Embassies are more than just passports, right? Matthew Ross (‘18), a double-major in International Economics and Applied & Computational Mathematics & Statistics, received a European Internship and Service Grant to experience life as a Foreign Service Officer in Florence, Italy. He recently wrote to us about his experience:
As an international economics major concentrating on Italian language and culture, I have been provided with an incredible amount of opportunities and resources which have allowed me to grow and discern the correct career path for my future. One such opportunity arose this past summer as I had the ability to work with the U.S. State Department at the Consulate General in Florence, Italy for roughly two and a half months. My goals for this summer were to gain valuable work experience in a variety of disciplines while living and working abroad, narrow down potential career fields, and embrace the Italian culture to the fullest!
While at the Consulate, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Political/Economic, Executive Office, and Consular sections while also observing and assisting the other sections of the Consulate – Security and Management. Working with the Political/Economics section, I reported and summarized major local, national, and international news organizations, as well as researching and developing programs that have an impact in the local communities in Florence and throughout our consular district of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Within the Executive Office, I was able to help plan cultural festivities as well as assist during VIP visits and other events. As a part of the Consular Section, I played a very important role in the normal day-to-day operations of the Consulate, assisting in the American Citizens Services department, which focused on providing aid and information to American citizens living and traveling abroad throughout Italy. This included anything from traditional passport renewals and issuing emergency passports for citizens with urgent travel plans to notarial services and providing assistance to victims of theft or other violent crimes while abroad. As the real center of daily work in the Consulate, the Consular Section experiences the most interaction with American citizens abroad and is able to provide significant help in times of need, and during the busy summer months when travel is at its peak, they were certainly thankful to have an extra person to help in whatever way I could.
One of the most exciting events I was able to help plan and participate in was the annual July 4th celebration. After several weeks of working on guest lists and itineraries and researching backgrounds and biographies on individuals in attendance at the events, the week of July 4th was finally here. In addition to the main celebration which would feature nearly two hundred guests from Italian and American businesses and schools from around our consular district, we had planned a much more intimate private dinner the night before for approximately fifteen Italian businesses owners interested in expanding into the United States. I was fortunate enough to assist in the planning and execution of both events, and both were great successes for the Consulate! Additionally, during the week of July 4th, the Consulate was invited to participate in an event hosted by an American university in Florence where we provided information on voting in the upcoming presidential election for Americans abroad. I was asked to lead this project and help create materials and information to be provided at the event.
For me, this internship was significant for several reasons. First, it allowed me to experience the life and work of a Foreign Service Officer within the U.S. State Department, a career I have been interested in for some time and wanted to learn more about. Second, it allowed me to truly understand the breadth of work that is accomplished at U.S. overseas posts; while Florence is a relatively small post in a mid-sized city, the work was no less important to American citizens abroad than in any place across the world. Finally, this internship granted me the opportunity to live and work abroad in a country I have only dreamed about for years. As someone who has been studying Italian at Notre Dame for the past two years, I have become engrossed in the language and culture of this truly incredible country and to be able to experience it daily was absolutely incredible!
Academically, this internship provided great real-world context for my studies as an international economics major and allowed me at times to observe and participate in actual economics played out on an international stage. This internship with the Department of State was the perfect opportunity to gain valuable experience working overseas in a variety of areas, including international relations, public service, and economic development. The internship not only supplemented my studies in Italian, since I was living fully immersed in both the culture and language of Italy, but also my studies in international economics and ACMS, since I was working with international economic policies and data analytics. This internship combined the qualitative and quantitative aspects of my areas of study in a work environment that was not only extremely informative, but thoroughly enjoyable, as well!