1L Kaleb Boese talks about his internship with the United States Commercial Service in Germany before coming to law school.
After completing my BA in the spring of 2009 I had the fortune of interning with the United States Commercial Service in Munich, Germany. The Commercial Service is an agency within the US Department of Commerce that assists American companies looking to do business internationally. This was an ideal position as it involved a number of my interests; international trade and German culture to name just two. The post was enhanced by its location at the US Consulate General in Munich. This allowed me to encounter other areas of foreign service in addition to the Commercial Service.
Working in a foreign language was probably the most challenging aspect of the internship. By no means fluent, I did feel relatively confident in my German language skills when I headed over. It was immediately apparent to me that using a foreign language in the business world is much more difficult than in social settings. There was a substantial amount of industry specific language that I had never heard before. How do you translate reverse logistics? Understanding most of my instructions was not good enough. Many times I had to ask for instructions to be re-explained ‘auf English’. Promoting our services to German reps, while grasping for words, was intimidating to say the least. However, my bilingual German and American colleagues were extremely gracious and patient. By summer’s end my language skills had improved immensely.
Seeing the process of international business development was a valuable component of the internship. Significant time was devoted to searching for potential business partners for American firms who had decided they wanted to go global. This was not a glamorous process. Lots of research had to be conducted to see which companies were involved in a certain industry. Many fruitless phone calls were made. Numerous emails went unanswered. Therefore, tremendous satisfaction was felt when a list of potential partners led to meetings between US and German representatives, which then led to partnerships, which ultimately resulted in American goods being exported to Germany.
The Human Side
Meeting exceptional people was another aspect of the internship. Counter to stereotypes of the lazy government employee, I worked alongside American and German civil servants whose efforts far surpassed what their jobs required. My colleagues were talented, passionate people who pushed themselves very hard for the benefit of US companies. At various events I met a number of other interesting people, foremost among them being the US Ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy. I was very fortunate to have this incredible experience. It would not have been possible without assistance from a number of people. Going forward I hope to help others have similar experiences of their own.