Bettina Gardner is a second-year MSIA student from Stone Mountain, GA. She is an Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP) Fellow, a program of the UNCF Special Programs Corporation. She has an undergraduate degree from Florida State University and a MBA in Global Management from Thunderbird. With an interest in international business and trade, intercultural interaction and traveling, she secured a couple of internships over the last academic year. Last summer and fall she interned with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, International Trade office, and this spring is currently interning at the US Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, with the Foreign Commercial Service. (You can follow her adventures on her blog (http://americanworkingabroad.tumblr.com/) Bettina is considering a career with the Foreign Commercial Service, or the private sector, as long as she can work abroad for a few years. We asked her a few questions about her internships and how her time at Tech helped her succeed.
What did you enjoy most about your internship and what did you find most challenging?
At the Georgia Department of Agriculture, traveling to New Orleans for training, organizing the annual meeting and traveling to Savannah, and hosting two inbound trade missions were the highlights. I met many activity managers from other southern states. They gave me lots of responsibility from the very beginning. The most challenging part was communicating bad news to companies—giving them an answer that they didn’t want to a specific question. Dealing with small crises before or during a trade mission was stressful, but still a very good learning experience if you know how to keep a level head. At the Embassy, the people, American and Portuguese employees, the Embassy culture, and the diplomat “life” are the most enjoyable things. With the different Federal agencies posted here, it is easy and convenient to learn about different employers within the federal government just by going to the cafeteria or a cocktail reception! My work supports a trade delegation from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. So I have the rare opportunity to compare the work of state governments with that being done at embassies to support and assist American companies when trading internationally. The most challenging part has been cold-calling companies in Portuguese, although I am getting more confident in my language abilities with each successful call and the encouragement of my coworkers.
Tell us about an experience that made an impression on you during your internship.
The cocktail reception at the Ambassador’s residence definitely made an impression. The Ambassador’s residence is quite impressive, mainly because ambassadors are expected to entertain guests and represent the US by making a good impression in country. We entered up an ornate wooden staircase where the Ambassador and his wife were receiving guests. I greeted the Ambassador; I’d been introduced to him during my first week here and we’d spoken about Tallahassee because he’d once lived and worked there. Upon meeting his wife, we immediately launched into a full conversation in Portuguese – she’d learned Portuguese in Brazil and so had I—and it was refreshing to hear Portuguese in an accent I more readily recognized. I greeted the Deputy Chief of Mission and her husband and then proceeded to the “mingling”. I met ambassadors from Mexico and Canada (whose wife took me around and introduced me to all of her colleagues), the President of the American Club here in Lisbon, and at one point I was talking to the President of Cisco Systems – Portugal about the structure of the company in Europe and their hiring practices.
In what ways did your time at Tech prepare you for the internship?
The research skills that I used to do research for the papers in the MSIA core classes was key, especially using any of the databases that available through the Georgia Tech library resources. I’ve been using databases and database searching extensively during my internship at the Embassy in Lisbon. Writing papers for my graduate degree definitely honed my skills in learning how to quickly parse through multiple sources and get to the truly useful information. Knowing JStor, LexisNexis, and ProQuest were useful when I had to learn Euromonitor, Duns & Bradstreet, and others quickly and produce a report on short notice. For INTA students, I suggest taking full advantage of all that Georgia Tech has to offer in classes. The Sam Nunn School is the only school of international affairs at a technological university. Take electives in engineering, sciences, computer technology/programming, databases management and/or web design because they are useful even in international affairs, especially anything where you need to know current policy and how it affects international relations. Also, the classes I’ve taken in database management and programming (as electives) means the tech support employee on the team trusts me with certain projects or tasks and makes me look really, really smart!