Madelaine Thiel,Copenhagen

October 21, 2016 | esapi-gspia

I am enjoying my embassy work in Copenhagen. The weather is turning a little worse and I finally hung up the biking gear. Buying monthly bus passes from here on out made me realize that I only have two months left in Denmark. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone!

Living in Copenhagen is insanely cool. It is such a green city. There are plug-in stations for electrical cars everywhere, if cars can find parking.  It’s mostly bikes. People have large cargo bikes that carry dogs, children, and friends… not necessarily all at once.  The most impressive I have seen to date is a friend pushing a cargo basket in front of her bike containing a set of drawers, a mattress and another friend holding it all in place. I must give them kudos for efficiency.

My work at the embassy is primarily with the Trade team. This puts my Economics and International Trade courses to good use, especially since so much of it revolves around CETA advocacy.  I get to look at complaints against CETA that are expressed in mediums such as town hall meetings and social media. I then try to see if there is a better way the Canadian government can communicate the key benefits of the agreement.  It’s really interesting. I am also given odd assignments from the political team.  I have been writing briefs on environmental policy in Denmark, which is great since I am in the environment specialization at GSPIA, and even had to do a research assignment on Copenhagen Fashion Week.

Haven’t had too much culture shock since I have arrived. I am lucky that most Danes speak perfect English so there is no language barrier. Differences in mannerisms may make them seem a bit blunt, but they are always so helpful when I ask for directions.  I sadly get lost more than I care to admit.  I spent my Thanksgiving weekend visiting a friend in Amsterdam.  He is a fellow GSPIA student doing an academic exchange.  Seeing the difference between Amsterdam and Copenhagen was really interesting.  I noticed some differences between the two cities. Having grown up in France, Amsterdam felt a little closer to what is familiar. Denmark and Sweden (visited back in September) feel so very Nordic.  Copenhagen just has different energy about it.  Maybe it is the higher prices or the colder weather, but it seems that most places in Copenhagen demand nice outerwear and sophisticated tastes. I see business people and a clipped professionalism everywhere. It is the height of courtesy to be brief and respectful, I find I can fit in with that crowd well.  Meanwhile, Amsterdam had a a bit more of a grunge student vibe. They have decriminalized marijuana and that affected the sense of place as well (particularly the neighborhood I was in). I am making gross generalizations based on snapshots of countries, but there you have it.

I am loving the food here. Amsterdam had nice cheese and Sweden had really good jam, but nothing rivals the pickled herring and rye bread of Denmark. I also have to mention all the Danishes and baked goods available. I live close to a bakery and lets just say it is a good thing I bike so much. Our embassy has a chef to cater special events and take care of general hospitality. He is very generous with his cooking and makes sure I try all the different kinds of food he makes. His chocolate mousse is to die for and he can make delicious appetizers out of cod and herring. The strangest thing he has made to date is øllebrød. It is Danish black bread boiled down with beer and served with cream. Not sure it is a favorite but it is definitely worth trying!

Alison Kwok, Laos

September 7, 2016 | esapi-gspia

The last three weeks of my internship have flown by in a flurry. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion was in Vientiane between July 25 and 27 and was closely followed by a visit from the Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland between August 3 to 5, who was in Vientiane to attend the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting. I mentioned some details of Minister Dion’s visit in my previous post and I’m glad to say that the visit went successfully. The opening ceremony happened without a hitch and saw a considerably high number of guests even though many were already very busy with their own minister visits. As I was responsible for organizing the bilateral meetings for his visit, I also got the opportunity to spend some time running around at the Lao National Convention Centre that was built specifically for the ASEAN meetings. Although we had to put in long hours for this visit and there were some stressful moments due to unforeseeable schedule changes, there was a real sense of accomplishment shared by the mission at the end of the visit.

For Minister Freeland’s visit, we had to cram a lot of preparation into the few days between Minister Dion’s departure and her arrival. For this visit, I organized a Roundtable with Canadian Businesses and helped out with events such as a lunch with young Lao women entrepreneurs and a launch event hosted by the ASEAN mission from Jakarta. These events were a great opportunity for me to get to know members of the local Canadian business community and learn about their experiences living in Lao PDR, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face. But as exciting as the visits have been, I am definitely looking forward to being able to catch my breath and unwind a little.

