When her father’s work took her to China as a child, Kathryn Ruble learned to love international settings and new languages. She heard of HBU when her father picked up a university pamphlet at a business conference. She now double-majors in Government and Criminal Justice. Ruble’s desire to work in international relations stirred her to seek opportunities for placements abroad early in her college tenure.
“It began my freshman year,” she said. “I talked to my grandfather and said that I would love to do something international. He said, ‘Why don’t you just call up the State Department?’ I went to their website, and that’s how I found about the United States Foreign Service Internship Program (USFSIP).”
While the program only accepted sophomore or junior applicants, Ruble kept the idea at the front of her mind. When the application window opened the next year, she submitted her application, transcript and letters of recommendation. After several weeks, she received an acceptance letter, and then went through the security clearance process.
The program is two-part. The first summer is in Washington, DC, and the next year is in an assigned country. Since Ruble had been to Western Europe but never Eastern Europe, she applied to and was accepted for her first choice – an internship in Serbia.
For 10 weeks in the summer of 2016, Ruble worked in the Harry S. Truman Federal Building in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. The first three weeks were filled with training in writing and history. Department of State ambassadors and others who worked in the areas of political, economic, public diplomacy, consular and management concerns spoke.
“They would come talk to us and we would ask questions about their work and lives,” Ruble said. “One hope from the program is that students will eventually pursue a career in Foreign Service.”
After the training, Ruble worked in the PM office. “It was a lot of paperwork and editing,” Ruble said. “I remember people saying that it might not seem glamorous, but it does give you a more in-depth and proper perspective of how government works. There are probably ways it could be more efficient, but it helped me understand that the longer processes are meant to serve as a safeguard.”
When she wasn’t at work, Ruble explored the city with her three roommates, also fellow interns. Some of the stand-out destinations included the Washington Monument and Mount Vernon.
“The experience really got me out of my shell,” Ruble said. “I learned how to be more assertive and outgoing.”
The next summer, 2017, Ruble traveled to Belgrade, Serbia, for the second part of her internship in the US Embassy in Serbia. “The people I worked with were so fun and welcoming. There were still remnants of the Soviet Union era and it was neat to see how the West meets the East. It’s an incredible country,” she said.
Ruble worked as an intern for the political section of the embassy working with the human rights officer. Her duties included researching Serbian laws and making dedicated folders. Although she didn’t speak Serbian, she picked up some of the language.
Outside of work, Ruble went to city sites, and to nearby countries including Hungary and Austria. “Here, three hours away is Dallas,” she said. “There, it’s another country.”
Ruble encourages other students who have similar interests to pursue opportunities. “Being in an internship is a good way to see if what you want to do is really what you want to do,” she said. “I would recommend applying for as many as they can. Also, really take advantage of the relationships with HBU professors; they were very helpful to me in the process.”
The experience of realizing a goal, and traveling in a foreign setting, was a great growth opportunity, Ruble said. “I think traveling helps in the sense of independence and self-efficacy. I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I feel blessed with the opportunity, and don’t take it for granted.”