Getting Started at State

I’d been thinking about this sticky summer morning for over ten months. After going through the equivalent of airport security, I had finally done it. I was inside the lodestar of American diplomacy: the Department of State.

The main building — called the Harry S. Truman — is even more labyrinth-like than I’d expected. Perhaps it’s the physical manifestation of the bureaucracy it represents: the Department is divided into different bureaus, and within each bureau are different offices. I am interning with the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO), and within that, the Office of Regional Policy Coordination (RPC). This office focuses on the United States’ relationship with a host of international and multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and G-7. It’s also in charge of the Multilateral Moneyball project, which focuses on analyzing international relations quantitatively. This summer, my work will in part specifically focus on this project. I’m really looking forward to seeing how data analytics can inform foreign policy decision-making.

I’d also like to better understand the workplace environment at the State Department. I’m very interested in a career in public service, but I’m not sure where my values, interests, and skills are best suited. I’d also like to better understand how State Department staff enact policy under administrations whose politics they may or may not agree with. What are the lines between personal politics and public duty?

The interactions I’ve had with the very kind and hardworking people in my office have already been illustrative and invaluable. Everyone in my office is friendly and approachable; I’m lucky to have multiple mentors here. After a few days in the office, the learning curve still seems steep: there are more acronyms than I’d ever imagined could exist. I’m still getting into all of the systems — receiving my own email, setting up my own phone, making up passwords for all of the accounts I’ll need access to. I have my own cubicle, and, thankfully, there are two other interns in my office who have been here longer than I. They’ve been instrumental to my smooth on-boarding process.

I’m thrilled to start my internship. It was a longer process to finally walk through the doors of the Department of State than I’d even anticipated. The process started at the very beginning of my fall semester, when I applied through the federal website with a few essays and the selection of three bureaus. I had phone interviews with several potential supervisors, and by early November I accepted a preliminary offer, dependent on the approval of my security clearance. The security clearance process was another application — with hundreds of pages of online paperwork — and I was given mine only right before I started work. I also, of course, applied to the WOW, to be able to do an unpaid internship.

Many thanks to the benefactors of the WOW fellowship, who have made this whole experience possible through funding  — without them, I would not be here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.

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