For the last week of my internship, I spent most of my time preparing future posts for social media, finishing up introductory reading material for future interns and wrapping up some administrative and consular tasks. Even though the highlight of my internship came near the end with these two ministerial visits, it was exciting joining the office in May in its early stages of setup, and to be a part of the beginning efforts of establishing Canadian presence both in Lao PDR and the ASEAN community. I’m thankful to have worked at a mission with hardworking and driven colleagues throughout these four months. Even though so many of us were new to our posts, the challenge of the visits helped us band together and work to the best of our abilities. The internship also gave me the chance to meet and work with people from neighbouring missions (Bangkok and Jakarta), delegates from Ottawa, staff from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local service providers. I believe my time at the Vientiane mission has provided me a fulfilling and well-rounded experience working for the Canadian foreign service, and I hope whoever gets to work there next will be able to complete an equally exciting – if not more – mandate!

Caroline Czach, Poland

September 7, 2016 | esapi-gspia

It is hard to believe that my time at the embassy is already coming to an end. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to get a taste of the life in the Foreign Service, and thankful for all the advice that I got along the way. For my last blog post, since I was the first GSPIA student to intern in Warsaw, I thought I would share some tips for anyone interested in interning in Poland, or participating in the embassy internship in general.

>> Live as close to the embassy as possible

The first challenge that I encountered moving to Warsaw was the long commute that I had to work. Although this allowed me to explore parts of the city that I would not have otherwise, even the military police staff that gave me the initial security briefing suggested I find a place closer to work. I would recommend looking for Erasmus students to rent an apartment with, or even considering renting a residence room at one of the local universities (University of Warsaw, Warsaw School of Economics, Warsaw University of Technology or Collegium Civitas).

>> Intern Networks

Learn from my mistake of not contacting other embassies to see if they have student interns. Since I was the first intern in Warsaw, I was not sure if there were student networks in the city. I regret not taking the initiative to ask around or start a student intern network sooner.

>> Don’t forget to bring your International Student Identification Card (ISIC)

In Poland the student discounts are huge! To avoid running around the city to look for a travel agency that will issue you a valid ISIC card, renew yours on campus before you depart. For example, on transportation city cards and train/ bus tickets to explore the country, I saved up to 50%. This blew my mind, as I paid a third of the price for a three month city card in Warsaw that I would have paid for only a monthly bus pass in Ottawa. That being said, Poland is not yet in the Eurozone, thus the cost of living in Poland against the Canadian dollar treated my student budget very well.

>> Don’t think of yourself as “just” the intern

Take a moment to appreciate that you are awesome and landed this great internship. But don’t wait around to be asked to start working on a project. Take initiative and show an interest in the work that is being done at the embassy. You will make more meaningful connections with the staff this way, even if you are not working with them directly. I volunteered at many events outside of the realm of the political section, which lead to other projects added to my to-do list. This allowed me to get more invitations to attend conferences and even participate in events and trips outside of Warsaw, a nice change of pace from doing research at a computer all day. It also allowed me to get to know the staff on a personal level, as some even invited me to their homes for a good old Canadian BBQ.

>> Get to know the surroundings of the Embassy and the local culture

If languages classes are offered during the time of your internship, take advantage of them! The Polish language looks deceivingly similar to English, but its Slavic roots make it more challenging than you think. This will at least help you when you are at a restaurant or purchasing something. The Poles are very warm and supportive of foreigners learning Polish.

The Embassy is located right next to the Sejm, the Parliament. There are a lot of protests that take place here. Something interesting that I noticed is that both sides of the debate are often represented. It is interesting to see the tolerance and pluralism that comes of these protests. I will save other local customs for you to discover on your own!

>> Conferences and networking

As a student, I am confident in calling myself a professional note taker. From meetings to conferences, my supervisor always asked me to send her my notes and often forwarded them to Ottawa and other sections at the embassy. I didn’t realize that my notes, and side notes, would be this appreciated, but your work does not end there. In addition to the shift from academic to technical report writing, a big part of your research and work will be based on the interactions you make with academics, professionals and civil society that you meet at events and conferences. Building and maintaining relationships is the name of the game and will take you a long way. The ability to liaise with your colleagues today and keep the good vibes rolling will be beneficial, you never know, your paths may cross again, in Ottawa or abroad!

