Andrew S. George '03, Class of 1966 John Sloan Dickey Fellow

Summary Report

State Department Internship – Moscow

June 3-August 31, 2002

Andrew S. George


            Due to the generosity of the Dickey Center, for which I am grateful, I was able to afford to live and work from June 3 until August 31 of 2002 as an unpaid intern for the United States Department of State, at the embassy in Moscow, Russia.  I was assigned to the Environment, Science, and Technology reporting section.  This report will summarize the internship’s application process, living arrangements, and work program, as well as include general comments on its overall value.

The Application Process

            In order to apply as a summer intern at the State Department, a potential applicant must submit an application (downloadable from the Department’s website) no later than November 1 of the preceding year.  This is because all applicants must receive a Secret security clearance from the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, a process that takes a substantial amount of time.  After selection, the selectees are notified via telephone and their names are forwarded to the departmental bureaus that they specified in their applications.  Approximately half of all State Department internships are overseas; again, whether one wishes to serve overseas is specifiable in the application.  Once the names are forwarded, the individual bureaus are responsible for assigning the selected students to either work for them, or for designating which embassy they will serve at (again, applicants may request specific embassies in their applications).  Once an embassy is notified that they will be receiving an intern, the embassy’s Human Resources Office is responsible for assigning the intern duties within a specific embassy department.

            I requested in my application to be assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, at the American Embassy in Moscow, as my first choice.  I received my first choice, and was notified of this in late February of 2002.  On March 1, I was notified via e-mail that Human Resources in Moscow had assigned me to the Office of Environment, Science, and Technology, and asked to report for duty on of before June 1. 

Living in Moscow

            I arrived in Moscow Sunday, June 2, due to some visa troubles.[*]  The State Department guarantees housing for all interns overseas, and so after I was picked up the airport, I was brought to the apartment I would be sharing with 3 other interns.  This was not located on the embassy compound, but about a 35-minute commute away from it.  This undeniably led to a more interesting experience – as English is spoken at the embassy, most of my Russian speaking practice took place while shopping for food, dealing with the apartment security, and so forth.   

            The apartment was fully furnished, and provided with a refrigerator, dish washer, iron, vacuum cleaner, stove, washing machine, dryer, and microwave.  The embassy paid for all related bills.

Work Experience

Twelve interns were assigned to work at the US Embassy in Moscow this summer, more than in any year previously (only eleven reported for duty, due to the apparently insurmountable visa problems of one of the interns).  This proved to be unfortunate on some level, as it resulted in interns being assigned to sections that had little for them to do.  In addition to the Office of Environment, Science, and Technology, the following sections received interns: Political/Internal reporting, Political/External reporting, Political/Military reporting, Economic reporting, the Medical Unit[†], Public Affairs, Regional Security, Consular – Non Immigrant Visas, Consular – Immigrant Visas, and Law Enforcement.  Experiences varied.[‡]

My experience was one of the best.  It is somewhat sad to say that internships in the State Department, like with any job, are almost wholly dependent on the people you work for – whether they are pleasant to work with, give you a realistic workload, and accept your value as an employee.  I am fortunate to say that, in general, my section was pleasant to work in, gave me substantive work, and valued my output.  My only complaint was an occasional lack of work; while the work I was assigned to do was interesting and fulfilling, it came in the form of long-term projects that often left me with substantial downtime.  The last three weeks, however, were filled with work, and were by far the most enjoyable and fulfilling of the internship.

The Office of Environment, Science, and Technology (EST)

            Let me begin by saying that I came into this internship knowing next to nothing about the environment and little about science or technology.  I am a Russian Area Studies major with a concentration in Russian history, and a Government minor.  I believe I was assigned to work in EST due solely to the fact that I had recently taken Computer Science 4 at Dartmouth, an introductory course for non-majors.  However, even this limited experience proved to be of little relevance to my actual work, in the end.

            EST has two primary jobs: it reports information from and about the Russia Federation to the Russia Desk in Washington, DC, and it in turn relays information from Washington to the Government of Russia.  The issues most EST sections deal with concern the following areas: environment, science, technology, and health issues.  The Moscow EST section, however, has been assigned the somewhat inexplicable functions of managing anti-nuclear proliferation issues as well as those dealing with biological and chemical terrorism.  I was to be working primarily on these latter two issues, until something unexpected happened at the embassy in May – the officer responsible for the environment portfolio abruptly announced his resignation.

            Most of the environment portfolio fell to the next available free employee, which was I.  Therefore, most of the work I did in Russia concerned environmental issues, although I did see some action, so to speak, in the nuclear sector as well. 

