Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Center of the Pentagon

This semester is zooming by. In about a week in a half, I'll be half done. Weird.

I spent my Monday coming home from Dickinson. Now I have heard a lot of horrible stories about Greyhound buses but my ride, while a bit too expensive, was actually pretty smooth. The Greyhound bus station is less than a block and a half away from where I live, so it's a pretty good deal.

Tuesday I met Kwaku Aning, one of the six Deputy Director-Generals of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, very relevant in the news). He spoke very good English, and demonstrated that the IAEA wants to expand its mission. While still being the international expert in nuclear safeguards and technology, he presented a vision where the IAEA helps agriculture, medicine, and other trades internationally through technical diffusion. He had some basic talking points, but was pretty consistent throughout his presentation.

Mr. Aning

On Wednesday I worked a half day and went to a tour of the Pentagon! Just so you know, the structure of the building is massive. Now I thought State had a big building. But the Pentagon has enough square footage wide than the Empire State Building is tall. Go figure that. The visitors entrance used to be a long escalator down to the metro stop, but since 9/11 they closed it up and built a lobby with quilts honoring those who died that day. While the tour was short, it was pretty cool. They took us through the shops (there is a Best Buy inside of the Pentagon, not kidding), and into the central courtyard. Back in the day, the Soviets would use satellite imagery to spy over D.C. (which everyone still does), and were really freaked out about the center of the Pentagon courtyard. To imagery back then, the building in the center looked like a top of a missile silo. So in the worst case scenario of an all out war, the Soviets though that if they hit the center of the Pentagon it would explode the silo.


In the center is a cafe, fitted with a Sbarros and another chain restaurant. So much for missiles. In addition, they took us to the part of the Pentagon where the airplane hit, and the memorial chapel. Pretty powerful stuff. It was very interesting to be inside the building, and was a great experience.

Secretary Hillsberg giving a Press briefing

Thursday afternoon my adviser, Prof. Wolff came to visit me at State. From what I can tell, he had a great time. We spoke with my supervisors which were happy with the work I was doing (WOOOO!) and I took him on a mini tour while discussing my research paper proposal. Here is my topic:

In the past decade, U.S. engagement in multilateral international institutions have served to further our global  interests. Due to successes in the UPU, WIPO, ICAO, IMO, and UNEP, the U.S. should continue to be involved in these institutions to further steer the world agenda in the path of U.S. interests.

I am working on the language and presentation of the thesis, but that's the overview of it. My paper will include four organizations, so one will be cut out. A lot of research ahead of me.

On Friday I attended and IAEA policy discussion on Governance and Reform. I was rather interesting to see critiques of the agency and also new studies showing possible linkages of Technological Cooperation and desire for a nuclear weapons programs. It was attended by U.S. Government Officials from all departments as well as a lot of State people.

This weekend met up with some State Dept interns. We had a great time getting to know eachother and its never bad to make connections. I saw Keystone alum Dan Owins '09 and went to see Act of Valor. I strongly recommend it, a very cool, engaging, revealing movie into what goes on inside a SEALs unit and how special forces work. Its also based on true acts.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This really is the Good Life

This has been a pretty stellar week.

I want to start off by dispelling some potential misunderstandings. Though I went in to TWC pretty hard in my last post, by no means do I not enjoy my time in DC. I may not like the way the program is structured, but I absolutely love my time in the capitol city, and I can't wait for more exciting things coming up in the next few weeks. If you definitely can't change something (like the program), I am going to make the most of it! I am not going to stress over a little things like this, I am having an incredible experience.

On Monday my program group in TWC went to the World Bank for an information session. I have to say, that building is pretty cool. I am a sucker for buildings which have have outside facades, indoors. Ok, I realize may not be making sense, so here's what I mean:

Inside the World Bank

My Instagram inside the National Portrait Gallery

 Anyway, the info session was productive. A day or two after our session, current World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced his retirement. The World Bank has consistently been controlled by an American and the IMF a European. There is a lot of speculation that Secretary Clinton will take the job after her departure from DoS in 2013. I doubt that personally. She's been in the public life since the late 80s non-stop (starting as First Lady of Arkansas, First lady of the U.S., Senator from New York, Presidential candidate, and finally Secretary of State.) I think she'll take time off.