I wish the current interns have a safe trip back to Canada. See you later, do widzenia!

Laurence Villeneuve, Zagrab, Croatia

September 7, 2016 | esapi-gspia

Pour ce deuxième blogue j’ai décidé de vous partager un peu mes expériences de voyage, car j’en ai profité pour découvrir et m’évader un peu pendant les weekends. D’abord, ma première observation que j’ai fait concerne la générosité et la gentillesse des gens ici. Il y a quelques semaines de cela j’ai décidé de me louer un appartement sur Airbnb à la dernière minute avec mon coloc dans le village d’Omiš sur le bord de la mer. La propriétaire de l’appartement nous a accueilli comme des rois. Elle est venue nous chercher très tard à la gare d’autobus. Le lendemain, elle nous a fait du café et nous avons parlé de politique sur son petit balcon qui offre une vue parfaite sur la mer. Son ouverture m’a rappelé à quel point les voyages sont mémorables non seulement par les choses que l’on voit, mais spécialement par les personnes qu’on rencontre.

De la même façon, le week-end passé je suis allé découvrir la capitale de la Serbie, Belgrade, avec une amie qui travaille à l’ambassade de la Belgique. Nous avons rencontré des gens extraordinaires au cours de notre séjour. Les Serbes que nous avons rencontrés ont été très accueillants avec nous. Il n’y a pas autant de touristes qu’en Croatie, donc il y a quelques gens qui nous croisaient dans la rue ou dans les parcs et qui nous demandaient d’où on venait et qui nous souhaitaient la bienvenue dans leur pays. J’ai toutefois été choquée et attristée de voir l’impact de la crise des migrants dans la ville. En arrivant à la station d’autobus, ils étaient plusieurs rassemblés dans un parc, n’ayant aucune place où vivre. Puisque la Croatie et la Hongrie ont fermé leurs frontières à un moment, l’effet s’est fait ressentir dans plusieurs pays comme la Serbie, la Macédoine et la Grèce. Malheureusement, il ne semble pas y avoir assez de ressources pour les aider et leur trouver un toit. Cela m’a permis de comprendre davantage et de voir par mes yeux l’impact majeur des conflits aux Moyen-Orient en Europe, et spécialement dans les Balkans. Mon autre surprise du week-end fut le taux de change. Pour 1 dollar, on obtient 85 dinars. Donc, tout ce que l’on achetait était à un prix ridiculement bas. Nous nous sommes senties comme des fausses riches l’espace de 3 jours, ce qui est parfait pour deux étudiantes sur un budget.

Enfin, je dirais que ma découverte/surprise au cours de ces 3 mois fut la Slovénie. Les gens oublient souvent d’aller visiter ce magnifique petit pays situé entre la Croatie, l’Italie, l’Autriche et la Hongrie. Ljubljana est une petite ville avec un charme fou, à seulement 1h30 de Zagreb, où on peut facilement faire le tour en une journée. J’ai aussi passé une journée à Bled, qui est environ à 1heure de route de Ljubljana. Si vous êtes fan de nature, c’est un des plus beaux lacs que j’ai vu de ma vie. L’eau bleu turquoise, la petite église située au milieu du lac et le château sur la colline m’ont fait tomber sous le charme de la ville.

Enfin, ces différentes escapades en Europe de l’Est m’ont rappelé à quel point voyager nous permet d’en apprendre sur d’autres cultures, sur nous-même, mais aussi de comprendre les nuances entre ce que les médias nous transmettent comme information et la réalité. Ce stage m’a permis de découvrir une région du monde qui, au départ, m’était assez inconnue. Et plus le temps avance, plus je m’y sens comme chez moi.

Conor O’Callaghan,Bangkok, Thailand

September 7, 2016 | esapi-gspia

Bangkok is a world class metropolitan and it is a short plane or car ride away from many other great travel spots. While here, I have been able to weekend in Kanchanaburi which is where the famous river Kwai is, Koh Samed a tropical island, Khao Yai a beautiful national park and Hua Hin another beach town. Although Thailand was rated as the second most dangerous country on Earth for driving fatalities per capita last year, there is often times a reassuring side of the laissez-faire policing style, some call it corruption, some call it freedom.

