Student Blog: Interning at the Canadian Embassy
part 2 of my 8 week program
by Cyle Petersen '10
Monday morning seemed a bit odd because I hadn't gotten up early to go to work since the previous Tuesday, which preceded my 5-day weekend that included Canada Day and the 4th of July! Nonetheless, it was back to the grind for another week.
My fellow intern from the Congressional and Legal Affairs Department at the Embassy wasn't coming in until Tuesday since she went home to Ontario for the long weekend, so I had to hold down the fort for the day. Unsurprisingly, I was swamped with clerical work for the day since I was forced to handle the other intern's small assignments as well. I guess I can't complain because she covers me every Friday since I have class in the morning and don't go into work at all. The day actually flew by because I was so busy, even though it may not have been the most interesting work. Monday was the typical "intern" day. It was okay though because Monday night was the first day of my new class! If you can't tell I was being sarcastic. The new class is called "Transformation of American Politics" which is closer to my comfort zone that Comparative Economics was. Unfortunately, class went
the full 3 hours, plus a couple extra minutes. Unlike our teacher last month, I think this professor is going to go right to the 3 hour maximum every class period. The first class was a bit repetitive for me since I have taken so many Political Science courses at Catawba, but looking at the syllabus, I think this course is going to be quite a bit different as the short, 9-class semester moves on.
On Tuesday, one of my bosses assigned the other intern and I Senate and House hearings to attend for the rest of the week. Since August recess is fast approaching and both chambers are trying to push a lot of legislation through in a very short amount of time before then, it's going to be really busy for us this month. I was assigned two hearings Wednesday morning at 9 and 10 and then one more on Thursday at 1:30. The rest of the day Tuesday the other intern and I finished up the load of clerical work we had to do and then I continued on with my project of updating the Congressional database. My job is to go through every Senator and Representative on about six different committees and find the last five times he or she met with someone from the Canadian Embassy or attended some sort of reception and then compound that information into brief sentences and post it
under that Congressman or woman's profile in the database. It's a very tedious job, but I am about two thirds of the way done so it shouldn't be too much longer. After work Tuesday night, I used my one extra hour during the whole week to run to the grocery store before the lecture that night. Every other night I have to be back for a class or something by 6 but on Tuesdays it isn't until 7 so that's the only time I have until Friday afternoon to get food or any other necessities. Tuesday night is when the weekly Judd Lecture Series takes place. This week's speaker was former Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriego. Coincidentally, the lecture topic this week was closely related to the current political crisis in Honduras, a country which Mr. Noriego is an expert on. In addition to giving us all valuable insight into the crisis in Honduras, Mr. Noriego also talked about U.S. relations
with many other Western Hemispheric countries, which was very interesting. Oddly enough, I would hear more about this topic the very next day...
The first hearing I had to go to on Wednesday was at 9AM so I didn't even go to the Embassy beforehand. I left at about 7:20 so I could get there early to wait in what I hoped would be a short line. I arrived by 8AM and was 4th in line. Lucky for me I got there early because the line proceeded to stretch down the whole hallway. The hearing was held by the Senate Foreign Relations committee and its topic was State and Diplomatic Nominations. Ironically, after sitting through a lecture from the former Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, I was now sitting through the confirmation hearing for the nominated person for the very same role. In addition to this nomination, the Ambassadors to Brazil, Mexico, and Haiti were also being confirmed. The only one that was any concern to the Canadian Embassy was the Undersecretary of State so I
only stayed through his confirmation before I left at around 9:45 to hopefully catch my 10AM hearing. I caught the elevator two floors down only to find that the hearing on International Trade and Climate Change being held by the Senate Finance committee had already been opened and there was still a lineup outside the door. Soon after I got in the line, the congressional assistant came out and told us all that the hearing was at maximum capacity and we wouldn't be able to get it. With that, I headed back to the Embassy a little disappointed as this was the more important hearing of the two and I am going to be writing a report up on this one next week. I got back just in time to attend my first, section staff meeting. The other staff meetings I had been to in weeks prior was just our department that consists of about 10 people, this one consisted of two Minister and four Departments. The ritual is supposed to be that interns are called out at the meeting
to introduce themselves, but luckily the Minister who headed the meeting didn't realize that this was my first big staff meeting, so he didn't make me stand up and introduce myself.
