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: 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: 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.