On referendum day, I got to experience being an unofficial election monitor (there were no official international monitors invited) which meant going to various polling stations and checking to see they had all the correct equipment and appeared to be free and fair, without going too close to the actual stations. I was heartened to see that the process on the ground appeared transparent and I was able to witness what appeared to be a fair count after voting closed. It is always exciting to see democracy in action, no matter how convoluted or contorted its source. After spending the last three months analyzing and interviewing people about the draft the “yes vote” was not a surprise but the motivations for voting were varied; to validate or repudiate the military rulers, to expedite or stall the next election, or as was intended, voting based on the suitability of the draft constitution. Like any human election, some voters seemed to achieve impressive depths of psychological insight and engaged in layered strategic considerations while others voted because they just wanted to participate or happened to be free that day. The result for me was mostly confusion about what it all means.

Any constitution that is drafted and implemented by a military junta is likely to raise some suspicion. The draft of the 20th Thai constitution, since the end of absolute monarchy in 1934, was no different with many questioning the robustness of its ties to a democratic foundation. However, on August 7th the people were given their chance to voice their opinion of the charter in a referendum. The result was over 60% of voters affirming the junta’s draft, it passed with flying colours through a democratic mechanism. Some critics point to the lack of freedom of expression, movement, gatherings of more than 5 people or simply that nearly half of the eligible 50 million voters abstained from the vote but regardless the result was unambiguous.

Another exciting event was the visit of State Counsellor Aung Sun Suu Kyi. I had the pleasure of writing a report about the visit and attending an event at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Thailand that was promptly shut down by the military. It was a panel discussion by members of the Rohingya community also known as “the Muslim community in Rakhine state” according to Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi.

Previous to the referendum, I also had the opportunity to help organize the showing of the Canadian film “Closet Monster” at the second Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Along with some colleagues and a civil society group we developed a social media campaign and held a contest for tickets to the movie. The contest winners had an opportunity to give a short speech before the screenings of “Closet Monster” and I was moved by their poignant observations about inclusion and social acceptance. For opening night there were speeches by representatives from various embassies and civil society groups and I was tasked with writing the Canadian embassy’s entry, it was fun hearing my colleague give their version of my speech.

Aracelly Granja Panama

August 3, 2016 | esapi-gspia

As I’m sitting here writing this I’m enjoying my final moments here in Panama. Soon I’ll be off to the airport and be forced to say goodbye to all the amazing people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen and the embassy where I’ve worked for the last three months. Although, I guess it won’t be an unequivocal goodbye as I take will me a mountain of memories and leave a promise of a quick return. During not only my internship but throughout my entire experience in Panama the one theme that remained constant was that of learning. I leave tomorrow feeling as though I learned something new every day.

On the professional front I learned how to structure and write a report be it regarding, women’s rights, education, intended projects or climate change. I learned how to create and implement a social media strategy that is functional, engaging and most importantly sustainable for a mission with limited resources, personnel and time. I learned about the importance of following protocol when planning an event, running a meeting or even making a flyer (let’s just say it was a close call). I learned that when attending a UN conference on development in Latin America, anything can change in an instant from the President being a no show to the planning of future collaborations (when trying to make a discrete early exit). Furthermore, I learned that when you are your mission’s only intern and thus notetaking is one of your primary functions at meetings, your smart phone is your greatest asset and friend (especially if it’s predominantly a PowerPoint presentation). Additionally, I learned that when you’re headed to a meeting with a minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and your ambassador has left only the car ride to read the report you prepared (which took me a week) you better be able to provide a concise and well informed summary.  Finally, in the workplace I learned that even though certain procedures such as requisitions or information sharing can be saturated with bureaucratic hoops to jump through, at the end of the day things always find a way of working out and getting done.

On the personal front I feel as though I have taken away a great deal from this experience. I have been able to utilize my Spanish on a daily basis, which was a nice change from only using it when calling my parents back home. I was introduced to a whole new layer of Castellano and was taught a slew of Panamanian slang words like “chuleta,” haya la vida,” & “chuso”. I learned that when getting into a taxi (in Panama at least) one should always take the first price as a suggestion; you can generally always negotiate (so long as don’t look “foreign”, whatever that means). I also learned that no matter where you find yourself in the world, you can always find incredible people that are willing to take you in and treat you like family (¡Mil gracias Teresita, Sra. Yriama, Sra. Ida y Tia Thelmita!). I’m going to take this moment to say a huge thank you to all my co-workers, supervisors and to my Ambassador for being so open, patient and willing to take the time from their extremely busy schedules to teach me, explain procedures and answer all of my incent questions. You will never know how grateful I am to you all and how your tutelage has benefitted me.

