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INSTANT ENERGY EXPERT
By Julia E. DeLong (’07)
As an intern in a foreign embassy, a BYU student finds out just how much she’s learned.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay won third place in the 2006 BYU Magazine student essay contest.
That morning when I got to work, I found a note from Jeff on my desk: no matter what else I had to finish up in the last week of my internship, this assignment was more important and I had to take care of it now. Despite our having mentioned the situation several times, Washington had suddenly decided that today was the day to become alarmed by Hungary’s proposal to join together two oil pipelines, through which the country would be able to import oil from Iran through Russia. This proposal had been in the air for months. Why was Washington noticing it only now, on the second-to-last day of my internship at the U.S. embassy in Hungary, when I was frantically tying up other loose ends?
“Oh well,” I thought, “when you work with Foreign Service officers, you are always at the beck and call of the government.” They needed a report on the implications of this proposal for Hungary and its relationship with Russia, and they needed it now. I opened my file drawer, pulled out a few things, and began to write: “There are two oil pipelines that end in Hungary: the Friendship, or Southern Druzhba pipeline, that runs westward through Ukraine, and the Adriatic pipeline that comes from Krk Island on Croatia’s coast.”
When I had arrived at the U.S. embassy nine weeks earlier, Jeff had assigned me to prepare a series of reports on Hungary’s energy sector. I had had to start from scratch in my research because I knew absolutely nothing about the subject. While I spoke Hungarian already from my student-exchange year in high school, I didn’t have the vocabulary for this kind of discussion. I was immediately daunted by my assignment: Hungary was about to execute some especially spectacular economic acrobatics in their efforts to privatize their energy sector, and this was my first experience with research that involved more than looking up a few scholarly articles and saying something clever about them.
For the first four weeks or so of my internship, I simply attended the daily press briefings, went along on visits to industrial leaders and politicians, and looked through the daily newspapers for relevant information. I searched the Internet for background information and waded through some appallingly boring technical reports published by the Hungarian government on energy policy.
My internship was almost halfway over before I began to even comprehend what was going on. At that point I began taking notes on what I learned and clipping out news articles. I eventually set up my own appointments with officials at the various energy-industry companies and met with them one-on-one, trying to get my questions answered. It took so long for me to even begin to understand the energy sector that I didn’t actually start writing my reports until the last week of my internship.
But by the last week, I understood the energy sector so well that when that note from Jeff appeared on my desk, I sat down, pulled out my relevant notes, and immediately began to write. In less than an hour I had two dense paragraphs, and I leaned back in my chair and considered how far I had come from the ignoramus I was when I arrived. I had said pretty much all there was to say on the issue.
I e-mailed my summary to Jeff, and, just a few minutes later I got a copy of the e-mail he sent on to Washington, which consisted of my two paragraphs exactly as I had written them with only the added complimentary footnote: “From our Hungarian-speaking, instant energy expert.” I was so proud. My work was actually being put to use by people who had a real say in our foreign policy. Later that day Jeff thanked me for my little report and said it was proof that I had figured out what working in an embassy is all about.
Julia DeLong is an economics major from Anoka, Minn.
Copyright 2011 by Brigham Young University.