Learning Foreign Policy in the Office of Central Asian Affairs

Posted by Rudi Sarna
December 29, 2011
Turkmenistan Culture Days in the USA

Working with the Office of Central Asian Affairs in the South and Central Asia Bureau has given me a fascinating glimpse into the daily workings of the foreign policy arm of the U.S. Government. During my short 10-week program, I have had the opportunity to learn about the lesser known Central Asian countries -- Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan -- and their increasingly important role throughout Asia and to U.S. interests in the region.

All five countries are currently celebrating 20 years of independence and strong partnerships with the U.S. Government. Kyrgyzstan recently held the Central Asian region's first peaceful and democratic presidential election, won by President Almazbek Atambayev, who was inaugurated on December 1, 2011. I had the distinct pleasure of attending Kazakhstan's 20th anniversary celebratory concert and gala at the Kennedy Center, and was treated to a display of Kazakh music, culture, and cuisine. Turkmenistan recently celebrated its anniversary by hosting Turkmen Culture Days in the United States, bringing an assortment of tapestries, antique jewelry, and traditional garb. I was tasked with drafting remarks for senior Department officials who participated in these events. It's a pretty surreal experience to see the Assistant Secretary using my contributions.

As an intern, I was able to work on projects that directly influenced U.S. relations with Central Asian countries. Part of my responsibility was to meet with different bureaus to discuss the impact of U.S. policy in Central Asia and draft papers for our Front Office. These papers provided background information for senior department officials before their meetings with heads of state and foreign political figures, to help them tailor their discussions and reach productive conclusions.

I have found that the Department of State is a particularly lively place with foreign dignitaries and U.S. officials visiting daily. Our U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan was recently in town, and I had the opportunity to speak with him about his experience with the Department of State and his role in Kazakhstan.

Above all, I valued the conversations I have had with employees around the Department. Be it Civil Service or Foreign Service, everyone at the Department has a unique story to tell, and I have enjoyed listening. I have learned a tremendous amount just from casual meetings over coffee, discussing their experience with the Department. The Office of Central Asian Affairs has been a fantastic resource in navigating around the maze which is the Harry S. Truman building, and I credit them for my successful internship experience.

An internship with the Department of State provides a truly novel way to learn about daily happenings overseas. I would strongly encourage students to apply for internship opportunities to learn about foreign affairs and international relations.

Comments

Comments

Dale G.
|
United States
December 29, 2011

Dale in the U.S.A. writes:

Learning about these cultures must be very nice. As a student, I agree that this kind of learning experience would be very beneficial to people wanting to know about foreign policy first-hand.

running85
December 30, 2011

W.W.W. writes:

learning about cultures make u see how wird their hat are and viceversa

Stacey P.
|
Israel
January 1, 2012

Stacey P. in Israel writes:

Rudi - your internship experience sounded excellent from what you wrote in this blog post. I hope a State Department internship influences you - positively- in your future career path. It sure did for me!

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