Overall, this intern’s journey in Panama has concluded just as quickly as it began and I can’t be happier as to how things turned out. Although in the beginning I was apprehensive, thinking that because of the size of my mission I might not have that much to do, I can now say that being in a smaller embassy has allowed me to work in a variety of areas and perform tasks that perhaps most interns wouldn’t normally have the opportunity of doing. I always had work for which I say an ENORMOUS thank you! It was never dull. I leave with a feeling of satisfaction as I achieved exactly what I wanted out of this experience which was to learn! So as this is my last entry I guess there is nothing left to say except:

¡Hasta pronto Panamá te extrañare!

Alison Kwok, Laos

August 2, 2016 | esapi-gspia

With less than two months of my internship left, one of the most anticipated highlights of my placement – the arrival of Canadian Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion – is edging closer and closer. The main objective of his visit is to attend the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Post Ministerial Conference. These meetings are held on an annual basis and act as a focal point for reinforcing regional cooperation and emphasizing integration and cohesiveness in the ASEAN community across a variety of issues.
As Minister Dion will be in Vientiane for a few days, numerous different visits and activities have been planned alongside the core ASEAN meetings. Given his densely packed schedule and the size of the VNTNE team, the office has been consistently busy.

Having a prominent guest visit us is a good opportunity for Ottawa to see what Canada’s (new) presence in Laos has achieved thus far and to know more about the partnerships with potential in avenues of trade, development assistance and cross cultural exchanges that are increasingly cropping up as Laos’ economy continues to grow. In honour of Minister Dion’s visit, we have also arranged for the official opening of the office to take place. Although the scale of the ceremony will be relatively small, preparations are ongoing as we are nearing the big day. A baci ceremony – a traditional Lao ceremony to celebrate special events – will be held, followed by an evening reception in the garden of the Australian embassy (fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain that day but it is rainy season right now!).
As our human resources are quite limited compared to most missions, there have been times where merely thinking about the volume of required preparation has been a bit overwhelming. But on the bright side, I have had the chance to work on different aspects of planning and support for the minister’s visit, and be involved right down to the details at different stages. My involvement ranges from comparatively menial tasks such as preparing invitations, developing official print material and choosing music for the reception to the more challenging tasks of writing scenario and meeting notes for each planned event, providing logistic support and tracking the media communications plan in coordination with colleagues abroad. I am glad to have the chance to dabble in the different points of the preparation process as it allows me to develop new skills and also learn more about the roles and responsibilities of different government departments.
Calm before the storm is probably the best way to characterize the current mood and pace in the office. I’m expecting it to get a little crazy in the coming two weeks – which is why I’ve taken this moment to write this blog post. I look forward to being able to write about these events when they are over in my last entry!

