I chose this particular country and internship for multiple reasons, but most of all because I love studying Russian national security and the Russian language. When I first drafted my application for this internship, I considered applying to the Bureau of African Affairs because I thought I might be more qualified to work there. Filling out the application, however, I realized that Russia was without a doubt where I would want to intern the most. A month into my internship here in Moscow and I am thrilled with my decision last October to go for Russia.
The biggest lesson that I have taken away from my internship so far is that I am much more driven by the type of work that I am doing than where I am doing it. I have fallen in love with Moscow and the idea of becoming a Foreign Service Officer and contributing at an important post. At the same time, I have also realized that I would much rather be working on important national security issues in a less prominent country than taking on menial labor in a world capital.
As for things that the average person might not know, I have been impressed with Russia’s remembrance and celebration of their victory over the Nazis in World War II. I knew that Russia still championed its victory on an annual basis, but I was not aware of how important that victory is to their sense of patriotism and national rhetoric. Beyond that, there are monuments, parks, and merchandise everywhere reminding all who see them of their great sacrifice (not so bad a feature if you love learning about World War II!).
I have also been blown away by Russian citizens’ disposition toward foreigners and Americans. While tensions between the United States and Russia are as high as they’ve been in decades, that did not prevent me from speaking at length with the three Russians sharing a train cabin with me for 12 hours on the way to Kazan! Instead of commenting on their distaste for sanctions or the lack of trust between countries, almost all of the Russians I have met are much more interested in discussing American popular culture, sports, and the always-lovely weather in Florida. Even if the discussion does shift to politics, the Russians I have encountered, though an admittedly biased sample, are open to friendly debate and a healthy exchange of ideas.