU Open House.

What has been your biggest challenge living here? Saying goodbye to this job and all the friends I’ve made. It was equally hard and exciting to see my fellow interns come and go, to constantly meet new people, and to now finally leave this place with all the great memories that I’ve made. Looking back will probably be the biggest challenge yet to come.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship? I’m going to pursue my Master’s degree in International Public Management at Sciences Po Paris.

Intern Q&A: Lena Schneider

Name: Lena Schneider

Where you’re from:  I live in a place called Regensburg, one of the most beautiful towns in Bavaria (if I do say so myself)! The city is both old and new: its history goes all the way back to the 9th century and it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 for its uniquely well-preserved medieval Old Town. At the same time, the universities make it feel very young! It’s a great place to have grown up.

Where and what you’re studying: I am in the final stages of gaining my Bachelor’s degree in political science and British Studies, having studied in Regensburg and Hong Kong.

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

Being an intern in the economics department at the embassy, the tariffs on steel and aluminium introduced by the United States during my time in DC had a great impact on my work: it was fascinating watching the political process at such proximity! I also really appreciated the department itself because it covers such a wide range of topics. For example, I was able to gain insights into farming and agricultural exports, the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the US, but also the challenges of migration and developmental work by visiting various events around the city and aiding colleagues in their research.

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

I can only echo what my fellow interns have mentioned in this section: finding and preserving unity – both domestically and within the EU –, strengthening the transatlantic relationship and tackling the rise of populism around the world are issues that must be taken seriously. Likewise, making sure the art of diplomacy and skilled conversation is not lost in a world where a Tweet travels faster than actions.

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

I love how open and communicative people are in the US compared to Germany. Every conversation here starts with a “How are you?” – be it a random person on the street or your Uber driver. If you ask cashiers in Germany about their well-being I can guarantee all you will get are strange looks.

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

I have never been to a place that is more political than DC! This city lives and breathes politics, be it all the government agencies and organizations that are based here, the think tanks and the events they host, or everyday life in general. When you meet somebody here, chances are they work on the Hill, for the World Bank or an NGO. As a student of political science, the atmosphere in this place is a dream!

What do you miss about Germany?

Apart from my family, friends and my dog I’d have to say living in a small country! It’s a weird thing to miss, I know. One of the joys of living in Europe is having so many different cultures, languages and traditions in such proximity. A four-hour drive is not considered a quick excursion as it is in the US! One thing I definitely don’t miss, however, is not being able to do your shopping on a Sunday or after 8 pm. That’s one convenience I have come to appreciate a lot and that will be sorely missed when it’s time for me to return home.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

Be prepared for lots and lots of small talk! DC is the capital of networking. I have lost count of the amount of business cards people have given me during the two short months I have been here. Having a few easy topics of conversation on-hand makes life a lot easier!

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Dealing with all the single-use plastic. It is nearly impossible to avoid when doing the weekly shop and often it is utterly superfluous! It should not be possible to buy individually plastic-wrapped potatoes or pre-peeled eggs and oranges in plastic containers, yet these things are readily available at my local grocery store. I am glad, however, that DC has introduced a 5-cent plastic bag fee; it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

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

Sadly, even the most fun internships must end someday… I will be returning home to Regensburg and will be greeted by an exam and term papers before finally finishing by Bachelor’s thesis. After that, who knows where life will take me!

 

Intern Q&A: Bastian Harms

Name: Bastian Harms

Where you’re from:  I was born and raised in Oldenburg, a picturesque city in Northern Germany only around 45 minutes from the North Sea.

Where and what you’re studying:  I studied law in Osnabrück, the “city of peace” due to its part in the Peace of Westphalia after the end of the Thirty Years´ war. Subsequently I pursued an LL.M. in International Legal Studies in Washington DC. Funny how life brings you back to places you love!
I am now completing my legal clerkship in Hamburg – as a northern German it is great to be back in a city that is close to water and the sea!

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

The highlight of my work at the Embassy was to accompany and attend to the press that travelled with Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas. I was able to get a first-hand experience how a political visit is planned throughout all stages. This gave me a multitude of insights, beginning with the way the press prepares. I was stunned to see how much detailed work goes into the planning of such a visit. To be able to see press meetings and conferences at the State Department and the White House was a true privilege.

As an aviation enthusiast the visits gave me the opportunity to be at the airport regularly to see Germany´s government aircraft and enjoy some time on the tarmac.

