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Internship Profile: Magdalena Garncarz '12, US State Department, Warsaw Embassy

Warsaw, Poland, U.S. Department of State, Warsaw Embassy

How did you find this internship?

Professor Laura Reed recommended that I look into the State Department’s internship programs. After browsing through their student programs, I found one that was well suited for me and applied.

Why did you decide to pursue an internship? 
I was very interested in international relations and diplomacy, and wanted to spend some time abroad to get a better understanding of the two. I wanted to know if this was something that I could actually see myself doing on a daily basis before pursuing a graduate program tailored for this kind of work.

What were your major responsibilities and/or accomplishments as an intern?

My work varied from day to day, but it was mostly writing based. I often attended conferences about shale gas, energy, the European Union economy and budget, Polish youth movements, Polish-Lithuanian relations, and the political situations in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova. I wrote short reports about each conference and passed them on to the foreign service officers whose line of work encompassed that particular topic.

My most prominent research projects were about the harsh political realities in Belarus and the Polish delegation to the European Union. I conducted a lot of independent research on these topics and presented my work in two forms: concise summaries about the ongoing events in Belarus and a more thorough, final report about the Polish delegation to the EU.

I accompanied foreign service officers to meetings with NGO representatives and foreign government officials. During these meetings I would serve as a translator or note taker, and would usually produce a short summary of my notes afterwards.

I regularly wrote short biographies about individuals meetings with embassy personnel.

I represented the embassy at various events, such as high school or university events and national and religious memorial events.

What is the most memorable part of your internship?
A press conference and expert discussion at the Belarusian House in Warsaw. This Belarusian democratic opposition center in Poland held a press conference about the release of two Belarusian political prisoners - former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his plenipotentiary Dmitriy Bondarenko. Bondarenko’s daughter attended the conference and organizers connected with the two released activists through Skype.

This event is so memorable because after weeks of following the situation in Belarus, this was the first opportunity to write about the occurence of a positive event there. I had read and written about Sannikau and Bondarenko before, but I certainly did not expect to one day be present during a Skype connection with either of the two. Seeing Bondarenko and his daughter speak (and her elated reaction to the good news) also made this more than just a research project for my internship. Sannikau and Bondarenko’s release was no longer just a reason for the Belarusian democracic opposition to feel some success, it also enabled the two individuals to reunite with their families, which felt happy and relieved to have them home. This event changed my perspectives as I continued my research. While I still had to focus on the big picture and implications of each new political event in Belarus, I always considered the “small picture” as well - the way in which an event affected a particular family. My research suddenly came to life and I felt like I was watching history in the making, rather than reiterating something I had learned from someone else’s work.

What sort of 'sales pitch' would you use to convince another student to pursue an internship?

You have nothing to lose by trying! The very worst that will happen is that you’ll figure out that this isn’t the kind of work you want to be doing. The very best that will happen is that you’ll open new doors for yourself, learn more and prepare yourself for future work.

How has your internship changed your UMass Experience?  
This internship has made my education more than a degree that now qualifies me for certain jobs. It shows that I have acquired certain skills and knowledge through school, and that I am also capable of applying these skills in non-academic settings.


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