As an intern at the United States Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, this past spring, Jennifer Sutton gained new perspective on living and working abroad.
A 2012 graduate of Amherst Steele High School, she graduated in December from South Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in history and minors in American Indian studies and biology.
After starting college with a desire to head to medical school, a trip to Cuba in 2015 to study U.S. foreign policy began to sway her aspirations.
“I wanted to find an internship abroad and I ran across one through the U.S. State Department,” Sutton said. “I’d fingerprint every morning, then the afternoons were more open-ended,” she said. “That could mean projects in the consular department, a couple things with public affairs, or even writing cables.”
Her work at the embassy lasted just under three months.
“I learned a lot about what foreign service officers do, which is very helpful,” said Sutton. “I was considering that as a career even before taking this internship. Actually experiencing it only reinforced that. I got a letter of recommendation from the embassy and that will obviously help a lot too.”
“You have to take a test for foreign service and I got a lot of pointers for that,” she said. “I’m going to take it in the fall. It’s only offered about four times a year. I just missed the window to take it while I was at the embassy.”
After spending this summer back in Amherst and working at Cedar Point, Sutton plans to move on to Ohio University in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in 20th century history and foreign relations.
For others thinking of pursuing a career in foreign services or any job abroad, preparation and firsthand experience is key, Sutton said.
Also, be ready for some culture shock.
“The grocery store was difficult, especially while I was learning to speak Polish” she said. “It very fast paced and everything was in Polish. By fast paced, I mean there’s not much conversation in line. They just scan your things as fast as possible. You also have to provide your own bags. You have to bag yourself as you pay while being spoken to in Polish. Going to a restaurant was a little easier because you could usually order in English.”
If you’re in foreign services, you spend two or three years at a post and then you move, she said. “You’re constantly going to new places and have to start over. Make sure you’re ready to live in a foreign place and not just visit there.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.