Internship Spotlight: Natalie Schaller

My name is Natalie Schaller and I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently, I am a rising U3 student at McGill University studying Honours Political Science and World Islamic and Middle East Studies. Beyond my major and minor, I am also interested in the Russian language, which has led me to pursue additional classes in the Russian Department.

It is my interest in international affairs, life abroad, and diplomacy that drove me to attend McGill University and to study Political Science. When coming to McGill, I had the goal to learn as much as I could about life in different countries and how the international community could interact in ways that promote peace and prosperity. My time at university has given me tremendous insight on these topics, and I wanted to complement this new understanding through summer internships in the field of diplomacy. This summer, I was fortunate enough to find a terrific remote program with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST). ADST is an organization that strives to capture, preserve, and share the experiences of America’s diplomats. Staffed largely by current and former American diplomats, ADST achieves its mission by supporting programs and projects that elevate U.S. diplomacy. This is done through its oral history program, “Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History” series, podcasts, country readers, publications, and more.

In completing this program, my objective was to improve my own understanding of American diplomacy, and to highlight the important work that America’s diplomats do. I also hoped to learn from ADST staff to gain a better understanding of their experience working in the U.S. Department of State.

Through my internship, I am happy to say I was able to achieve my goals. First, I was able to learn a great deal about life as an American diplomat. My supervisors hosted many discussions on this topic in which we were able to speak frankly with each other, which was very valuable. Next, in terms of more specific work, I curated several “Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History” for publication, facilitated interviews for the oral history program with former ambassadors, created advertising materials for ADST’s Virtual Diplomatic Lunch Discussions, and even edited a manuscript on the opening of the first U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan (that was certainly a highlight of the summer). Collectively, these experiences not only helped me understand the American diplomatic apparatus; they also allowed me to manage independent projects and improve my skills in storytelling and advertising.

Beyond this, I speak with certainty when I say this experience will influence my future career and education path. In the immediate future, my experience with ADST has inspired me to seek a master’s program in International Diplomacy. It is my hope that such a program would expose me to the most effective tools in a diplomat’s toolbox, in addition to learning how diplomatic interventions can prevent conflicts from escalating. Furthermore, my time with ADST affirmed my interest in working with an international organization, or in the U.S. Department of State. Speaking frankly with current and former diplomats about their work was critical in this regard. Having said that, I realize how fortunate I am to have had this experience. It would not have been possible for me to fully immerse myself in this program without the assistance of the Arts Internship Office and the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill. Truly, I am so grateful for the AIO’s assistance and for my donor’s gift. It has allowed me to focus on work this summer without worrying about finances and rent payments; for this, I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Finally, I understand the transition to remote work is difficult and relies heavily on many privileges. To that end, I would like to acknowledge that I was privileged enough to have access to funds and working technology that allowed me to complete this internship. I understand many students have jobs as front-line workers, or ones that require them to be in-person. I would also like to offer insight as to how I adapted to the remote work environment. While this transition was initially a bit difficult, I discovered the best tips were the simplest one: set and stick to a schedule, take breaks, and attempt to work without distractions. During the workweek, I set a strict work schedule, took 10-minute breaks every hour, and ensured that I was not on my phone/other websites while working. I also regularly reminded myself about why I was thankful for the experience. Practicing gratitude and reflection gave me extra motivation when needed.

Again, I am so thankful to the Arts Internship Office and to Mr. Garvin Brown for all their support this summer.

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