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: 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: 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: Julian Glitsch

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

Where you’re from: Berlin

Where and what you’re studying: I study political science at the Franco-German Campus of Sciences Po in Nancy, France. It’s a French-German-English trilingual studies program with students from all over Europe and the world.

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

Probably the most memorable experience was helping to prepare the arrival of Chancellor Merkel at her hotel in Georgetown during her Washington visit in April – not just because I got to see the Chancellor up close, but also because it impressed upon me on just how many small organizational details a successful diplomatic visit hinges. It was a great “look behind the curtain”.

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

Germany needs to become more conscious of how much our security and prosperity depends on Europe and on the transatlantic alliance. Shoring up the EU and maintaining our bond with the US will require Germany to go out of its comfort zone, show more leadership than we are historically used to and in some instances make painful sacrifices.

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

Wherever I went, I always found Americans to be incredibly friendly, gracious and curious. Being from a country where communication tends to be rather direct, even blunt, this was a very pleasant and refreshing experience, but at times also a little disorientating. Compared with Germans, it can be harder to tell whether an American genuinely likes you and is interested in what you have to say or if they are just being polite.

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

I was surprised by how small Washington feels compared to other major capitals I’ve visited. So many important and exciting things are happening here all the time, and yet they all seem to be going on within walking distance (or a 10 minute Uber drive) of each other.

What do you miss about Germany?

Besides my family and friends, I’d have to say the food. As much as I enjoyed trying out everything from apple fritters to sweet potato pie to every craft burger restaurant I could find, in the end there’s nothing quite like fresh Graubrot with Kartoffelwurst.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

I realized more than ever before that the world of international politics moves at break-neck speed. I try to follow global events as closely as possible, but it’s a whole different matter when you work in a place that actually has to react to them.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Money – life in Washington is pretty expensive even compared to the pricier European cities I’ve spent time in, like London or Paris.

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

For now I’m looking forward to heading back to Europe and beginning my Master’s studies in international relations in Paris this fall. But America has definitely left a wonderful and lasting impression on me. If I get the chance, I would love to live and work here someday.

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: 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: 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: Christina-Theresia Ernst

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

Name: Christina-Theresia Ernst

Where you’re from: I’m from Schuby, Schleswig-Holstein. Not a place one would know, but we have our own Autobahnausfahrt (highway exit).

Where and what you’re studying: I’m doing my MA European Studies in Flensburg, which is close to the Danish Border.

Why did you apply to intern at the German Embassy? Well, I have to start to decide what I want to do as a career soon and the German Foreign Office is a realistic prospect for me. Also I have been around the business all my life and wanted to experience it for myself in order to decide if it’s something for me.

What is your favorite project or experience at the German Embassy so far? The amount of knowledge and information I get to experience is amazing! The work the think tanks do is very crucial and I am impressed by the importance it gets in the embassy‘s work. I am able to attend panel discussions and speeches on a weekly basis on topics that cover all corners of the world. An interesting event was the visit of the Russian presidential candidate Sobchak. It’s not every day you are able to see a candidate like that speak in person. With the knowledge I have gained on the political environment in Russia I was able to listen more critically and understand the implications.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it? First of all, we need to form a government. I think only then can we see what Germany has to prioritize. It is worrying to me what is happening across Europe with the rise in more extreme political opinions, but if the younger generations remain aware of the danger it poses I think it will turn out okay.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington? The interaction between Democrats and Republicans. I think the media hypes up conflicting views, whereas everyday people are able to talk to each other and work together.

What are some impressions you have of the United States? Busy! People always have something to do and somewhere to go. It’s hard to recognize the beauty of your surroundings when you’re in a hurry.

What is your favorite part about living in the United States? The food (of which there is such an abundance) and the people! The heart and passion in society is something unique to experience. No movie or show can ever transmit that.

What do you miss about Germany? The quietness! I come from a small town; I am not really used to the constant noise of planes, sirens and cars.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship? Without the insight and information given by the embassies and consulates around the world, the government would have a very difficult job of forming foreign policy. The importance of what is done here on a day to day basis isn’t really recognized by people at home, I think.

Where do you plan to go after your internship? Well, I have to finish my last semester and master thesis until August, so Flensburg it is. And to be honest I am still not quite sure where this year is going to take me.

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.