August 22, 2012
Katie Miller was a state department intern with Tri-Mission to France at the U.S. Consulate in Strasbourg, France. The U.S. Consulate is primarily responsible for American citizen services, public outreach, and promoting American interests and relations abroad. The Strasbourg U.S. Consulate is also the permanent observer to the Council of Europe, which consists of 47 member states and focuses on human rights. Katie's duties ranged from staff meetings and drafting press reviews to attending meetings of the COE and participating in ceremonies commemorating the two World Wars. A French and International Relations double major from Toledo, Ohio, Katie received support for her internship though a Richter grant.
Tell us more about your internship and day-to-day experiences.
When I first arrived at the end of May, I was primarily involved in collecting and collating information on the Council of Europe (COE) to create a sort of "guidebook" for the foreign service officers who cycle through the consulate every couple of years. I also attended weekly Council of Ministers meetings at the COE, sometimes in the company of the consul general and sometimes on my own when he had other engagements. I have helped to draft a few cables, which are reports sent off (in my case) to various European capitals as well as Washington D.C.
When the Parliamentary Assembly was in session, I attended every single plenary session as well as some committee sessions (essentially spending 8-10 hours per day in meetings). I had the incredible opportunity of hearing different heads of governments speak and witness first-hand how representatives from different (and sometimes disputing) countries interact. I also personally drafted the summary report of the week-long session, recapping debates and resolutions on a variety of issues, from democratic transition in Tunisia, to the impact of austerity measures on human rights, to the situation of the Roma in Europe.
Since the COE has gone on summer break, my routine has changed. I now do the press review of our local newspaper for the Consulate (meaning that I read the entire paper and recap, in English, those articles that are of a particular interest to us). I've also been responsible for some French-English translations, as well as arranging the consul general's visit to various locations in France and Germany.
How did you learn about this opportunity?
I actually learned about this internship from Daniel Beers, assistant professor of political science. He sent the link to the application around in 2010, my sophomore year. I applied then, and was not selected to participate. When he sent the link again in 2011, I decided to give it another go and made it in this time.
How have your classroom experiences at Knox benefitted you in the internship?
The ability to work in a self-directed manner, which has been essential in my studies at Knox, has been incredibly helpful in allowing me to take projects with sometimes vague outlines and create something tangible and beneficial. My participation in the Besancon study-abroad program has allowed me to achieve a level of French that makes my work at the Consulate much, much easier and allows me to contribute a great deal more than I otherwise might have.
How do you think this internship will benefit you in terms of your future career?
This internship has given me a first-hand glimpse of what life in the foreign service is like, and as the foreign service is a career that I have been seriously considering for some time, this has been incredibly beneficial. I'm also learning how to navigate the bureaucracy that comes with working in government. It's also allowed me to continue using and developing my French, which I find absolutely essential, and has me the chance to build confidence in my own abilities and work on projects independently.
What has been the coolest part of your internship?
I would be hard-pressed to pick a single event that could qualify as the "coolest" part of my internship. I retain great memories of my first day when I showed up (less than 24 hours after arriving back in France from the U.S.) expecting to spend the day at my desk just trying to orient myself, and instead ended up going to a Council of Ministers meeting, attending a Spanish fiesta at the Eurocorps headquarters, and then witnessing the signing of a "pact of friendship" between the various religious leaders of Strasbourg in the Hotel de Ville. Another treasured memory is hearing the minister of economic affairs in Iceland, the prime ministers of Albania and Croatia, and the president of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly all speak. I would never have imagined being able to participate in that. Additionally, just this past Friday I got to go up to the embassy in Paris and meet with several high-ranking, very-experienced foreign service officers, as well as the ambassador and deputy chief of mission.