Department of State Bureau of Oceans and Environmental and International Scientific Affairs by Lily Hartzell

by tuftsigl
Jul 14

My name is Lily Hartzell and I’m a rising junior majoring in International Relations and Environmental Studies. Thanks in part to funding from the IGL, I’m spending my summer in Washington DC interning at the Department of State Bureau of Oceans and Environmental and International Scientific Affairs (OES) in the Front Office.

An easier way to remember OES is that it’s the Bureau in the State Department that handles diplomacy concerning oceans, environment, and science. The Front Office is responsible for coordinating the work of the many smaller offices in these three subject areas and supporting the Assistant Secretary. This means circulating the papers that the offices write to be checked by the principals in the Bureau. For me, it means that I get to read a lot of really interesting memos and notes on everything from ivory trafficking in Kenya to the US’s strategy in handling the threat of Zika transmission on our soil.

Besides reading, I’ve gotten to do some interesting writing projects. I’ve drafted thank you notes for the Assistant Secretary, and in the process learned that important people at State rarely write the things they sign. Currently, I’m working on an official update on an initiative countering illegal fishing to be sent out to US embassies and consulates abroad.

Perhaps my favorite part of my internship is all that I’m privy to absorb. Watching a government office function has opened my eyes to how decisions get made both within the Department and in the Executive Branch at large. I’ve also witnessed the dynamics among political appointees, Civil Service Officers, and Foreign Service Officers. They all work in the Bureau for different lengths of time and bring different perspectives. At times it seems inefficient and strange that Foreign Service Officers move around every two years to sometimes vastly different jobs, but I have also been impressed with the flexibility and fresh perspective the FSOs I’ve met bring to their positions.

I came to DC and the State Department particularly excited to witness how the US participates in international environmental negotiations like the Paris Agreement reached last fall. I’ve realized that there are thousands of little agreements that take just as much work as larger multilateral affairs. Regional agreements on fisheries management are essential to ensuring that fish stocks are not depleted and bilateral meetings with the EU increase the possibility for collaboration in space. It’s been fascinating to watch OES create a relationship with their counterparts in Cuba as US-Cuba relations have thawed recently.

In short, I’m learning a lot and loving it. I’m learning about government processes, effective techniques for deterring illegal fishing, how to format a paper that’s going to Secretary Kerry, and how to navigate around the huge State Department building. I’m working with another intern who makes every day fun and I’m in Washington DC, a city so full of power and promise it’s dizzying. I couldn’t ask for more. 

Add new comment