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11 Day to Day at State: Managing Projects

My internship overlapped with a fall intern who had gotten a late start because his security clearance had been delayed. He did not get a chance to finish a project he was working on before he left, so I took over for him.

Each year, the Secretary of State holds a Chief of Mission (COM) conference for all the U.S. ambassadors and charges d'affaires in posts around the globe. The COMs all come to Washington at the same time, which offers an excellent opportunity for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to advertise our programs and connect with COMs.
My job, which I took over from the previous intern, was to finish updating country cards for the COM conference. Country cards provide a brief overview of ECA programs in each country to the Assistant Secretary, which she can then use to orient meetings with COMs. Updating the country cards for every country in the world was a daunting task, and involved meticulously formatting each card to provide quick readability, uniformity of formatting, and the most vital information on one small card. Everyone works on a deadline, but some are more malleable than others. In this case, the COM conference, to quote one of my favorite shows, “is immovable.” This was my first time racing against a deadline with a quite large, if straightforward, task. I managed, just barely, and with some help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your colleagues or tell them if you can’t manage a task.

In the end, I also got the chance to volunteer at the COM conference, a quintessentially intern duty, where I not only helped COMs navigate to their meetings, but made friendships with some other interns at State.

Another time-sensitive task I worked on was an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) tasker (a ‘tasker’ is State Department speak for a job assigned to a specific office due by a specific date). The OIG conducts inspections of different posts every year to make sure that posts make good use of taxpayer money. As part of the inspections, the OIG evaluates ECA equities at posts, such as State Department-funded American Spaces (centers that educate foreigners about American values and way of life around the globe). The Policy Office, as with other matters, serves as the liaison between the bureau and the OIG. I tasked out OIG surveys to program offices in the bureau, had to make sure program offices responded to the questionnaire, and then had to review the responses, making sure that the formatting was uniform and nothing out of the ordinary stood out.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the growing role of the coronavirus outbreak on the day-to-day of everyone in my office during my internship. As the outbreak hit China and moved to other countries, the bureau formed a working group to respond to the impact on ECA programs and participants around the world. I was a member of the working group, providing notes on all the meetings and helping with the logistics of organizing the meetings. I got a direct insight into how the State Department handles a crisis, and all I can say is that I am impressed.
In the next posts, I’ll try, key word, try, to wrap up my ramblings on what I worked on during my internship.

Next week: Final word on tasks.

Interning at State