Gráinne Hutton is a recent International Affairs and Modern Language graduate with a language concentration in French and a certificate in European Affairs. She was born in England and moved to the United States when she was young, so she has always had an affinity towards European culture and lifestyle. Last year, Gráinne had the opportunity to work at theFrench Consulate in Atlanta. She was exposed to the many different facets of international diplomacy, such as helping organize events designed to foster French-American cooperation, writing and translating articles in English and French and preparing official French visits to the US Southeast. She recently accepted a position with FleishmanHillard in Belgium. We asked her a few questions about how her time at Tech helped her succeed in this internship.
One of the most gratifying parts of working at the French Consulate was being able to both witness and be a part of the interaction between the France and the US. I helped organize the French Legion d’Honneur ceremony – France’s highest honor – that was awarded to US Veterans who took part in the liberation of France at the end of WWII. It was a wonderful experience to read through the veterans’ war stories, write speeches based on their accomplishments and help plan this day as it highlighted the history and longstanding relationship between the France and the US.
Leaving Georgia Tech’s campus each day after class to go into an environment where everyone was from France and only spoke French in the office was initially overwhelming. It felt as though every time I stepped into the Consulate I was stepping out of my comfort zone. I was nervous about speaking a language I had learned through a classroom setting with those who spoke it as their native language, but I was able to overcome this quickly. I was pushed to adapt, but because of this I greatly improved my interpersonal and communication skills in both French and English.
Tell us about an experience that made an impression on you during your internship.
The biggest impression this internship left on me was as a result of my first day of work. It was January 7th – the day of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. I was immediately thrown into the French culture and workplace as we worked to control the panic in the Southeast. I assisted the Consulate General in responding to the kindness of other Consul Generals in Georgia and kept the French population in the Southeast as informed as possible. Though it was only my first day, and I was only an intern, I felt as though I was part of the French community and I was making a tangible contribution in spreading awareness and a level of security to the public. The Charlie Hebdo attack was devastating to the international community, but the tremendous outpouring of solidarity demonstrated the Southeast spoke volumes about the relationship between the US and France.
In what ways did your time at Tech prepare you for the internship?
There is a deep-rooted aspiration that comes with being a student at Georgia Tech. We push ourselves to the extreme, nothing is taken as busy work or at face value and we relish the challenge. The attitude of the Georgia Tech student body to constantly question, look for viable answers and the best solutions. I was able to apply this mindset to the work I did at the Consulate and could bring a fresh perspective forward.