Centre College is known for its strong alumni network and initiatives like the Colonel Connection, an online business directory for alumni, to help link graduates across the country to one another. Centre connections can happen internationally as well, sometimes in places as unexpected as Skopje, Macedonia.
Rising junior Margaret Kaus is in the midst of a summer internship with the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, where she joins Centre alumnus Ryan Stoner ’00 (pictured right, with Kaus). Stoner, who is married to Centre grad Katherine Adams ’01, serves as head of political and economic affairs at the embassy.
“I’ve been interested in the Foreign Service for a while, and Mindy Wilson, my Career Services counselor, put me in touch with Ryan,” says Kaus, a double major in politics and international studies. “He answered a lot of my questions about work with the Department of State and Foreign Service, and when application time came around, choosing out of hundreds of posts was a lot easier since I had already been in touch with someone at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje.”
Kaus’ internship is in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at the embassy, and her daily tasks include administrative duties, tracking cables, submitting and processing background checks, and writing safety articles and advisories for the embassy newsletter.
“I love the environment at the embassy,” she says. “First, there’s a huge sense of community here, which is nice being halfway across the world from home. Second, all the people I’ve interacted with are excited about their jobs and always willing to answer questions I may have.”
“The Foreign Service has a very strong internship program,” notes Stoner. “U.S. Embassies represent the entire range of U.S. foreign policy issues with a relatively small staff. Therefore, every person in the embassy is called upon to cover a very broad and constantly changing portfolio. Interning in an embassy gives a student a sense of how foreign policy works and the range of issues U.S. diplomats work on.”
Kaus appreciates the opportunity to be involved in sections of the embassy outside the RSO where she is based. “Just in my first week at the office I had the chance to work with the Political and Economic Affairs section at an energy forum, as well as observe non-immigrant visa interviews in the Consular section,” she says.
The Republic of Macedonia is a young country formed in 1991, when it declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. The landlocked Balkan state joined the United Nations in 1993 and became a European Union candidate in 2004, and it has progressed politically and economically despite tensions between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians that turned violent during the early 2000s.
The United States enjoys good diplomatic relations with Macedonia, which has a positive impact on life and work there as a representative of the U.S. government, says Kaus. “In Macedonia, the U.S. has a very good reputation,” she notes. “To add to that, the Public Affairs section does a great job of reaching out to the public.”
Stoner, who has been in the Foreign Service for 12 years and at the Skopje embassy since 2011, says that the ability to improve life for American citizens is what he values most about his job. “U.S. embassies exist to serve the American people,” he notes.
For Stoner, this involves promoting and lobbying for U.S. economic and political interests. “Last year,” he says, “I worked with a U.S. company and helped them win a large contract in Macedonia. Winning that contract created 100 jobs in America.”
As someone who is interested in a career in the Foreign Service, Kaus is pleased to be able to see what such a future might hold.
“I was most interested in this internship opportunity because it’s a chance to see how the embassy works before I pursue a career with the Department of State,” she says. “I have the opportunity to interact with current Foreign Service Officers and talk to them about their experiences and get a taste of the embassy work environment.”
by Laurie Pierce