            My actual responsibilities were not very different from those of a junior Foreign Service Officer.  Washington would relay a question it wanted an answer to, to my boss; she would in turn assign it to me.  I would then conduct research in a variety of ways, mostly dealing with personal interviews.  The standard formula would be to go through our office files to see if anything we already had pertained to the new question.  Then, I would ask the Foreign Service National (Russians whom the embassy pays for their expertise in certain areas) for their input.  Often, they would pull a name out of their extensive rolodexes and set up an interview for me with a Russian official or member of a Russian NGO; they would then accompany me as translators.

            I would then consolidate the resulting information into a memorandum, known as a cable, and send that to Washington over the State Department’s secure cable system.  I wrote four cables of lengths varying from 1-11 pages while in Russia.  The topics included reporting on a conference for implementing a bilateral agreement on polar bear conservation; reporting on the implementation status of the Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants; analyzing a new piece of legislation dealing with indigenous peoples’ rights in Siberia; and analyzing the organizational structure of the Ministry of Natural Resources.  I also researched the topic of environmentally friendly deputies in the State Duma; however, that cable ran into a dead end, as all of the deputies tended to be on vacation.

            In addition, a Foreign Service Officer and I worked together on an outreach project to NGO’s who took an interest in nuclear issues in Russia.  We met with several representatives of NGO’s.  The notes I took from these meetings, plus other research I conducted on this topic, will be used in a forthcoming cable about the status of nuclear NGO’s in Russia; however, the topic was too broad to be completed during my tenure. 

            My remaining duties were as follows.  I served as note-taker at various meetings.  I accompanied Foreign Service Officers on some demarches (formal-level presentations of one government’s position to another).  I served as control officer for a visiting delegation of telecom talks negotiators, including a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State; this included securing them transportation, accompanying them to various meetings and diplomatic functions, and dealing with various other logistical nightmares as they arose.  Finally, I did some of the things no one else in the office wanted to do, like searching all of our files for Enron-related documents (as per a Justice Department request).

Conclusions

            This was a vastly educational experience for me.  In addition to the reporting work I did, which will doubtless look good on resumes to those interested in such experience, I was given a very realistic and in depth view of how a US embassy functioned, and in a larger sense, how the Foreign Service and the State Department function.  I do not come back with glowing reviews for either level of government.  Yet, that somehow makes the experience more valuable, and more exciting, to me: I was not presented with a whitewash.  I saw things as they are, in the gritty reality of working in a place so stressful that the Department recently saw fit to assign it its own psychologist.[§]  This is what it is really like to work for the US government, in one of the most dynamic places in the world.

            In addition, the embassy in Moscow is home to upwards of 25 different US agencies besides the State Department, including, to name just a few: USAID, NASA, the Treasury Department, FBI, DEA, and the Department of Energy.  I saw how many of these agencies worked and functioned, giving me a better idea of where they fit in the government sprawl and also what it is like to work for them, too.

            Therefore, despite the occasional flags in actual work that I experienced, I would enthusiastically recommend this internship to anyone who is even considering working for the government.  It was truly eye opening, in ways that a 5-page report cannot even begin to enumerate.  If only it had been paid… but then, thanks to the Dickey Center, even that burden was made lighter.  Thank you again for the opportunity.

Andrew S. George

September 2002

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Andy George '03 is a Russian Area Studies major, with a minor in Government. His Russian area interests include Russian foreign policy, history, and language. He has been to Russia twice; first in the fall of 2000 on Dartmouth's foreign study program to St. Petersburg, and again this past summer to work for the US Embassy in Moscow. Andy's post-grad plans include working for a few years, to be followed by a return to school. He is originally from Connecticut.



[*] Future interns – apply early for your visa if one is needed: at least one month in advance of your departure date.

[†] The MedUnit is not an area where normal intern applicants are assigned – it is done through special joint programs with specific medical schools on an ad hoc basis

[‡] Advice for future interns: although there is nowhere to specify what office you’d like to work in on the application, try to tailor your essay and work experience so that you don’t work in the last five sections.  The interns who worked there were given little to do except grunt work, and sometimes not even that. 

[§] In addition to being one of the largest and busiest embassies in the world (if not the biggest and busiest), Embassy Moscow and its personnel still have to deal with Cold War legacies such as draconian security measures, which despite the end of the afore-mentioned conflict have been retained and even augmented due to continued surveillance of embassy business by the FSB, successor organ to the KGB.