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

Notes from the Field: Emily Estelle '15

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Emily Estelle '15

Internship Organization:
US Department of State, Bureau of International Information Systems – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
I work for the Bureau of International Information Systems, which manages the State Department's foreign-facing public diplomacy operations. My office, the Office of American Spaces, maintains over 700 spaces worldwide where people can study English, utilize print and digital resources, and learn about American culture and policy. Some of these Spaces are in embassies, while others are partnerships with schools, libraries, and other local institutions. While they do serve American citizens abroad, American Spaces really seek to connect foreign populations with America in entertaining and educational ways. The office not only maintains physical spaces abroad, but also posts thirty Information Resource Officers abroad.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My main focus in the office is applied technology, so I have been helping to manage statistics from each American Space, as well as producing new guides for the eLibrary USA website. Since it is summer conference season and a period of reorganization for the bureau, I have been working on policy documents that clarify the office's new direction for its representatives in the field. I also make briefing packets about local American Spaces for Foreign Service Officers leaving for the field.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I arrived on the first day ready to jump right in to work, but without a badge or an IT account, I couldn't even open the door to the hallway myself, much less log on to a computer. Luckily, my coworkers were happy to have me shadow them all day. Otherwise, I would have spent the day at my barely-decorated desk, alone with a blank computer screen and a picture of Secretary Kerry.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
So far, the most rewarding part of the internship has been working with the people who represent American Spaces in the field. All of the Information Resource Officers convened in Washington last week. Two weeks before that, the bureau hosted a conference for a group of foreign nationals who run American Spaces all over the world. I've been lucky to get such a good sense of the impact that American Spaces make in their host communities.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Especially during the first week, the biggest challenge was the barrage of acronyms, intranet sites, and other State Department-specific jargon that employees use amongst themselves. I was overwhelmed at first, but as I read up on the State Department and asked people to slow down and explain things to me, I found myself increasingly comfortable with the State Department's language and internal workings.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
In general, I hope to leave the Office of American Spaces feeling like I integrated myself into the office and made a significant impact there. I also want to have a clear picture of my options for working with the government in the future, so that I can develop a focused plan going into my final year at Dartmouth.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship? The best place to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July is in front of the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument. You will be close enough to feel the explosions as they go off over the Reflecting Pool. Don't worry about camping out for hours to save a good spot. If your group is small, get there by 8:30 or so and you should find enough space to stand and watch.

Go to any meetings or events to which you are invited, as long as they don't interfere with your official responsibilities. You never know what interesting people you will meet or what you will learn. I volunteered to escort a guest through the building, and ended up meeting the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, who is also the former managing editor of the New York Times.

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