I feel I cannot fully express how much this internship meant to me, how much it enriched me both professionally and socially. It made for a thrilling, unforgettable experience whose effects will surely continue to unfold throughout my career.
I learned how to employ my knowledge in every day work and the economic and public policy theory that I felt had been instilled through my ear all throughout college was given a new meaning. Barriers to trade, standards, corporate strategies, market segmentation, consumer expectations, they all meet in the complex arena that a market economy entails, and influence down to the very core the “hot” conundrum of international business relations and, ultimately, foreign affairs. The tedious subtleties of theory gain in shape and color as I acknowledged how important the mere technique of putting together a company profile or which of the myriad definitions of an economic notion or phenomenon to use in the Country Commercial Guide may be.
However, there is also another face of the much vexed theory-practice relationship that I have become aware of during my internship. Only after you have followed through, to the very end, all the theoretical implications, and none of the research conducted could offer you any explanation for a certain figure in a table or a chart, or for a sudden change in a trend, only then, do you actually start to think.
Last but not least, there are the lessons in leadership, which made this internship truly unique. As the only intern to the entire US Commercial Service team, I had to deal with multiple superiors. The distinct nature of their work required that I met different demands and distinct agendas for each one of them. Benefiting from an incredibly dedicated and avuncular team, I learned how to deal with these Multiple Independently Ruling Voices. Following the atomic arms race analogy, the key to success in this environment as well, is not entirely about mathematic precision and increased dynamics. I have learned how to differentiate between the virtual importance the person demanding a certain task attaches to its completion and the real importance that has in the overall work of the entire team. I have also realized that honest and consistent upward disclosure of your current tasks, in a MIRV like environment, benefits both your bosses, helping them keep a birds-eye view of the issues at hand, as well as yourself, by ensuring you keep a proper and well prioritized workload.
But perhaps the oldest, most enduring principle in leadership is to “sharpen your sword before you draw it.”
There are probably no other fields thought of as being more opaque to the "untrained eye" than international affairs and business. As a student of these subjects, you continuously feel that there is a certain part left out in every lecture, a secret that separates those that make it form the rest. As this internship made me realize, the secret is experience and firsthand knowledge and, in what concerns them both, there is no other experience that helped me grow more than this one.
What most dismiss as the "invisible hand", the "backstage practicalities", the "inherent realities" supporting a business decision, an event or a shift in strategy are actually very finely tuned mechanisms, oiled with knowledge. They feed on the effort, dedication and allegiance of truly incredible individuals. International affairs is all about real people doing real things that really matter.
I cannot think of another more thrilling, rewarding, thorough experience that I undergone which has made me feel better prepared to face the jungle of international affairs than my internship within USCS Romania. I full heartedly recommend this internship program to all students attempting to pursue a career in the field of international relations.