So I arrived in Chicago on Saturday the 1st August, headed out to my apartment and got ready for my first day at work at the consulate. I went to the Lollapalooza music festival on Sunday; one of the biggest festivals in America, having beautiful
weather and some English music was quite a strange mix! My work began Monday morning arriving at the building shown in the picture across, where the movie style excitement of working in a big city began to kick in. I soon came up to the 22nd floor where my office was based and found myself very enthusiastic to meet the team.
I was greeted by Martin Whalley, the Deputy Consul General for the Midwest region, who introduced me to the team and we discussed my responsibilities over the course of the next 8 weeks. I was immediately welcomed by everyone in the office, having a mix of English and American employees made for quite the cultural experience. After a couple of safety talks I completed my E-inductions to familiarise myself with how things are done here at the consulate. I had a welcome programme waiting for me, and I was taken out to lunch by Martin who talked about what duties the consulate has, and what they seek to achieve. I then sat in on 2 meetings, a managers meeting that is held every Monday, and then a “Town Hall” meeting which is a full staff gathering to discuss any relevant news over the course of the week.
The following day I met with Chris Roach who is the Vice Consul for Economic Diplomacy, discussing what specific work he does with programs such as TTIP, which will be incredibly relevant to the modules I am taking next year in trade theory. I also met with Eric Wessan who is the Vice Consul for Policy & Communications, who has to pay attention to all the whispers and rumours in American politics, it has a very House Of Cards feel to it! I also had a meeting with Steve Bridges, the Consul General here, and we discussed my future plans and anything specific I wanted to get out of the programme. That was a hugely productive talk, speaking about introducing me to some major players in both the fields of Economics and Law.
Straight into work, my line manager Martin set me up with my first official project. The consulate is hosting a popup, which is where the consulate moves to another city for a week to help promote relations in specific states and to create lasting partnerships in previously unexplored areas. This summer’s popup is being held in Kansas City, a growing region in the state of Missouri. I had to come up with a provisional draft of the program, listing events and activities that would be held to make the EDCKC (Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City) aware of our plans. I also met with several other members of the team to discuss any events each specific area of the consulate wanted to host such as Food & Retail with the UKTI (UK Trading and Investment). I will be continuing with this project for the rest of the week, and will be following it through hopefully with a trip to Kansas City later in the year! In terms of culture, I’ve already explored the city quite a lot, enjoying all the local cuisine (Chicago Deep Dish Pizza destroys the English version!) and trying to fill my calendar. I am already hoping to go to some major sporting events such as Baseball and American football games as the Cubs are already midway through their season, and the Bears will be kicking off their preseason very shortly! It’s a very exciting period to be here in Chicago, and the challenge has started off brilliantly! It makes me thoroughly excited for the upcoming weeks.
By Michael Smith