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Student Spotlight: Jaime Shaffer

International studies and political science student discusses her internships at the U.S. embassies in Berlin and Moscow

Jaime Shaffer wants to join the foreign service. Shaffer, a senior from Homedale double majoring in international studies and political science, has already started her international career by interning abroad for two different U.S. Embassies: in Berlin, Germany in fall 2018 and more recently, in Moscow, Russia in summer 2019.

Why did you choose your majors?

During my first semester at U of I, my advisor suggested that I take classes in political science and international relations. Halfway through the semester, I couldn’t change my major to international studies fast enough. I know it sounds cheesy, but I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and my goal became to join the foreign service. After four years, I couldn’t be happier!

How did you find out about the internship in Berlin?

I worked with the college’s Career Services advisor to explore graduate schools and learn what I could do to improve my chances of becoming a foreign service officer. During this process, he recommended looking at student internships on USAJobs. It was there that I found the internship with the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

What interested you in studying German?

I started studying German because Germany is such a powerhouse in the European Union. It seemed like an obvious choice once I decided that I wanted to be involved in international politics. I had planned to study abroad in Luneburg for the 2018-19 academic year; however, my dad unexpectedly passed away in February 2018 and I missed most of the spring semester. I canceled my plans to study abroad in Germany, but the week after I’d returned to campus for the fall semester, I received an email from the Department of State informing me that I’d been chosen for the internship in Berlin.

What was your internship like at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin?

I worked in the exchanges section of the public affairs department, speaking with German high school students about U.S. culture. I ran a Meet US program, which is a program that specializes in global recruitment, leadership and development, and tabled for EducationUSA, a U.S. network of international student advising centers. In addition, I handled event correspondence, conducted research and sat in on meetings and interviews. I also escorted guests around the embassy and helped with tours. I had the opportunity to shadow employees from the consular section to see how the visa process worked and spend time with interns from the other embassies. Overall, I honestly loved every minute of this experience. It really reaffirmed my desire to become a foreign service officer.

After Berlin, you studied abroad in Moscow, Russia and then completed an internship at the US. Embassy in Moscow. Could you tell us more about those experiences?

I studied abroad in Moscow, Russia for the spring 2019 semester at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. While there, I completed an internship at the American Center in the U.S. Embassy. I gave weekly lectures on American culture and news, helped with English as a Second Language programs, and participated in school and English Language Center visits. I was even lucky enough to be invited to the Spaso House (the U.S. Ambassador’s residence) for a joint concert between American and Russian students sponsored by two Broadway performers. I made many friends during my internship, and I even ended up being “adopted” by a Russian family, who I usually spent the weekends with.

How have these experiences shaped you?

Spending time abroad gave me a deeper understanding about the importance of kindness and patience. I also have a deeper understanding of just how vital person-to-person diplomacy is and that its impact on helping build relationships between the U.S. and other countries shouldn’t be underestimated. In addition, I now have a letter of recommendation from a U.S. diplomat, which blows my mind a little. I have no doubt that this is really going to help with my graduate school applications.

Where are you off to next?

I'm going to be graduating this May, and I plan on pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Wyoming.

Article by Carolyn Knecht, International Studies Program
Published Date: October 2019

Jaime Shaffer in front of the Red Square in Moscow, Russia
Jaime Shaffer at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia

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