Engaging with the World: My Time at the U.S. Mission to the EU by Laura Schiemichen (F’19)

by jtijssen
Dec 12

The city of Brussels is currently transforming its shop windows: slowly, they are filled with lights, pine decorations, and a spiced shortcrust biscuit called speculoos. I am anxiously awaiting the first Christmas markets and the annual holiday transformation at le Grand Place.

Sadly, this also means that my internship at the U.S. Mission to the EU is coming to an end. Thinking back on my time at the Foreign Commercial Service, there are three things I have come to appreciate most:

First, the people at the embassy. From the Marines to the locally-engaged staff to the Officers, individuals have welcomed newcomers like me with open arms. The limitless breadth of stories I have heard about frequent moves and life in diverse countries are a testament to the sense of global engagement on which this community is pillared. As a recently naturalized American, working at an embassy has made me appreciate even more what values America is founded on and how Americans interact with the world.

Second, the role of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the branch of government I represented within the U.S. Mission to the EU. Coming from the international development space before graduate school, it was helpful to shift gears towards a commercial perspective. I gained a greater appreciation for the role of business in driving economic growth and important diplomatic relationships. It was in private conversations with industry representatives that I could fully grasp how to find common ground between advancing U.S. government objectives, boosting company profits, and navigating European political priorities.

Third, the intricacy of the EU and its institutions. Working in Brussels has been a practical exercise in multi-stakeholder operations. Internally, I have collaborated with colleagues from the tri-mission (the U.S. Mission to the EU, the U.S. Embassy to Belgium, and the U.S. Mission to NATO), as well as across embassy teams (like Commerce, Econ, and Public Affairs) on cross-cutting issues such as trade. Externally, I have worked with my counterparts in the European Parliament, the European Commission, think-tanks, and the private sector. Along the way, I have met individuals from twenty-eight different Member States, all with different languages, customs, and ways of thinking. An example of this is the second annual Privacy Shield review, which I helped organize and which brought together representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, Federal Trade Commission, as well as the European Commission, Parliament, and national data protection authorities.

These three aspects have facilitated my growth throughout this internship. I have advanced my interests in policy, business, and diplomacy, and I have enjoyed this multicultural experience immensely.