Sophia Wootton (BA International Relations with Spanish, 4th year)
British Consulate-General internship, Chicago, USA, through Global Challenge
Details of duties / responsibilities / activities
Sophia’s role was to work alongside the Deputy Consul General, she was given the responsibility to participate in all of his meetings, write up political briefings and economic reports and attend networking events to establish connections with key stakeholders in the Midwestern United States.
Sophia also spent time working with each of the individual teams within the Consulate including:
- Policy and Communications
- Consular Services
- Innovation and Science / Education
- Corporate Services
Sophia’s activities included liaising with incarcerated British Nationals; authoring a FCO published blog for the Science and Innovation team; helping to put together the visit programme for Iain Duncan Smith’s visit, whilst working with the Vice Consul for Innovation and Education. Sophia also had the opportunity to work on numerous standalone projects, including writing briefs on the Anti Defamation League and Argonne National Laboratory and creating the visit programme for a delegation from the Premier League.
Sophia felt that she was constantly developing her skills or learning something new , she identified her three key achievements during the internship as:
- “Giving a presentation to all Consulate staff, on my impressions of Cook County Jail (the largest single-site jail in the US), just hours after a visit to the facility.”
- “Writing a blog on the Raspberry Pi (a $25, credit card-sized computer!), which was featured on the FCO website.”
- “Writing a summary on Chicago’s economic position during recent years, which was then circulated by the Consul General for all members of Consulate staff to read.”
Most enjoyable part of the internship
Sophia said that the most enjoyable part of her internship was “the variety of work you can get involved in.” Sophia’s experiences ranged from minute taking during high-level meetings, to helping to prepare The Residence for the arrival of the new Consul General, to visiting a hospitalised British National.
Sophia describes one particularly enjoyable moment as “being able to use my Spanish when speaking with the Chilean Ambassador at a ‘Diplomacy and Art’ event.” as she saw this as a perfect opportunity to practice her Spanish and enhance her networking skills.
Sophia developed her communication skills – “Each and every day of my internship, my communication skills were put to the test. Whether I was writing emails to esteemed diplomats, typing up reports, speaking on the phone with business people or attending meetings.”
Sophia had never before prepared briefings and whilst she was unfamiliar with the format at first she was determined to gain knowledge of how to do this and has now “learnt the importance of giving and preparing briefs” – an entirely new skill in itself!
Through this internship Sophia has “learnt that networking really is a skill that only gets better with practice” and through the numerous events she attended she has developed the ability to network effectively.
How this will benefit me in the future
Sophia feels that the internship “has greatly enhanced my networking skills which will help me in my search for a graduate position.”
Sophia says that she now has self-belief: “working hard and performing well in a fast-paced and prestigious organisation, has given me the self-confidence to realise that I have every chance of success.”
Sophia also plans to apply to the Diplomatic Service, and believes that this experience will help her with the application!