Caroline Czach, Poland

August 2, 2016 | esapi-gspia

Hello again, cześć!
Since writing my last blog post, so much has changed. What I called my first impressions of life in Poland and work at the embassy are now habits that I have grown accustom to. It’s an awesome feeling when a new city starts to feel like home. Yet, at the same time, my English accent seeps through my Polish and it is clear that I am still a foreigner; I have not yet achieved the status of a local. Although… my Polish spirit reached an all-time high during the 2016 Euro Cup! I bought a Polish soccer (or as they called it here football) scarf and all!
With the passing of the NATO Summit there is a sense of relief at the embassy. Unfortunately, I regret to report that I did not have the opportunity to meet, or should I say, take a selfie with the Prime Minister. Since Justin Trudeau’s visit was for the Summit and not bilateral, there were not many chances to meet him. Luckily, I was tasked with a project for the summit! I worked with the media relations agent on my team and helped accredit the Canadian media. I was also stationed at the hotel where the media was housed and stayed in the conference room with all their equipment. This room was very busy for about an hour in the early morning before everyone made their way to the venue and for a few hours in the late evening when they returned and began to edit their footage and send their notes to Ottawa. At least I got to meet the faces behind the articles that were written about the Summit in the Canadian media!
The next big event drawing almost a million visitors to Poland this summer is World Youth Day. Hosted in Krakow, a temporary counselor office has been step up to assist any Canadian pilgrims. My brother even flew to Poland for this event. I however, will only watch the Pope’s address from the comfort of the less crowded venue, from my apartment.
I continue to work on the Belarus file, this time assessing the upcoming Parliamentary Election. Polls show that the popularity of the President of Belarus is at an all-time low. This is a great opportunity for the marginalized opposition to unite and have a chance at creating political pluralism in Belarusian society. I look forward to follow its results when I return to Ottawa.
Beyond that, I have been taking more weekend trips around Poland explore to explore the country’s diverse landscape. From the Baltic Sea in the north, popular international music festivals take place here, to the Tatra mountain range in the south, the town of Zakopane that I will visit this weekend for some hiking, and the various old medieval and modern looking towns in between, where I went to the hometown of Copernicus, Toruń, which is also the home of Poland’s famous gingerbread cookies (piernicki). I also embarked on my first out of country trip to visit another GSPIA intern in Riga! It was nice to see the similarities and differences in our work environments, especially comparing the size of the missions. In comparison, and to my surprise, the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw is much bigger than I thought. The mission in Riga is primarily composed of locally engaged staff with the exception of their Ambassador and interns. I really liked the large intern network in Riga. There are students from across Europe and North America that come together to explore the city, and it is a very welcoming environment. Considering that I am the first GSPIA intern in Warsaw, I regret not reaching out to other embassies sooner to inquire if they employ any interns that I could have connected with. I would strongly recommend that the next intern not be shy and send some emails to build this network! I also had the opportunity to visit a friend of mine who is doing their MA in Switzerland. Hiking the mountains and visiting the United Nations headquarters both left me with a sense of awe. It is amazing to actually see the location of the international organization that is so essential the studies of students of public and international affairs.
With eleven days left of my internship, an interesting way of ending my time here is actually seeing the arrival of new Canadian based staff. The passing of the torch from one political counsellor to the next that perhaps will one day to be passed on to those who began as interns.

