What I Did in a Past Summer

Summer always seems like the best time for the blog to introduce our staff to future applicants and students.  For this warm mid-August week, I’ve asked my admissions pals to describe one of the jobs that kept them busy in a previous summer.

Kristen gets the prize for classiest job.

One of my most interesting summer jobs was as an intern in the Books and Manuscripts department of Sotheby’s. While the title makes it sound dusty and dull, the pieces that came through the office were anything but.  Just before I started, Sotheby’s held the auction of the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  I was shocked to learn that even the simplest or strangest of items — the President’s leg braces, for instance — commanded the highest of prices.  And so began my education.  I was able to see a Napoleonic-era Treaty that was in the midst of an international police investigation.  I talked to countless people who knew that they — without a doubt, no questions asked — had an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.  (No, they didn’t, but they were likely inspired by this story.)  And I got to see countless fine antiquarian books, famous and esoteric, come in for evaluation.  It was a summer that took me out of my reality.  And as with any experience that removes you from your day-to-day rhythms, I was reminded of all the unique subcultures, idiosyncratic enthusiasts, and deep wells of knowledge that exist out there in our fascinating world.

All that said, nothing had a bigger impact on me than my summer job at a movie theater.  It gave me:  a) a deep appreciation for customer service; b) an excitement for the college days that lay ahead; and c) an enduring distaste for movie theater popcorn.  All invaluable in their own ways!

And Peter gets the prize for most international summer job.

More than a decade ago, I spent the summer living in a small town in Southwestern France teaching English, leading activities, and coaching sports for French children at an English and cultural-immersion summer camp in the Pyrenees Mountains.  It was modeled after the typical American summer camp:  boys and girls “cabins” (in this case, dorm rooms in a converted convent), sports and activities, trips to the pool, etc. with a few cultural quirks thrown in.  The students had to attend English classes twice a day (French kids, like most other kids I know, do not like attending classes in the summer), and each day was inspired by an American holiday or theme, such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, or The Wild West.  The campers played flag football, made dreamcatchers in arts and crafts, and were served “American” food (hamburgers, pizza, tacos, turkey, etc.) prepared by a French chef.  It was an interesting concept, but it was a bit surreal to find myself teaching baseball on an old field, surrounded by an ancient stone wall down the street from a crumbling chateau, or to watch a group of French children practice their country-western line dancing in an old French convent.

Meanwhile, Roxana has the most Fletcheresque summer experience.

While I was in college, my parents were living overseas, and every summer I would fly to where they were located. The summer after my freshman year, I was able to lounge around the house for about three days — just long enough for my jetlag to disappear — before my dad told me I had to apply for one of the summer internship positions at the Embassy.  I was not looking forward to being a “gofer” for Foreign Service Officers all summer.  As it turned out, I was more than a gofer, since the summers are when there’s high Embassy staff turnover, and they needed help filling in for the missing personnel.  I actually had a lot of fun…despite having to get up at 5 a.m. when my dad went in for an early shift.  (I’d take a two-hour nap on the couch in his office until it was time for me to start work.)  I got to meet interesting people, look at cool passports from different countries while helping process visas, and see how we deal with fraudulent visa cases.  I helped plan the annual Fourth of July Banquet and participated in the menu tasting (yummy!), and also dealt with the stress of a computer program that kept corrupting the 1,000+ name guest list.  I nursed my paper-cuts from stuffing the guest invitations and enjoyed the staff BBQ’s.  My list of assigned tasks took me through the summer and made me look forward to working there again the three following summers.  Overall, the exposure to the ins and outs of a U.S. Embassy was a wonderful experience and has helped me in my work. But, thank goodness, I don’t have to get up at 5 a.m. anymore.

Later this week:  Summers at the beach or around the pool.

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