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.