King’s Student Working with State Department in Lithuania
Embassy internship exposes student to Lithuanian politics, philosophy, and economics
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 8, 2009—Kristen Benz (’10) chose not wait until graduation to begin using her King’s education to influence a strategic institution. Instead, she has spent the Fall ’09 semester living in the U.S. embassy compound in Vilnius, Lithuania, researching the Lithuanian economy for her internship with the State Department.
Why Lithuania? Benz says she wanted to “work in a nation whose economy was still developing. My top two choices were Africa or a nation just entering or adjusting to the EU.” When the State Department offered her the position in Lithuania, she was “delighted.”
Benz’s responsibilities in the embassy give her ample opportunity to explore the politics and economy of Lithuania. Her tasks range from giving presentations on American higher education at local high schools to vetting Lithuanian politicians for human rights violations to researching and recommending future action for the ambassador.
One of Benz’s favorite tasks has been preparing an analysis of Lithuania’s business climate in order to learn how the embassy can strengthen the economic ties between the United States and Lithuania. “I met with several hundred people over the course of a month and a half,” she says, listing government officials, non-profit watchdogs, industry leaders, and journalists.
Not only has Benz explored the political and economic aspect of international relations, but she has enjoyed learning about Lithuanian culture. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is home to the oldest university in Europe, has the largest Old Town in Europe, and shares the title of European Capital of Culture for 2009. “This rich historic tradition combined with their pagan heritage and Soviet legacy gives the people a unique character,” observes Benz. “I’m just starting to grasp the differences between their mindset and that of the West.”
Of her King’s education, Benz states, “My business and economics coursework has definitely served as a foundation for my economic investigations. I also find myself drawing frequently on my political philosophy to explain the American mindset and to try to build bridges between two cultures.”
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