The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Elizabeth Bertasi '15

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our "Notes from the Field" series. Click here to read more about the Rockefeller Center's Internships program. To read the entire series, click here.

Student Intern: Elizabeth Bertasi ‘15

Internship Organization: U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Italy – Rome, Italy

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?  
I'm working at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. They are a part of the U.S. Department of State, in charge of managing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Italy on behalf of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government. The American Diplomats who work here meet with Italian government officials and other country leaders to promote American interests abroad. I am in the Economic Section, which encourages economic cooperation between the two countries. 

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization? 
I help the economics section wherever they need it - whether it be taking notes, writing memos, or doing research. It's great because I get to help a little bit with each different portfolio, so I am getting to experience all different aspects of economic foreign policy.  

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?  
I was mostly excited and I little bit nervous before I arrived. Once I got there, I was completely overwhelmed - the Embassy is absolutely beautiful, but huge, and there was a lot to remember! I remember being given a tour by the woman who coordinates all the intern check-ins, and in the middle of the tour she says "Good morning, Mr. Ambassador"- my very first day of work, we basically ran right into him! 

What is your favorite part of the internship so far? 
I have gotten to do some really incredible things already. I served in Secretary of State John Kerry's motorcade when he visited the Vatican in January, which was really amazing. I've gotten to attend really interesting meetings and summits on economic policy, such as one on intellectual property rights at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I also got to go witness the Ambassador and the Italian Minister of Finance sign the FATCA agreement on my third day of work! It was a fascinating experience. My favorite part, however, has been the "courtesy calls" the Embassy has organized for all the interns. We get to sit down and meet with the heads of all the different sections of the Embassy, and we had lunch with the Deputy Chief of Mission, which was a really informative and fun meeting. 

What challenges have you faced so far?  
It can be tough coming into a workplace that is in full swing knowing very little about the specific projects you are going to be working on. I was overwhelmed at first, trying to catch up on the different policies and issues the Embassy was tackling. Luckily, my supervisors are very patient and were kind enough to answer my questions and explain things to me. 

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship? 
I hope to have a general understanding of the Foreign Service and the way international relations works, and I hope to know whether or not a career in public policy and/or diplomacy would be right for me. 

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship? 
Don't wait until it's already raining to buy an umbrella, high heels and cobblestones are a bad combination, and if you are unsure about something, ask!

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences