I worked in the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Section of the embassy, focusing mainly on environment issues in Russia. Each week, I contributed articles to the section’s weekly, a report that goes out to numerous Washington agencies and authorities. I checked local and national Russian news daily for anything of interest to my section, contacting other local sources to provide further information. I compiled briefers for high-level authorities on GLOBE, an international scientific education program, and illegal logging in Russia. For the most part, I served as a “faux foreign services officer,” doing most of what they do daily.
One week after I arrived in Moscow, I attended a meeting with three walrus hunters from Chukotka, the farthest northeast region of Russia. The men were part of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission and were headed to Alaska to meet with their American counterparts. They brought with them pictures and videos of their work, including amazing photographs of polar bears. The men head up a “polar bear patrol” in their village of 200 people, keeping the polar bears away from the village as climate change increasingly affects their hunting patterns. I was thrilled to meet individuals with lives so different from my own.
I spent the majority of my time focusing on revitalizing GLOBE in Russia. My work afforded me the opportunity to serve as a member of a two-day trip to Rostov-on-Don, where I met with the GLOBE country coordinator, area teachers and an influential non-profit NGO. During the trip, I was able to initiate planning for the first GLOBE certification training in Russia in 6 years. I worked on a report for Washington, D.C. authorities about the trip, which greatly increased my knowledge of writing for a policy-focused audience.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or invite yourself to meetings or events that interest you. A lot of what I was assigned seemed over my head when I first arrived at the embassy. I started asking questions right away and soon most things became second nature. I learned more than I ever could have hoped because I asked. I went to a number of meetings and met some exciting people (in the world of a Russian studies major) who I never would have otherwise met. I was told I could not attend a couple of meetings, but for the most part, I was a welcome addition to the group.