Caroline Régimbald, Iceland

July 22, 2016 | esapi-gspia

Rebonjour de Reykjavik! J’ai trouvé un merveilleux petit café à deux pas de chez moi d’où je vous écris en dégustant le meilleur cheesecake en ville et en sirotant un café latté! Les dernières semaines à l’ambassade ont été plutôt calmes. L’ambassadeur a quitté son poste, son mandat arrivant à terme, un peu plus tôt que prévu, et son successeur arrivera seulement au début du mois de septembre. Il s’agit donc d’une période de transition, en plus de tous les employés prenant leurs vacances durant l’été. Nous sommes présentement quatre employés, dont trois stagiaires. Je continue donc d’avancer dans mes projets personnels de façon autonome. J’ai eu la chance de rencontrer l’association des femmes d’affaires islandaises afin de les aider à planifier leur voyage à Montréal en septembre. Je les aiderai à organiser le budget de l’événement, ainsi que créer une liste avec toutes les participantes incluant leur profil et quelques informations les concernant. J’ai aussi pu participer à la fête du Canada à Reykjavik! Malheureusement, la fête qui était prévue à l’ambassade a été annulée en raison du départ de l’ambassadeur. Toutefois, un groupe de Canadiens vivant à Reykjavik ont pris l’initiative d’organiser une soirée barbecue à la maison d’un d’entre eux. J’étais très contente de participer à l’événement qui fut marqué par la présence d’invités très spéciaux : le Président de l’Islande nouvellement élu et sa famille! La femme du nouveau Président, Eliza Reid, est Canadienne (originaire d’Ottawa), ce qui explique leur présence à l’événement. Le rôle du Président islandais s’apparente à celui du gouverneur général canadien, bien que celui-ci soit élu par la population et non pas nommé par le Premier ministre. J’ai eu l’occasion de discuter de politique et d’histoire avec le Président, en dégustant un hot-dog autour d’un feu de camp! Je leur ai également offert une bouteille de sirop d’érable, gracieuseté de l’ambassade. Si on m’avait dit il y a quelques temps que ce moment arriverait, je ne l’aurais certainement pas cru! Ce fut une expérience hors du commun qui, selon moi, ne pourrait arriver qu’en Islande, puisque le nombre d’habitants est très petit (329 000 en tout!).
J’ai également eu l’occasion de visiter davantage le pays, qui est toujours aussi impressionnant même après y avoir passé plusieurs semaines! Ma sœur est venue me visiter durant dix jours, et nous avons pu passer une journée au très touristique, mais aussi très joli, Blue Lagoon. Il s’agit d’une station thermale regroupant des bains chauds et des saunas qui sont alimentés par une centrale géothermique située à proximité. L’eau est d’une couleur exceptionnelle, un bleu turquoise, et le site est entouré de montagnes, ce qui rend le décor tout à fait féérique. Le site est bondé de touristes, ce qui lui fait perdre un peu de son charme, mais il s’agit tout de même d’une activité à ne pas manquer pour tout voyageur qui se rend en Islande, ne serait-ce que pour prendre de jolies photos! Nous avons par la suite dégusté de l’agneau islandais, la spécialité nationale, au restaurant du Blue Lagoon. Ce fut l’un des meilleurs repas que j’ai mangés dans ma vie, bien qu’un des plus dispendieux également… Mais bref, c’était exquis. Ma sœur et moi avons également fait un tour guidé dans le sud du pays. Nous avons vu des chutes, marché aux alentours d’un glacier et déambulé sur une plage de sable noir près de la ville de Vík. Ce fut l’une des plus belles journées depuis mon arrivée en Islande, car les paysages étaient tout simplement magnifiques. J’ai pu prendre beaucoup de photos que je garderai précieusement en souvenir.
Alors qu’il ne me reste qu’environ un mois en Islande, je continuerai de déguster des spécialités locales, faire le tour du pays et conclure mes quelques projets à l’ambassade! À la prochaine!

Kirsten Campbell, Helsinki, Finland

July 22, 2016 | esapi-gspia

About two and a half months into my internship in Helsinki now and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone! I have definitely settled into more of a routine here now, getting more familiar with the city and the work life at the embassy.
This past month I have been kept busy by a variety of different projects – part of the intern life at a small embassy is getting to be involved in projects in all different areas, whether that be in trade, politics, or in public outreach. I was a bit worried that I would be finding myself with little to do in the later summer months, as I was warned by my colleagues that most people in Finland take a month off for their summer holidays in July or August. While it has been a bit quieter around the office, there has still been quite a bit to do, and with more of the other employees away, I find myself taking on a few more responsibilities.
Two major projects I was involved with were the planning of the Canada Day event and the planning of the embassy’s involvement in Helsinki’s Pride parade, both occurring on the Canada Day long weekend at the beginning of July. Over this weekend the Euro Games, Europe’s largest LGBTQ sporting event, were also being hosted in Helsinki. Taking advantage of this, the Canada Day celebration took place at the Euro Games athletes’ village, and included prominent Canadian and Finnish speakers and performers. The Helsinki Pride parade took place the next day, and the Canadian embassy, along with the American and Mexican embassies, organized an international float, with an open invitation to any other embassies or international organizations to participate. I was involved with organizing the participants, including RSVPs, general information requests, collecting and returning of flags for the float, as well as with other miscellaneous tasks. The events were great successes that I was happy to have been able to contribute to.
Following the completion of these events, my time has mostly been occupied by writing reports. I am currently in the process of writing a report about a lecture that I had the opportunity to attend on Arctic development and indigenous rights in Finland – a topic which is also of interest to Canada, given parallels with its indigenous communities. In addition, I have also just finished updating a mining report for Finland and Sweden; although I am not an expert on the topic whatsoever, I think it is good for me to get the opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond my own areas of interest. In addition to these reports, I’ve also been occupied by various administrative tasks, inquiries from government departments interested in Finland, and of course with updating social media.
In addition to all of this work I have also been fortunate enough to have free time on weekends to travel to other places nearby, including Norway, France, and now Latvia. One of the perks of living in Europe!
In about one month I will be back in Canada, but for now I am looking forward to what this last month of my experience at the embassy and in Finland will hold for me.