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“So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen”

August 24, 2012

Maggie and Katherine in Strasbourg

After 12 weeks of interning at the U.S. Consulate General in Strasbourg, all I can seem to think is “Wait…there’s no way it’s over.” The time has flown by, and I can hardly believe that in a few short days I will be boarding a plane to return to the country that I have spent the past 3 months representing. I have no regrets, however (except maybe that I don’t get to stay for another 8 weeks or so). 

Whether I was sitting in on meetings of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe (a pan-European human rights organization) with the Consul General, tagging along to a Spanish fiesta at the Eurocorps headquarters, or sitting at my desk composing press reports for the daily newspaper, I never stopped having a blast and, more importantly, never stopped learning about all the little details behind what it is to work as a US diplomat in France. In addition, working in Strasbourg allowed me to dabble in a variety of things – not only did I get to help out with Consular activity, but I had the opportunity to work in PD (Public Diplomacy, for the uninitiated), to work in the front office, to interact with the U.S. military, to help plan a visit by a Congressional delegation, to go up to Paris to visit the Embassy, and to observe the inner-workings of an international organization. A girl can’t really ask for more.

Of course, certain events stand out a bit more than others – the weeklong Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session in June, for example, is a particular favorite of mine. Four, 10-hour days in the Palais d’Europe  that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. How often can someone say that they saw, in person, the Prime Ministers of Albania and Croatia, the Minister of Economic Affairs of Iceland, and the President of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, all within a week? Not to mention the privilege of observing debate on an impressive range of subjects between some of the brilliant and passionate members of that body.

All work and no play is not my style, however. As they say in French, “il faut profiter!” – and I certainly did. I squeezed in a bit of travel and exploration – Paris, Prague, the wine route in Alsace, and of course Europa-park in Germany. I made new friends, who made sure I got out into the city, introduced me to some of the best places to find cheap (but delicious) meals, and invited me over for dinner. And Strasbourg itself is a beautiful city. I often took the opportunity to go for a walk or run along any of the many canals, to enjoy a picnic at the Orangerie, to climb up the impressive cathedral, or to go to one of the many different markets on a Saturday morning.

Back to the office, however, because there is no way I can talk about my internship without mentioning the incredible team, headed up by Consul General Mr. Evan Reade, who works at the Strasbourg Consulate. These are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and good-humored people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Whether preparing for a visit by a congressional delegation, setting up (and tearing down) our 4th of July party, driving through the hills and cornfields of the region to arrive at an event, or just making sure that the office keeps running day in and day out, they approach every task with enthusiasm and competence. I cannot thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to work here for the summer.

It has been an honor and a privilege to spend these past months in Strasbourg, and I am already busy plotting my return.

A bientôt!

Katherine

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