In the first part of this week I finished up preparations for the Postal Advisory Committee meeting (which I'll be attending) and finished a separate IO tasker which I am hesitant about talking about. Sorry, its sensitive.

Later in the week I was given a few more tasks. I was given an assignment to create an executive summary of a report I did so that AS Brimmer, or others in the department can look at it and put in a plug about the U.S. UPU candidate while they're abroad. Mrs. Clinton may potentially be glancing at my report. That's an intern's dream.

I was also given an assignment helping the U.S. delegation to the Rio +20 climate conference prepare for the meeting in a few months. Its amazing to be working on all this stuff. However small, effective diplomacy in multilateral stages help U.S. prestige, change opinions, and it is an opportunity for the U.S. to re-engagement and lead the international community.

Sometimes, its the little things that count the most.

I am actually writing this blog from Dickinson! President's day is on Monday, so I have a three day weekend. I never knew how much I missed all my friends. If any of you are reading this, its been good to see you all again.

Next week there are meetings which I'll have to escort some people from different international institutions. I'll be taking notes for a summary report for at least one of these meetings.You can't tell over this blog, but I am very excited, VERY excited! I am also taking a pentagon tour on Wednesday, which should be awesome. Its probably not as difficult to navigate as state, but I've been wrong in the past.

This week has been a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to another week! I've been making a lot of food on my own, you can call me chef Hillsberg from now on. Funny story: I saw a Keystone alum out last Saturday night. He was a big name at Dickinson and doing even bigger things.

Small world, right?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week Three: Rolling Up My Sleeves

Now that I am defrosted from the recent cold front that blew into the area this weekend, lets get down to what I've been doing this week.

Now let me preface what I am about to express about The Washington Center; I think it is an incredible program, and it enables many students from different types of backgrounds to get real life experience, and I appreciate that. Also, my opinions about the program do not reflect on the people who work for TWC; they are very passionate and kind people. My opinions are my own feelings about the program. Just making sure this is out there.

 However with that said, I think TWC is an entirely overbearing and at times pointless in the programming they make their students go through. They use a one-size-fits-all approach to what they require of their students. They have numerous benchmarks in different self-development goals that all students have to write, deadlines for extraneous projects, and a 15 hour time sucking civic engagement project.

Now I have no problem with civic engagement or self development. If you know me I am very involved in community service at Dickinson and I have a pretty good vision of my goals. Granted, not everyone has an idea of what they want to do, and some of this structure is good for them. However, we also have to take a class once a week, and on a specified day of the week (depends on the program they enroll you in) you have to LEAVE YOUR INTERNSHIP EARLY to go to something that may not apply to you at all.

In an internship based program, I think its pretty ridiculous that you have to miss your internship to go to programming. Its overbearing, and should have less requirements. On top of all this, Dickinson requires its students to do an independent study (research paper), which is totally understandable. This paper is my grade, not any TWC things. Thus, i feel that TWC is too structured; it has too many requirements. If I had known this fact, I may have thought twice before choosing DC over Italy. Again, this is my reflection on the program structure itself, not the internship or the people who run it.

On an unrelated note, people in this city do not know how to ride the metro (I want to say subway). I can't tell you how many times people don't know how to walk when the door opens. I've missed about 4 different trains so far at rush hour because of some riders not knowing how to get on/off a car. New Yorkers are better, so is our subway. Just sayin'. :p

On to my week...

On monday I had to leave work early for a career workshop (by TWC). Needless to say, the workshops were pretty useless. The person who talked about finding a job in the federal government talked about how to use USAJobs for about an hour. It was informative, but it doesn't help me get a job. It taught my how to use a job finder, which I am pretty sure I could have learned by an extra half hour on the site (which I am already familiar with). As you can tell, I am not a fan of most of the TWC mandated programming.