Aside from these highlights, drafting the daily press brief was fulfilling work. Knowing that your work goes out into the world and will inform colleagues about the coverage of politics really does make a difference. Although I have to admit I did not enjoy the early mornings, having to compile lots of information into precise sentences was something I can really take away from my time here.

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

I believe Germany´s main foreign policy challenge begins domestically. Germany needs to be more involved and “out there” with regards to international crises in every part of the world. That will require creating domestic acceptance for this extension in foreign policy and can and should not happen within a too short period of time. I also believe that challenges like Brexit show that the European Union needs to be strengthened and reformed while not forgetting that while we stand united as Europeans we also have different national backgrounds and cultures.

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

It is always nice to see how open-minded and open people are in the States. While it might be harder to find “true friends”, especially in a professional environment it is so much easier to have an enjoyable conversation. This holds especially true as someone who’s from Northern Germany, a place where it takes time to warm up to new people.

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

Since I had lived here before, there were no big surprises. However, being in a professional work environment this time, I was surprised at how many events, think tanks, political discussions etc. happen on a regular basis. And while I knew it was international, I was stunned how many people from around the globe actually work in DC permanently.

What do you miss about Germany?

I miss German prices. The cost of living in Washington is something you really need to get used to – over and over again! I also miss the German lifestyle – especially being able to sit in a public park – for example by the Alster lake in Hamburg and enjoy a beer or two while barbequing.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

The daily press brief gave me some experiences I have not had before. It showed me that getting up very early can actually mean quite the productive start in the day – I never knew I could even think at that time of the day. Seeing how a wide array of topics has to be compiled in 2-3 pages (in a very condensed while still informative manner) is a lesson that I know will be useful in my future legal clerkship as well as my career. Sometimes it is not about writing lengthy (legal) arguments, but about getting the point across.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Overall, the length of the internships (a short 3 months) makes it challenging. Once you get used to the procedures, the building and the technical equipment at the Embassy, you´re almost about to leave — which also means leaving interesting and great colleagues behind who you only just started to get to know.

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

I will continue my legal clerkship in Hamburg with a large international law firm.

Intern Q&A: Paulina Kaup

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

Name: Paulina Kaup

Where you’re from:  My hometown is Kastellaun, a little castle town (as you maybe can see in the name) in Western Germany. It takes 30 minutes by car to get to the next train station and a 20 minute drive to the next Autobahn – but still, it is the best place I could imagine growing up.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying political science in Mainz, which is a typical student city close to Frankfurt. It’s famous for having the best wine, carnival and happy people!

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

The most exciting days were during the IMF-Spring Meetings. Our new finance minister Olaf Scholz came with a big delegation and I was honored to be able to accompany them. Those days gave me the opportunity to get close to the big shots and to see how hard politicians work. And on top of it, the whole delegation and my colleagues from the embassy were so friendly and open-minded. I value this experience and take home a fresh look on the necessity of multilateral cooperation.

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

This space is too small for such an important topic. In short: Renew and vitalize the European Union and make Transatlantic Relations continue to work.

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

DC is so international that I don’t think I got to experience a lot of “real” American culture. What I appreciated though is that most of the Americans are really friendly and will always help you.

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

I didn’t expect DC to be so hilly, so green and so European.

What do you miss about Germany?

To ride my bike to work /university. The road to the embassy was too dangerous to ride (and too hilly). I did have many interesting and funny Uber rides, but I prefer being active and independent from technology.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

There is no ONE big lesson. Every day so many impressions overwhelm me. I’ve learned so much about trade, finance, agriculture, transportation and energy in the embassy’s economic department. I’ve learned about the work of the other departments, about other embassies, about diplomacy, world politics, history and so on… and besides that:

  1. This embassy with all his structures is truly German: So organized that it sometimes might even seem complicated again.
  2. Happy Hour is too short.
  3. And yet again my personal mantra was confirmed: Communication is the key. Talk to people, be open-minded and honest, and they will help you – and they may become good friends in the process.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Multitasking: Talking, smiling, being friendly and concentrated while eating an important dinner or lunch. Unfortunately, I’m the queen in spilling food on my blouse.

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

I’ll travel on my own through Canada and head back from Vancouver to Germany at the end of June. Then my “normal life” starts again: writing term papers, going to university and finishing my masters degree.

 

 

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.