2010 PFIG Recipient Kristen Gardner

Career Administrator

Kristen Gardner
College of Arts & Sciences
Foreign Affairs Major
2012 Graduation Year

Internship: Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs

Notes on the first week

My name is Kristen Gardner and I currently intern for the U.S. Department of State in Lima, Peru. I specifically work in the Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs in a drug prevention and awareness unit. The work I do because it is truly revolved around my own personal interests, as I get to create and implement my own projects.

This week was mainly about familiarizing myself with current employees, getting to know them personally and their jobs. I have gone thru and met almost everyone and sat in on meetings and had my own personal briefings set up of the many career positions that are available. I really want to find my niche and an idea of where I would like to work in the future after Law School.

My first week entailed venturing out with a few coworkers to drug prevention events at El Museo National del Peru and even a private dinner party that served as a prelude to the art event the following Saturday. The art show consisted of about 50 kids from around the city of Lima and Amazonian and indigenous areas of Peru, of whom have never been to the city/capital. They were thrilled to be here on such vocation and very excited to exercise what they do best - art. The art was absolutely breath taking, children from age 9-16 competed in an art contest from 8:30am-12 pm, painting and drawing on the given theme presented to them that same morning. The winner last year won again because his work is just THAT AMAZING. He won a laptop, college books, and mp3 player, art supplies, a backpack to carry it all, and a certificate of 1st place. I really enjoyed the chance to meet everyone and see the art being painted first hand.

I am ready for the challenges to start! So far the getting to know you portion of my job has been very interesting and very useful as I float around to different departments and start learning the duties of each position. This summer I have the goals of becoming a better writer, listener, and Spanish Speaker. I can read and write in Spanish fairly decently, but I would love to speak fluently and I challenge myself daily. It is a daily challenge as a lot of the employees speak only Spanish, so I must bring out what I know and use it the most efficient way possible to present my ideas clearly.

I have learned that time is every thing. Life revolves around perfect timing and what you make of your time, so I value time even more not to waste it and see how much I can accomplish in the given day. I look forward to travelling and writing about my travels here for my internship, as well as meeting new people and building long-lasting relationships. I have another goal of learning Spanish from my neighbor who in return wishes to learn English. We have an agreement to help one another and from this we have a pretty good friendship.

I had a great first week in Peru, it’s very pretty down here and there is tons of shopping. However, right now I am supposed to be at work but unfortunately I’m sick. It is prime time flu season down here, stay tuned. 

Midway

Today, I have been in Peru just under three days before I hit the one month mark and so far I have learned so much in relation to culture, interning, and those around me. At my place of work, there are three other interns that I did not know about until two weeks ago, as well as eight summer hires. The interns are those who are in college that applied specifically for their bureau of choice and the summer hires are young adults who are paid to work since their parents are Department of State employees. Each one of us is from and lives in different states in the U.S. and so many have lived in different countries every two years of their life. The summer hires who have lived all over the world are fluent in many languages, and for the interns being stationed in Peru, we know Spanish very well. The diversity is magnificent among this small group of colleagues and we enjoy our time together over lunch and weekend outings, meeting them and hearing their stories makes work and my time in Peru so much better and so much more personal, as I have people here my age I can relate to.

Over the past month or so, I have written two cables and now I am working on a third. A cable is an informative document that is sent to the headquarters in Washington, serving as an update or proposal for future events that are planned department-wide. One cable assignment I received was a proposal format due the same day which was somewhat challenging since it was my first writing assignment and first attempt at cable format and substance. It was somewhat intimidating, but I completed the assignment with all the notes I had from the conference call in a little over 2 hours. My boss was very pleased with my work ethic and quick turnaround that allowed her extra time to edit before sending it off. Working in narcotics in the number two country for drug trafficking and sale, it is vital to create and plan drug prevention events that promote awareness to all communities through the work of NGOs and coalitions in Peru. The first cable was for a proposal for a drug awareness event in the coming months. It feels good to be a part of the planning for such a huge, well-attended conference. The next cable assignment was for an update or what is considered a follow up from the second annual International Day Against Drugs celebration here in Lima. For this assignment, I had until the end of the week to submit a long informative piece of literature. Last year the event was held in the Plaza de Armas (Lima’s central plaza) with 400 attendees and this year, the second go around in 2010, 1500 people were present to celebrate drug awareness and prevention! Great news for our department as a sponsor! From this event, I unfortunately did not attend due to sickness, but I was able to help by organizing photos for publicity to use by adding captions and putting them in order. The cable I worked on for the International Day Against Drugs was an update cable to inform Washington on the success of the second go around this year.