After lunch, the rest of the day was spent doing research on the hearing that I had missed earlier that morning and on the one I was going to the next day: the House Financial Services committee hearing on the Independence of the Federal Reserve. The subcommittee on Monetary Policy is actually chaired by Representative Watt from North Carolina. The highlight of my week had to have been getting a briefing with the Ambassador of Canada to the United States. He met with all the interns and answered our questions in the top floor boardroom, which we are never allowed to go to. The view from the top floor of the Embassy overlooking the Capitol is amazing compared to the views on all the other floors. It was pretty cool to say that I've met the Ambassador! Anyways, back to my schedule. After work on Wednesday I returned home to Georgetown to get to class. Our normal professor had previous arrangements so could not be there so
we had a guest professor from Virginia Tech, along with his Ph.D. student who taught the second half of the class. Luckily, since the Ph.D. student didn't have that much teaching experience, we got out half an hour early because she moved pretty quickly through her presentation! Not to celebrate at this woman's expense, but every extra minute of the day I can squeeze out of what would normally be sitting in class, is a big bonus!
Thursday morning, I had a briefing at the World Bank through my program here at Georgetown, not the Embassy. My roommates all had the same briefing so we trekked off together to get to the WB headquarters downtown. The speaker was a very entertaining Brazilian woman who was pretty knowledgeable about the goings on at the WB so it was very informative. The WB headquarters itself is a very modern looking building which was a change of pace from many other DC sights that are very traditional with marble door frames and wall trim. After the presentation I headed off to get some lunch and then proceeded straight to The Hill to get in line for the hearing I was to attend that afternoon. I wasn't about to miss another hearing this week! I got there in lots of time, in fact, the preceding meeting chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, was still going on from 10AM. I
sat, first in line at the door, waiting to get in for almost 2 hours since it started late due to the length of the other hearing that started that morning. Finally, the meeting was set to begin and I was sandwiched in between a group of high school kids on a field trip. Just my luck! The hearing went through opening statements by Chairman Watt, and Ranking Member Ron Paul before the buzzers rang for all members to go to the Capitol building to make floor votes. I didn't know how long this would take but I figured since I already missed out on a hearing the day before, I should stick around and try to hear as much as I could. The committee returned in about an hour and the question and answer period began on Vice-Chairman Kohn of the Federal Reserve, somewhat of a celebrity in his own right. This was definitely the most entertaining hearing so far because Rep. Paul, a libertarian-type Republican who advocates very little government intervention
in the economy, argued with Kohn about why the Federal Reserve should receive even more power. The proposal by President Obama is to give regulating power to one, central organization, the Federal Reserve being the most obvious choice as it already coordinates monetary policy in the country. I sat through most of the Q & A for Vice-Chairman Kohn before I had to leave to get back to Georgetown for my Thursday night class, Internship Seminar. Class on Thursday is somewhat of a relief since they are only an hour and a half as opposed to three hours. It seems funny to me that I could hardly stand 75 minute classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Catawba and now I'm relieved when my classes here are only 90 minutes. Hopefully that will make things seem easier when I get back to Catawba in the fall!
Friday marked the third meeting of my new class. Time really flies here during the week. It's kind of mind boggling to think that I attend the same class 9 hours every week! Once again, with the return of our normal professor, class went 5 minutes over the 3 hour period it's supposed to. It doesn't bother me as much when this happens on Fridays because I have the rest of the day to as I please. I finally had time to run a few errands Friday afternoon, some of which I had been meaning to do for about two weeks! I returned home later that afternoon and could finally relax! I was planning to meet up with some of the friends I have met since being here later tonight.
The rest of the weekend was mostly just relaxing and walking around Georgetown and a few areas close by to explore. I'm expecting a very busy week next week, with 2 reports to write and probably several other hearings to attend!