How do you prepare a delegation of Venezuelan students to represent Germany? And will a young diplomat even be taken seriously by young students? Moritz Jacobshagen, First Secretary at the German Embassy in Caracas, reports on his day-to-day routine “on a diplomatic mission”.
There I suddenly was on my first posting: 28 years old, not much beard growth, and I was First Secretary at the German Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, responsible for politics, press, cultural affairs and protocol.
Fantastic: there’s a whole range of interesting tasks for me. First of all, I’m allowed to accompany the Ambassador to the Minister and shake his hand, then I’m allowed to make a reassuring speech to concerned parents and teachers at the German school. I’m even allowed to give a live interview on regional television. But exciting as all this is, sometimes I feel a bit small in this big new role. Especially when those I’m due to hold talks with expect a white-haired gentleman with a dress handkerchief to walk in when the arrival of the “First Secretary” is announced.
Reception at home
An example? A group of students representing Germany at a “Model United Nations” contact the Embassy with some questions about Germany’s positions on international issues. This is an ideal opportunity for a reception in my own home: that enables us to discuss the many questions face-to-face. As I’m expecting 20 guests, my budget will only stretch to drinks and snacks. Then I send out the invitations. The students are quick to accept and thank me profusely.
When they arrive on my doorstep – all at once – and I open the door, there are some surprised faces. Some of them are perhaps wondering why the diplomat has sent his son to answer the door. “Yes, it’s me! Welcome!” I’m determined not to show I’m nervous and start by serving drinks. The guests are delighted with the German wine and beer while I just hope that they really all are over 18 and that I don’t get into trouble with their parents afterwards.
I say a few words of welcome – just as I learned at the Diplomatic Academy – and then I let them fire away: “Which factors contributed to the success of German unity? “To what extent does Germany’s environmental penal law differ from the international standard?” “What’s Germany’s position on the euro crisis?”
Of course, I don’t have an answer for everything – in some cases I have to promise to provide a written response at a later point in time – but, on the whole, the students seem happy with my answers. At any rate, they eagerly write down everything I say.
A few weeks later I receive an enthusiastic e-mail: the students won several prizes as the best delegation at the event. They say that this wouldn’t have been possible without my kind support in the run-up. They go on to say that now all of them want to become diplomats and that our paths are bound to cross soon as colleagues.
The young First Secretary is pleased and feels great in his big role.