Life at the Embassy: A student’s internship in Paris

Blog post by Rosie Dutfield.

If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what daily life is like inside an embassy, now is your chance to find out! In the spring of 2015 I was fortunate to spend three months as an intern for the United States Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France.  Prior to beginning the internship, I really had no idea what daily life was like inside an embassy.  I had a preconceived notion that embassies were very serious places in which top secret activities took place.  The reality, as I soon found out, was much different.

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The United States Embassy in Paris is located in two buildings in central Paris: the main building on avenue Gabriel where Consular Services are housed, and the George C. Marshall Center in the historic Hôtel de Talleyrand on rue Saint-Florentin. My internship was located in the George C. Marshall Center, the venue for official receptions, conferences, and meetings.   The U.S. Embassy is part of the United States Tri-Mission made up of the embassy, the United States Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United States Mission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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As the principal event site for the U.S. Tri-Mission, my primary duties involved participating in all stages of diplomatic event planning and execution. My day-to-day tasks were varied: I assisted with setting up the reception rooms for cultural events, musical recitals, and visiting diplomats; translated documents for embassy staff and visiting contractors; performed research on historical figures associated with the Hôtel de Talleyrand; and performed general administrative tasks.  No two days were alike.  One day was spent visiting the historic silk weavers Tassinari & Chatel to source fabric for curtains at the Marshall Center; another day was spent visiting the OECD headquarters on rue André Pascal.  On several occasions I had to visit the Louvre Museum to research artworks with historical connections to the Hôtel de Talleyrand, such as those donated by the Rothschild family who owned the Talleyrand between 1838 and 1950, when it was purchased by the U.S. Department of State.  One of my more unusual tasks was to monitor a group of contractors who were in the process of restoring a fountain in the official residence of Ambassador Jane Hartley on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  As contractors, they needed to be accompanied by an embassy employee at all times.

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Life at the embassy was not as I expected it at all. I imagined it to be a very serious environment due to the sensitive nature of the business performed within its walls.  Instead of being a very somber and serious place, the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed.  The main embassy building on rue Gabriel houses a bar for employees and a convenience store stocking many items from home that the U.S. staff members could not find in Paris.  The embassy has a Community Liaison Office tasked with making the American embassy employees, including the Marine Security Guard, feel welcome in their home away from home in Paris.  The CLO organizes regular group activities and outings for employees and their families.  I was lucky enough to be able to participate in some of the events during my stay in Paris.  At the beginning of my internship, I attended the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Ambassador’s residence.

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As the unofficial photographer I had the fun task of snapping photos of the Easter Bunny and the children of the employees. The highlight of my internship was attending Fourth of July party at the Ambassador’s residence.  Billed as a cocktail dînatoire celebrating liberté and freedom on the occasion of the 239th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, the evening was an extravaganza of celebrity entertainers, chefs, and a sound and light show presented by Disney.  It was an evening I will never forget.

I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work at the embassy and represent my country in France. The internship served as a great complement to the academic year I spent studying French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and my French studies at Grand Valley.IMG_5590

 

 

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