My week got better from there. I have been continue to work on UPU projects pertaining to the upcoming conference which starts tomorrow. I should have less UPU things to do until about early March, so you wont have to hear about it for a bit. I also have played a big part in preparing for the Advisory Committee on International Postal and Delivery Service in March, which is comprised of private sector postal group who give input on U.S. positions in the UPU. A meeting was posted in the Federal Register, Ill put a link up when I know it. My name is literally all over the announcement. It's pretty cool.

On Thursday I went to the U.S. Postal Service's headquarters. I met with the International affairs team with my boss for a meeting. It was a very official experience to be part of the meeting.

USPS Headquarters in all its glory

It might not sound like I am doing much, but I have also done a bunch of small things for everyone over the course of the week. Preparing for meetings and conferences are time-consuming, and require diligence. I am sure I'll get some juicy stuff soon enough. Its just amazing to be working on U.S. foreign policy.

Friday was the IO town hall in which the whole bureau filled the George Marshall auditorium (on the renovated half of the building) and video-chatted the mission in Geneva, Nairobi, London, Montreal and New York. There were not many questions asked but P (Undersecretary for Political Affairs, the division which the IO Bureau is in) came down and gave some remarks.

Undersecretary Wendy Sherman

I've also found my way around the Foggy Bottom area. I found some new lunch places and food trucks. I've had a craving for barbecue, and I need to fulfill it soon or I am going to go crazy. On top of that, I have found a bunch of new restaurants and places I enjoy going to. Sign of the Whale on 18th and M is a fantastic establishment, Ted's Bulletin by Eastern Market has a great brunch scene and has a 1920s style theme, and Zuppa Fresca by the TWC building in NoMA has excellent french toast. Eastern Market is also a fun place, it has a bunch of flea market shops and inside the building it has about 5 butchers and a fish market. I can't wait to go there in nicer weather. These are just a few places I am naming, but there is a lot of my list so far.

 I've been taking in the D.C. culture and rolling up my sleeves. Where's the Mumbo sauce?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Week Two: Into Foggy Bottom

I just want to start off by saying that this week has been stunningly amazing. I don't think I can happier at my internship.

However, I am sorry to say, I will not divulge any details on what I am doing at work. Though it is unclassified for now, this being a blog, you can't trust anything. I can give an overview, but that's about it.

Monday was my orientation. It was incredibly long but I did learn a lot about State Department procedure. Additionally, I got to see just how big the building was. Believe me, it is an incredibly complex building. I got lost briefly on Tuesday morning.

My view of the Harry S. Truman Building

Tuesday was my first full day of work. My office was extremely welcoming and supportive during my first week. They all have great personalities and I can tell they'll be a pleasure to work with over the next few months. I couldn't do much Tuesday without a badge (you need a badge to gain access to email/a computer), however I learned a lot about the background of the office and the many international organizations  that they work with. The office does essentially what I want to do; multilateral diplomacy and asserting and working U.S. interests in international organizations. This is a foreign policy nerd's dream.

For the rest of the week, I have been primarily working on things for the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Yes, it's a thing. Without this organization, you wouldn't be able to send mail to other countries without the U.S. having separate treaties with that country. Its pretty important if you think about it. It also handles postal security too. I have been assembling spreadsheets, reports, preparing and sitting in on official meetings. I have also met some individuals from these international organizations and got to see how the inter-agency process and diplmacy works in real-time.

You can only learn so much from class. However when you apply the theories one learns from their academic courses into their everyday life; that's where the true knowledge and magic happens.

Additionally, I met Dr. Esther Brimmer, head of the IO Bureau! She was extremely nice and it was incredible to meet an assistant secretary of state. I hope to be in her position one day.

Dr. Esther Brimmer
I have to say, it does feel official wearing a badge and suit everyday. It's also very cool to work on international issues and I can't wait to learn more and further develop my professional skills. I have amazing opportunities ahead of me.

Game time.