“Men wanted: for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success”–Sir Ernest Shackleton
This past week marked the true beginning of my summer in London. Summer still seems to be an inappropriate term for what I’m experiencing as the daily weather struggles to break the 70 degrees mark.
On Tuesday I started my internship with the U.S. Commercial Service at the American Embassy in London. I had sort of been putting off the internship in my mind as I had been constantly on the move since finishing my courses at the end of April. With all of the traveling, moving into my new flat, and going home for Dan’s wedding, I had sort of disregarded the fact that the majority of the rest of my time in London would be at the Embassy. So when I arrived back in London from my 2 week stay back home in the states I frantically tried to catch up on sleep and make sure that everything would be ready for my first day.
Since I have to keep a journal of my daily activities for Richmond’s intern program I won’t go into too much detail about everything I do at work since I’ve already had to write it down. Instead I’ll summarize my findings and experiences into something not quite as formal as “today I did this, tomorrow I’ll do that.”
Let me just get this out of the way and say that I think it’s really cool to work at the embassy. Each day I arrive and flash my badge to the security team, walk right past the line of visa applicants, say hello to whoever is manning the front security desk and enter my pin code to access the building. I’m sure I’ll be over it at the end of my internship, but for now this little daily routine has been serving as a big ego boost.
I won’t get into the details of what the embassy is like on the inside because God forbid I accidentally disclose something I wasn’t supposed to. I’ve been following pretty religiously dcinterns.blogspot.com for advice and pointers on what not to do, and accidentally talking about stuff I’m not supposed to discuss is probably a big no-no. I’ll just say that the embassy in London is the largest in western Europe and it really is a small city inside. I just signed up for a membership with the embassy’s gym so I won’t have to keep shelling out money for Club Kensington. The embassy’s rate of £10 a month for gym use is way cheaper than any other place in London.
When I first got this internship I was happy to know that I had a place to work this summer but I wasn’t so sure how beneficial it would be to my future career goals. The mission of the Commercial Service is to promote American exports and British investment in the U.S. and I was struggling to reconcile that mission with the political goals I want to accomplish when I enter the workforce. I have to say though that after my first week I was very surprised by how much of the work I’m doing with the Commercial Service will translate to my future job search. The FCS (government abbreviation for my office) essentially straddles both the private and public sectors and has thus been able to offer me experience in both fields. For example, I recently had to draft a briefing on the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) for a defense contractor in the U.S. so that they could ensure their compliance with what is really a complex and confusing set of regulations. The section chief of my office was a former diplomat with the State Department and basically did what I want to do. So I’m looking forward to developing a rapport with him over the next few months to better understand what to expect and how to accomplish my goals.
In short, this week’s work at the embassy has been a much needed confidence boost for when I conclude my time in London and move back to the U.S. in pursuit of employment. I’ll be sure to seize every opportunity that presents itself while I’m working with the FCS and hopefully I’ll meet the right people to know. I’m very excited about the next couple of months even though they’ll be full of long days and the weekends will be largely spent on writing my dissertation. This is what I signed up for!