Student Blog: Interning at the Canadian Embassy
another busy week in washington!
by Cyle Petersen '10
After a much needed weekend off, Monday morning had come around again. It's always nice to have a few days off but I actually look forward to going to my internship every morning. The people are all so nice and laid back so it makes it fun to work there. I didn't have any work leftover from the previous week and my bosses were all pretty busy taking care of their overloaded e-mail accounts so I didn't do a whole lot of important Canadian Embassy stuff, but with a midterm looming on Wednesday night, I was not complaining. I got to study quite a bit at work so I felt a little better about my preparation for the test since there is such minimal extra time otherwise to hit the books. I guess the highlight of the day would have to have been getting to meet one of the three Ministers in the Canadian Embassy. The Ministers are the officials that are right below the Ambassador in the chain of command. When I sit and think about
the people I am seeing and meeting, it feels pretty ironic because only a few weeks ago I was sitting at home across the continent seeing some of these very same people on TV. Well, I didn't have much time for daydreaming about what I had seen on TV a week or two prior because I had to dart back to Georgetown to get to my 3-hour class. It seems pretty funny that my most relaxing part of the day is being able to just stand (or sit if very lucky) on the Metro without having to do too much of anything. Sometimes this isn't even possible because I have to use my travel time to do my reading for class. Ay ay ay.
Tuesday's pace was much busier than Monday's from the very beginning. I was already scheduled to go to one of the House of Representatives buildings to attend a hearing being held by the Natural Resources Committee. Although I had never heard of any of the Representatives in the meeting, it was still interesting to go despite what many would call a boring topic ... "The Effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle On the West." I actually chose to go this hearing (haha) because I am going to be writing my Honors Thesis on an ongoing trade dispute between the United States and Canada that is linked to the topic. Anyways, after two and a half hours of testimony from two panels, and two still to come, I decided I would cut my losses and head back to the Embassy before my bosses thought I had quit. The afternoon back at the Embassy consisted of me learning how to use the Embassy's Congressional database and then updating it
with new information. Not the most glamorous job, but it's a very important component of what the Embassy does because it allows visiting Canadian officials to review a Congressperson's record or stance on any particular issue before meeting with them. In any case, it's definitely necessary knowledge for any intern at the Embassy. I'm sure I will be using it a lot for the next six weeks!
Tuesday nights are the nights that the program has a guest speaker come to give a lecture on a specific subject. Tonight's speaker was Walter Williams, an extremely conservative economist who regularly substitute hosts for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show. I think you can guess the direction he took during the lecture ... right ... far right. I started out with an open mind, but I couldn't help but feel it quickly start closing. By the end of the lecture I was pretty amazed at some of Dr. William's stances, but it was a good experience to hear someone with such different views as myself (or anyone else in the room I think). The lecture was done and my study session with my neighbors across the hall was due to start. Four hours later I was fighting to stay awake and my brain was turning away all information trying to be thrown at it. I was down for the count for six hours until I needed to get up and do it all over
With not much sleep and an empty stomach I was off for work again on Wednesday. Every spare moment of the day was used to freak out about my first midterm here. Because I've never had this professor and don't know how he marks or structures exams, it was a bit scary until I could actually see it later that night. Luckily, quite a bit happened in between to make me forget about the looming examination later that night. My morning started off with a staff meeting with everyone in my department. Of course, I was the first to elaborate on what I had done since being at the Embassy a week prior. Everyone is really nice so I wasn't as nervous as I normally would have been to talk in front of a group of people. After the staff meeting I had information to add to the Congressional database, a report to proofread for one of my bosses, and research to do on
an issue that had been going through Congress for a few months. The work day had just come to a stop and now I had an hour to fret about the midterm. When I was handed the test in class I was pleasantly surprised ... not nearly as bad as I had imagined. After an hour of taking the test, the remaining two hours of the class was used to lecture. As if a midterm after a full day of work wasn't enough eh? At least it was done though!
Thursday morning started with my first of two seminars on various themes related to finding a job after college, especially in DC. This one was titled "Tips for Finding a Job in DC." A lot of the information was kind of common sense, but some was very useful. The seminar went from 8-9:30, so after a quick bite to eat, I was off to work to salvage as much of the rest of the day as I could. I got to the Embassy by 10:30, so I hadn't missed too much. Right as I walked in the door I was told I had some e-mails waiting for me so that I could get started on updating the database again. After I finished that I had to make about 30 phone calls to legislative staffers to ask them for e-mail addresses to that we could invite them to a reception. Just as I finished up the last of my routine office work, I received an e-mail from the intern coordinator with a link to her Facebook profile. The
pictures were of Reese Witherspoon, and apparently she was right outside the Embassy filming a movie. Of course, all the women in the office went running down to see firsthand, but I wasn't that excited. Still pretty cool though! I did catch a glimpse of the filming action on my way out of the Embassy to the Metro, but that's about as close as I got to it. The trek back to Georgetown was very quick today and I actually had a few free moments before I had to go to my Internship Seminar class. The class lecture was on the role and history of the press in DC. Also, I was informed that I was in the group that has to do their 20-minute presentation in a week! How great, another midterm on Wednesday and a 20-minute group presentation to work on sometime in between full-time work and 3-hour classes and lectures. I guess I knew this when I signed up for it! Oh well, the weekend was here for me, minus one more 3-hour class
the next morning.
Class was pretty routine Friday morning, but we did get our grades from our midterm back. 87 made me pretty content and less fearful of the next exam as well. Okay, now the weekend was here. I had already planned to go to Pennsylvania for the weekend to visit with my friend so I awaited her arrival to pick me up. Long story short ... we had another episode of "Lost in DC." Trial and error is the only way I guess. We did escape, and I returned safely. Another successful and busy week in DC is coming to a close ... hopefully I will be saying the same thing next week!