Exchange diplomats in the U.S. and Canada

23.10.2015 - Article

Brooke Williams and Meg Campbell from the United States

Brooke Williams (l.) und Meg Campbell in the German FFO
Brooke Williams (l.) und Meg Campbell in the German FFO© AA

Our exchange diplomat Brooke Williams (left) from the United States will leave the Federal Foreign Office in September 2015, while her colleague Meg Campbell has just arrived from the United States Department of State. “Multilateral work is different here in Germany and Europe to the United States,” says Brooke Williams, who dealt with UN development and institutional issues over the past year. “It was really interesting to learn that!” She also thought it was very practical that the Federal Foreign Office’s e-mail address system is based on the job a person holds rather than on their name. “This makes it easier to find the person you need to talk to.”

During the hot Berlin summer, the two US diplomats noticed some differences between the Federal Foreign Office and the United States Department of State buildings. “There’s no air conditioning at the Federal Foreign Office, but unlike the State Department everyone has an office with a window!” Thanks to the German classes they took at school and university, both diplomats are fluent in the language – a prerequisite for applying to work as an exchange diplomat in Berlin. Meg Campbell will also be able to make use of her experience from the US Embassy in Riyadh, as one of her tasks in the Federal Foreign Office’s Directorate-General for Culture will be to help organise a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia.

Boris Gehrke from Germany in Washington

Boris Gehrke, German exchange diplomat in the US state department
Boris Gehrke, German exchange diplomat in the US state department© AA

Our colleague Boris Gehrke (left) found it particularly interesting to travel to Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Berlin and Kabul as part of the team of the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. As an exchange diplomat in the United States Department of State in Washington, where he was a member of the International Partnership Team, his role included responsibility for the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan (ICG), which is chaired by Germany. He notes that “the working environment in AFPAK, as it is known, is founded on trust and is a very positive example of transatlantic cooperation”. “I was the only non-American in the team, but I was closely involved in the task force’s policy work, especially in the work of the Afghanistan section, which reports to the unit.”

He also enjoyed the office culture, which he described as relaxed and informal. Every year, the Federal Foreign Office sends a German diplomat to Washington as part of a transatlantic diplomat exchange programme. Boris Gehrke has been working in a very similar field at the German Embassy in Washington since July, and will be able to keep in touch with his contacts at the United States Department of State.

Elisabeth Hornung from Germany in Ottawa

Elisabeth Hornung, Exchange diplomat in Canada
Elisabeth Hornung, Exchange diplomat in Canada© AA

“I now understand the Canadian mentality better, and it was a nice change to work with native speakers of English,” said our colleague Elisabeth Hornung after spending just under four months at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Ottawa. “I was impressed by the English-French bilingualism and the wide range of ethnic backgrounds my colleagues come from.” And of course, she was also struck by “the heavy winter boots that everyone wears to battle their way to the ministry through the piles of snow before they take out their office shoes”!

As an exchange diplomat, Elisabeth Hornung dealt with international economic developments in the International Economic Analysis and Relations Division. Her exchange in Canada also suited her husband, who works at the German Embassy in Ottawa, and her two young daughters. After maternity leave, Elisabeth Hornung will also start work at the German Embassy in summer 2016, probably in a job-share role with her husband, who deals with science, energy and the environment. “But we still have to agree on who will take on what parts of his job!” she says.

Exchange diplomats in action. Part 1: Europe

Exchange diplomats in action. Part 3: multilateral work

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