Kaitlyn’s Parisian summer with the Department of State

Have I mentioned how nice it is to have students back on campus? Among the many pleasures of a fully-populated Fletcher is the return of our Student Stories bloggers. In the coming months you’ll be introduced to our group of new first-year blog contributors; in the meantime, it’s nice to catch up with what our continuing student writers have been up to over the summer. First up is Kaitlyn, whose summer in Paris with the Department of State is enough to cause a pang of jealousy in even the most stoic reader.

This summer, I capped off my first year at Fletcher with a 10-week internship in Paris, France, working for the US Department of State. I was the senior intern at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO, and whether I was working in the office or at UNESCO for the day attending meetings, I loved every second of it. The main Embassy in Paris may be huge, but the Mission office was very small, which meant I got to know the smaller staff well. I was able to work very independently and, at times, manage projects being done by the whole intern team.

UNESCO HQ
UNESCO headquarters

During my ten weeks in Paris, I spent half my time at UNESCO’s headquarters at meetings, and the other half working at the Mission office. That meant I got to experience the inner workings of both the State Department as well as a UN organization; it was a great mix as I considered what kind of career I want to pursue after Fletcher, and what kind of work environment I’m looking for.  I also got to take advantage of several professional development events hosted by the embassy. One of the best was Intern Day, where we could network with the other interns and embassy staff and learn about the different State Department career paths. A close second was the Women’s Leadership Lunch. Both events helped me clarify what I wanted my professional career to look like, and particularly what realities I would face if I entered the Foreign Service. Towards that end, the Foreign Service Officers I worked with were great mentors to me, and their passion for their work was inspiring. They confirmed for me that pursuing a future in the Foreign Service was the right path for me. As of now I’ve committed to taking the Foreign Service exam next month (fingers crossed) which will kick off the whole long process. I can’t wait.

It strikes me as I reflect on the summer that in many ways the culture of US Embassy Paris and the US Mission to UNESCO felt very much to me not like a staff, but a community. I haven’t gotten to work in many places that felt like a community to me. And I’m very grateful I got to spend ten weeks as a part of that one. From day one, I felt welcomed and at home.

By far the best experiences of my internship were volunteering at the US Embassy’s 4th of July party and planning the 4th of July party hosted by US UNESCO. At the latter, I got to take a crack at large event planning. And at the former, I got to see one of only two original copies of the Louisiana Purchase, an important part of French-American relations (with Jefferson’s original signature on it – suffice to say my inner history geek was very, very happy).

Outside of work we had a close community amongst the embassy interns, and we went on several weekend trips together. My favorites were biking out to Les Jardins de Claude Monet and climbing up Le Tour d’Eiffel. Paris itself was an exciting place to be this summer – I’ll never forget watching people celebrate the World Cup win by dancing all night long on the rooftops.

There were some ups and downs as always. Through a series of ridiculous events, I ended up living in three different arrondissements over the ten weeks, and le canicule was a lot more heat and humidity than I’m used to. And of course: there was the food. It was very, very hard to convince myself to cook when my street was lined with traditional cafes. Between those, weekend gelato trips, and my roommate’s favorite Swiss fondue restaurant, It’s a wonder I came back with any Euros at all.

All in all I could not have asked for a more fantastic experience. It all makes me glad I started my internship search early. And I have Fletcher Career Services to thank for it. It was one of their lunch hour presentations that alerted me to the State Department’s early deadline, as well as their patient help when I needed someone to look over my resume and personal statement. Everyone should go to their presentations or drop into their office. Who knows – you too could end up spending ten fantastic weeks in Paris!

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