Name: Anja Kristina Hornbostel
Where you’re from: A small village near Hanover in the north of Germany.
Where and what you’re studying: At the moment, I am a legal trainee at the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg. Before I started my legal training, I studied law at the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?
During my time in the cultural department, I enjoyed following US education politics and I was able to attend some events that covered this. One event I will definitely remember was titled “A Conversation on Education in America”, hosted by the news platform Axios. Three US governors were interviewed on this topic. When I signed up for it, the starting time was set to 8 a.m. However, on the morning of the event, the organizers decided to send around a message saying the start time was to be changed to 7:45 am! I have rarely been to a talk starting that early, but the discussion was absolutely worth it. Another project I enjoyed was the visit of the German a-Capella group “Vocaldente”, which held a concert at the Embassy and a workshop at the German school in Potomac. It was wonderful to see how the musicians encouraged the kids to try and use their little singing voices confidently.
What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?
Germany has an important role as a member state of the European Union. As one of the founding member countries, it bears a particular responsibility for the future of the EU. I am very thankful that I could grow up in this comparatively peaceful part of the world and I think that the EU is a key factor to a lot of my life’s quality. For instance, I am more than happy to be able to call my friends in The Hague for very little money or to visit my friends in Antwerp without having to stop at any border.
When Britain decided to leave the union, when populists continuously gain more and more votes and when threats from terrorists try to create fear among people, we have to remember how lucky we are to be a part of such a bigger idea, despite one or the other legitimate point of criticism. The rich cultural diversity that we have among all EU member states is something that amazes me again and again. Germany should work hard to stabilize and deepen the bonds that were created by this union and also to persuade people that might be in doubt about the strong advantages the EU has.
What are some impressions you gained of the United States?
Right at the beginning of my stay I got a very positive impression of how helpful people are in the U.S.: I rented a room from a (usually very active) 78-year old lady. Sadly, just before I arrived, she had an accident and broke her arm and wrist very badly. During my first week we had so many people visiting from the neighborhood, dropping off food for her and fixing things around the house that she hardly had time to worry about her condition. I have never seen such a caring community before. By now, she is almost fully recovered, which is probably because of the good care she got from her family, friends and neighbors. Furthermore, I was impressed by all the facts I learned during my conversations with Uber and Lyft drivers. They have such different backgrounds and every time I am ordering a car I am curious who will drive me this time and what his or her story is.
What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?
The weather. One day it was freezing cold, around -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). The next day the temperatures were as high as on a summer day back at home in Hamburg and we were able to sit on the banks of the Potomac in T-shirts. That was more than confusing. Also on a more professional level, the very political vibe in D.C. surprised me. I did expect the city to be political, but I never experienced a place where political opinions were discussed so openly even in small talk. That is something I had to get used to at first, but it also led to a lot of interesting conversations that I would not want to have missed. Maybe I will take some of the vibe back with me to Germany and “spice up” some of my conversations there a little bit…
What do you miss about Germany?
Spending an afternoon with my family and friends in one of my favorite coffee spots in Hamburg and to cycle to work every morning with my Dutch Bike.
What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?
It was very impressive to see how many different means of diplomacy there are. Apart from the communication among diplomats, so many important messages are also sent through cultural and other rather informal events, for example. It basically already starts by just being – and staying – curious about other cultures and by looking for meaningful dialogues with one another.
Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?
I will go back to Germany to finish my legal traineeship. After that, I will see what the future holds for me…