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U.S. State Department Internships Abroad

Jobs are Available in Embassies Around the World

The State Department internship would be of interest to any student interested in foreign policy, business, environmental issues, human rights, and cultural affairs or related international issues. Positions are generally available in embassies abroad in the consular, political, economic, or public affairs sections and in various bureaus in Washington, DC. Summer internships are the most competitive, so fall or winter may be a good time to go if you can take a semester off.

Position Description: Working in a small embassy in a developing country you get exposure to many different tasks. I worked mainly on a 6-month review of the efficiency of relief efforts in El Salvador following the earthquakes in January and February 2001. I went to small towns in the countryside and interviewed mayors and other officials. I authored corresponding site-visit reports to describe the efficiency, fairness, and distribution pattern of aid resources and identified outstanding community needs. In the cultural section, I escorted visiting musicians and speakers from the U.S. and helped select Salvadoran students applying for the Fulbright program. In the press section I assisted in reviewing the daily news and briefing embassy staff, attended interviews, and authored a manual on protocol for public events. I also helped with many different press events such as donation ceremonies, signing ceremonies, and teleconferences.

Skills Needed/Eligibility: For many overseas postings, students are required to have at least intermediate ability in the local language. Both graduate and undergrad students can apply but you must be a U.S. citizen and definitely intend to return to school after the internship. In other words, you can’t do it post-graduation, and they don’t make job offers after an internship. You must go through the written and oral exam process to be hired by the Foreign Service. Consular section positions may be less competitive than political section internships. Strong interpersonal skills and an open, flexible attitude will help you work in a different culture. Some positions may require more specialized coursework in economics, international politics, or communications. Strong writing skills are required for any position.

Skills Developed: I was able to greatly improve my Spanish and had articles published in local newspapers. I learned protocol for hosting international visitors and gained invaluable experience working in a bicultural environment with many different people.

Tips for Personal Statement: One of the most important parts of the internship application is your statement of interest in which you specify which bureau(s) you are interested in working in. You will increase your chances of being selected by being flexible as to country of assignment. Find the website of the office or embassy you want to work in and specifically describe in your statement how your skills will help accomplish whatever projects they are working on. You should sound knowledgeable about the office and avoid general statements such as “I want to broaden my horizons.”

How to Apply: The application deadlines are very early and the paperwork is extensive. Apply by November 1 for summer internships, March 1 for fall term internships, and July 1 for spring term internships. Download the application and obtain more information on the process from: www.state.gov. The location of the application changes often, so you must do a search on the site.

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