My name is Alex Recher. I’m a rising senior majoring in International Affairs and French. This summer, I did an internship with the State Department in the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. This internship gave me the opportunity to combine and put into practice my academic interests, exploring my interest in international politics and diplomacy in the setting of one of the world’s most complex political situations while leveraging my French language abilities in one of the world’s largest Francophone countries.
Getting this internship was a bit of a process, with applications due all the way back in September. On the application, I had to make two selections from a confusing list of domestic and foreign bureaus and mission. I initially chose the missions in Laos and Madagascar. However, the Embassy in DRC reached out in November and offered me the position. Fully knowledgeable of the complex political and security situation in the DRC, I was crazy enough to say yes.
For my internship, I attended meetings with a variety of Embassy contacts, including local human rights activists, politicians, members of the judiciary, and diplomats from other missions. Based on these meetings, I helped to draft diplomatic cables reporting to Washington on several aspects of the political situation in the DRC, including human rights, corruption, and the judiciary. Outside of reporting, I helped set up the Embassy’s annual Fourth of July celebration, a large undertaking and important opportunity for the Embassy to strengthen ties and contacts in the DRC. I was also able to attend events put on by other missions and civil society, including British and Swiss national day festivities and one of the DRC’s first public Pride events.
Living in Kinshasa in the context of working for the Embassy was an interesting experience. The Embassy provided housing, and I shared an apartment with two other interns. For security reasons, I had limited mobility since transportation was hard to come
by. Expectedly, it sometimes felt like I was in an American bubble in the middle of the Congo. That is not to say I didn’t have some opportunities to explore. The Embassy arranged a trip to a bonobo sanctuary, and the other interns and I managed to go to Zongo Falls to the southeast of Kinshasa.
Through my internship, I developed a better understanding of how Foreign Service Officers conduct diplomacy and advance U.S. foreign policy. It also helped me further develop my writing and interpersonal skills in a professional (and occasionally bilingual) setting. I learned a lot about specifically about the DRC’s politics, government, and human rights situation. The SGA’s Responsible Citizenship Award helped immensely to make this opportunity possible. Through the SGA’s support, I was able to cover airfare and living expenses that otherwise would have been a hefty burden to bear.