Michelle Peasley is a senior majoring in Security & Intelligence. She was selected for a U.S. Department of State internship in Vienna, Austria. Here is her story about her internship experience!
“Growing up, I had always dreamed of living abroad. Europe especially sounded like so much fun and the U.S. seemed so boring. So, when I got my chance this spring semester, I jumped on it. I heard about State Department internships from a friend at work who was planning to intern in Russia. I figured that since I have taken German language courses since high school, I would apply to intern in Austria. I was very excited when I received the offer to intern with the U.S. Embassy in Vienna’s Public Affairs section.
The application and security clearance took a while, but upon reaching Vienna, it was all worth it. Wanting to go in with an open mind, I barely did any research about where I was going to be spending the next three months. In hindsight, that was probably not the best idea, but it all worked out and I am loving my time in Vienna. When I first got here, I was admittedly terrified and spent the first few days forcing myself not to get on a plane to return home. Thankfully, I got past that, and I am very glad I did.
Something that really helped was the surprise of there being so many local staff members as opposed to American Foreign Service officers. I had not expected that, but it was great having people who really know the area giving you suggestions on places to go, what places to skip, and helping you practice the language.
I started my internship during a very busy time for the Public Affairs section due to a major anniversary: the 175th anniversary of U.S.–Austria diplomatic relations. They were in the middle of planning a large gala to commemorate this event. They had an exhibit and book mostly complete, but I was able to help quite a bit with the video. All of these materials were used at the gala which was one of the most exciting and also nerveracking experiences that I have had. While I was there working, I had plenty of time to talk with attendees and to get some refreshments. It was quite the experience to be getting a glass of water and having the President of Austria standing next to you.
Something I have realized about being here is that while I am an intern, I am not going on coffee runs or filing stacks of memos. I have been given assignments that officers typically handle–writing letters and speeches, helping run events, and helping give presentations to name a few. Part of this comes from the idea here that being an intern is not just what we can do for the Embassy staff , but also, what they can do for us. It took me a little while to realize what exactly that meant, but I figured it out and started asking for work that interested me, allowing this internship to be a lot of fun.
Another part of why I think I was given so much to do is my experience. I had worked in a professional workplace for about two years before getting this internship, and I really think that it prepared me quite well. I knew how to write a business letter, how to handle myself in meetings and how to communicate with others. That experience seemed to allow the staff to be comfortable asking me to do more work.
Outside of work, I have had a good bit of time to explore Vienna and to travel around Europe. Getting to see everything here has been amazing and makes me wish I had more time to keep travelling. That being said, I am very glad to have had this time to work abroad as well as travel. It is a completely di ff erent experience working in another country with citizens of other countries and needing a visa to do that work.
Being abroad has been a great experience for me and I would suggest it to everyone. You get to experience a different way of life, meet new people, and test yourself in many ways. I am very glad to have been in Vienna and I am looking forward to continuing this work in the future."
Learn more about student internships with the U.S. Department of State.