By Alexa Fults
Summer Menefee (C’19), a politics and Russian double-major at Sewanee, is currently working and waltzing her way into D.C. politics through a semester-long internship with the U.S. State Department.
On February 17, Menefee offered to spend a weekend away from her work in the Office of Foreign Missions to speak to Sewanee students interested in State Department diplomacy.
Menefee began by explaining how her internship allows her to work directly with diplomatic relations. The Office of Foreign Missions, she explained, deals specifically with the proper treatment of foreign ambassadors and embassy workers while on U.S. soil. This entails working directly with such individuals to ensure that they have the proper identification papers and are treated fairly, or that they do not attempt to take advantage of certain privileges such as diplomatic immunity.
In return, American ambassadors and embassy workers are treated with equal respect which, Menefee pointed out, is referred to as diplomatic reciprocity. Menefee also described her work dealing with diplomatic envoys and their problems adjusting to embassy life as “occasionally odd.” She described an occasion where she was able to “fine-tune” her Russian skills while giving eye-exams to Russian diplomats.
“This is an internship which allows for a lot of hands-on work and presents new challenges every day. There are some really great pros to my specific internship. Because my office works with diplomats so closely, I am often invited to many diplomatic events and parties,” Menefee commented. “This allows me the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting and influential people, some of whom have been very generous gift-givers!” Just last week, Menefee attended two black-tie-formal gala dinners at the Chinese and Taiwanese embassies.
Menefee made an effort to communicate to students that an internship in D.C. politics is about much more than gifts and galas. The State Department offers a myriad of special opportunities for interns designed to prepare them for the difficult task of a life dedicated to diplomacy. Interns have the rare privilege of engaging in one-on-one conversations with world leaders, meeting with the Secret Service, and participating in crisis problem-solving simulations.
“Just last week I participated in a nuclear crisis simulation with multiple diplomats and State Department employees where my opinion was highly valued,” Menefee explained.
For those Sewanee students interested in an internship with the State Department, Menefee recommends creating an account on USAjobs.gov. Menefee recalls a lengthy application process, phone interviews, and background checks — for security purposes, of course — but assured students that the experience is worth every effort. Menefee explained that the State Department is looking for new perspectives and students of all backgrounds, not just political science majors.
Menefee is not certain yet as to what future career she wants to pursue, but she wants to be involved in government and foreign relations. Because of her internship with the State Department, Menefee is now considering foreign service work as a viable career path.
Menefee responded to questions regarding her experience with the following statement: “Interning with the Office of Foreign Missions has taught me the intricacies of our foreign relationships, how government organizations like the U.S. State Department operate cross-culturally, and how to effectively interact with leaders from different cultural backgrounds.” Menefee hopes that her experience will inspire other Sewanee students to apply for D.C. internships and follow their dreams of pursuing a career in government work.