William and Mary Law School

The bumpy road to Hamburg

The beautiful U.S. Consulate General in Hamburg, Germany. Home sweet home for the next 10 weeks!

For anyone who has ever been to Germany, bureaucracy is no stranger. Bureaucracy rules in this country, and nothing is official until it has been received, evaluated and stamped (Germans love their stamps) by the right person.

The U.S. State Department, it turns out, is equally bureaucratic and patience is the name of the game. My internship experience here at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamburg, Germany, has been a wonderful experience. Getting here, however, was slightly more cumbersome.

In October, I submitted my application to the U.S. Department of State for a summer internship position in the political/economic department in Mission Germany. In November, I was called by the U.S. Consulate General in Hamburg for an interview, and in December – during finals week – I officially received the internship offer. Sounds like a quick process, right? Here’s where the fun part starts.

After receiving an unofficial internship offer, interns must submit materials for a security clearance evaluation. The security clearance process seems harmless, but is actually quite daunting and can take up to several months to complete.  If an applicant has travelled overseas or has foreign affiliations (among other things), the process can take even longer.

In my case, the process took much longer. As in, I-found-out-five-days-before-my-internship-start-date-that-I-got-my-clearance long. Diplomatic security is notoriously opaque regarding the process, so it is unclear exactly why my clearance took so long to process. I blame it on the fact that I have spent significant amounts of time overseas and have strong family ties to Turkey, but for all I know, those factors may not have influenced the process very much at all.

I completely attribute my success to the fact that I called my congressman and senator and got them involved in the process. Two days after making those phone calls, my clearance came through, despite diplomatic security saying that there was a slim-to-none chance that my clearance would be processed in time for me to start my internship. So, when in doubt, call your local politicians! At least sometimes, it can make all the difference.

So, long story short: After giving up hope that my clearance would come through and scrambling to find and interview for four other summer positions in DC (two of which I ended up being chosen for – not so shabby considering it was the end of May!), my clearance finally came through and I am in the beautiful Hansestadt Hamburg experiencing life in the foreign service!