Student Spotlight: Andrea Hendrickson, Consular Intern at U.S. Embassy in Madrid

Majors: International Studies and Spanish

Minor: Psychology

Year at IU: Junior

Role: Consular Intern at U.S. Embassy in Madrid for the Department of State

How did you find this position?  I found this position at last year’s Fall Career and Internship Fair.  A representative from the Department of State attended the fair, and she also hosted an information session on campus a few days later.  She talked a lot about the different opportunities with the State Department, including careers and student programs.

What does a typical day look like for you?  It’s hard for me to describe a typical day, because there was always something new and exciting to work on!  Also, I switched offices halfway through my internship (from Visa Unit to American Citizen Services), and the two were completely different.  Generally, I did a lot of work with passports and data processing.  In the Visa Unit, I took applicants’ fingerprints, entered their information into the database, pasted visas into passports, and prepared the passports to be sent back.  In American Citizen Services, I printed many emergency passports for Americans who had lost theirs, and I helped manage cases for Consular Reports of Births Abroad.  These are just a few examples of the many tasks I was given!  Outside of my office, I was often invited to other embassy functions, such as country team meetings, fraud detection workshops, and receptions or events hosted by the Ambassador.

Was there any training for this position, and if so, what was it like?  There was absolutely no training for this position.  Honestly, it caught me completely off guard!  I expected to have some kind of orientation on my first day.  However, the only introduction to the embassy that I got was a checklist of brief meetings with the other offices in the embassy – that I had to set up myself!  I was completely overwhelmed the first week, but there was definitely enough work to keep me busy.  Not having formal training was one of the hardest parts for me.  I was forced to ask for people’s help and learn through observation, neither of which I am very good at!  Nevertheless, it taught me to be more assertive and confident in such a professional (and intimidating!) environment.

Tell us something new you have learned about the industry.  Almost everything I learned through this experience was new to me!  Going into it, I had little background knowledge on what goes on at embassies and consuls around the world.  However, I learned so many new things every single day.  I now know about visa processes, the U.S.’s relations with foreign countries, the help Americans receive overseas, politics and economy in Spain, and much more.  Most importantly, I got to experience the day-to-day life of a U.S. diplomat, which is a career track that I have a strong interest in.

What do you wish someone would have told you before this position that can serve as advice to others?  I wish someone would’ve prepared me for the culture shock I experienced when I first got to Spain.  The part that was the hardest was that I went completely by myself, not part of a program.  However, the staff and other interns at the embassy were extremely welcoming.

By Kaitlynn Cull
Kaitlynn Cull Peer Coach Kaitlynn Cull