This week I am starting a third project, I have tons of research, readings, and interviews to conduct in order to write an impact cable for Washington. In short, the cable I am writing is somewhat of a justification of funding for a specific drug prevention project in Peru. Unexpectedly I have about 4 meetings in regards to my project pre-planned for me where I will have to conduct interviews both in Spanish and in English to collect the information I need. I am very excited to sit down and talk with government officials about their work and drug prevention efforts across Peru.

By interning here for about a month, I truly can say this internship has positively influenced me to pursue a career in U.S. government, specializing in drug prevention tactics. There is so much value placed on the tax payer’s dollars and the use of those dollars is well-planned out not to waste a single penny and at the same time generate positive results from the anti-drug influence we create with those events. This internship has shown me the passion individuals have for reducing the drug trafficking in Peru and their work actively reflects their efforts for reduction. The work that I do is engaging, research based, and very interesting. I love the fact I get to meet new people with well-respected careers that love what they do for their country and local governments. This internship has introduced me to great people and new ways of looking at the world. I can truly say I am thankful for all that I have at home in U.S. and for the problems that are so big elsewhere we do not have to face. I look forward to meeting more political leaders, writing my own published stories, and learning life lessons through experience within the coming month.

Final Reflections

Time is nearing its end and I am preparing to wrap up all final internship projects and exit briefings for my last 7 days I have here. Since half way through this internship, I had completed a writing project and had started to work on this huge research project that outlined the purpose of an 8 year, still current project which served as a justification of funding that was sent up to Washington, DC headquarters for publishing. No pressure at all right? I will say, this project (sorry to go unnamed), has been the most difficult research based composition I have ever written in my entire life. I have never had so much pressure put on to one piece of work, but I handled it as if the President would be reading it because he very well could. Tackling this project was not easy. I project planned very strategically, outlining all those individuals I needed to interview, drafting interview questions and conversation starters, planning financially all of the meals I would have to buy these individuals as a thank you for travelling from far to talk with me, and the hours of reading in Spanish and writing in English for those workers at headquarters to read. After hours of interviewing, reading, and I would say 8 full work days of constant research, writing, interviewing, and thinking I was finished. I had this final project that was in all aspects mine. There were no co-writers, co-editors, co-anything, it was mine. Six pages of an informative impact cable that would be viewed by financial backers of this project to make sure their funds were being used adequately. This cable served as the make me or break me deal for the possible continuation of the project in years to come. This by far is the most rewarding experience I have ever had, let alone the most rewarding accomplishment by having my first small publication. Since this project I have written two more. One was a small side cable while working on the major project . The last one I am working on is a monthly report for all those who aren't working at the Embassy in Lima to know exactly what Narcotics Affairs Services has been up to for the month of June. It was more than awesome to research and collect information from each department to see their monthly activities and later draft a final publication to inform the rest of the world what has been going on in July 2010.

Personally and professionally, through the course of this internship I have grown to be more determined and more motivated over this short period of time. My capabilities, that I didn't always know were there, were able to be brought to light and thoroughly exercised. Intense writing assignments, communicating in Spanish, submitting last minute reports before their deadline, and working hard to be a positive representative for my department at public events all really molded me to see that these activities are the basis of a career I would like to have in the future. I want to be challenged in the work place while still doing the things that I love! There was never a boring moment and I wish I had more time to compose more pieces for publication! I have naturally started to work harder for perfection to submit the best work possible, which really helps when I give my boss less work to edit on top of her busy editing agenda she has cut out for her daily. She appreciates that too!

Most importantly, for the future I will take what I have learned here and what I have been studying over the course of my college career to apply again to a Spring and Summer internship with Department of State and the CIA, as well as register to take the Foreign Service Test in the fall and in the spring to test my knowledge and have the option of graduating college with a career lined up for me, career of my choice. A value that has been shown to me through what was expected of my work here has been, through patience and determination I can achieve anything. Even on last minute assignments (given to me at 3pm due at 5pm for the bigger boss upstairs) patience and determination allowed me to not only finish, but to produce a quality product he was looking for.

To conclude, I definitely challenge all of my fellow colleagues to go out there and do the unthinkable. If nothing else do not avoid doing something, pass up not applying for a position, or think you are unqualified or it would be too hard without giving it a solid try and your best effort because you have the skills, they just need to be exercised to the point you can see that for yourself. I have been asked many times, "So what else are you involved in at school?" as if it is the ultimate conversation starter, so if nothing else get involved in on grounds activities, community activities, and all that you can that INTERESTS YOU as a person, not just for resume builders because these are the things people want to hear about.