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.