Well, it is coming to an end. Me, a Chinese national has interned at the embassy of Costa Rica in Singapore for the past two months. Many people might wonder why I did not choose to work at the embassy of my own country, the second largesteconomy in the world. The answer is simple: they do not take interns at Chinese embassy. And honestly, this is not the right track to get into Chinese politics either. Why I didn’t work in a bigger embassy? Most countries do not take foreigners as interns. At the same time, Costa Rica is a politically neutral country, a realdemocratic nation that does not have any radical political stance. That is probably why they are less concerned with my identity. Plus, I am going one xchange to Madrid at the end of this year, learning a bit of Spanish would bean additional help. This is why I applied in the first place.
At first glance, working at an embassy is a respectful job. The definition of anambassador is a high-ranking envoy that represents a state in a foreign sovereign state. This definition speaks for its significance itself. As anintern, I was privileged to have a business card with the Costa Ricagovernment’s stamp on it, which is highly unusual for an internto have. I was also hosted at the Germany residence with interns from otherembassies in Singapore, later on, I was added to an intern group. Being in that group gives me power. On certain occasions I was actually representing Chinaeven though I didn’t work there, such as one instance where the German ambassador patted on mine and a US intern’s shoulder, as we shared our global views about US, China and Germany.
Thanks to the Russian world cup and Latin zeal for football, we hosted a football match screening between Costa Rica and Brazil. We may have lost the match, butwe won something else: we brought together 10 ambassadors- Brazil, Switzerland, Israel, Mexico, Venezuela, Holy sea, Chile, Egypt, Panama and Costa Rica, countries from all continents. The American chamber of Commerce, the biggest venture capitalist in Singapore, a few from the parliament and many CEOs were there too. The event was an elegant, chic social gathering, which could have otherwise ended up being a beer night for Costa Rican football fans. We contacted Outback, a steak restaurant in Orchard, and with the help of the ambassador we got 7000 USD sponsorships for the event. Costa Rica is a small country, but by organizing this event, it shows the powerful image of the embassy through the connections it has with other prominent figures in governmental and privateorganizations. This creates an opportunity for the embassy to ask for funds forfuture events. One sponsor would be American President Lines, the third-largest container transportation and shipping company.
A daily routine for me at the embassy is to read about news, especially political news that affects Singapore both internally and externally. Every two weeks, the ambassador has to report to the Costa Rican government about her political insights gained in Singapore. One of my roles is to assist her with the report and discuss current affairs. Some topics include the Singapore government reshuffle, Malaysian general election, Kim-Trump summit, Singapore and Malaysia water dispute and the Shangri la dialogue. First, I would read news articles from various sources. Then, I would read political scientists’ analysis- eg. The Economist to form my own opinion on certain issues. These habits are essentialfor me to form my own political views. As I read more, my political analytical skills continue to develop and eventually translate into producing a more insightful political report.
I talked to my friends at the US Embassy about their internship experiences. They got their hands full when Trump visited Kim in Singapore. One week before the summit, they also had to host Shangri ladialogue, an annual inter-governmental security forum. Obviously, US embassy isa much bigger organization. Hosting a historic event is not like a hosting football match screening. But we can always see things from different angles.
At the US embassy, a lot of information is classified, interns only have limited access to information and work discreetly. (Working at US embassy doesn’t necessarily mean that you will know what Trump is going to tweet next） It is impossible for the interns to talk freely with their chargé d’affaires,（US doesn’t have an ambassador to Singapore, Ms.Stephanie is a chargé d’affaires, a diplomat who heads in an embassy in the absence of an ambassador ）instead, they have their own department boss. In my case, I am under the ambassador, thus a lot easier to talk to her directly.
I am very glad to have met my colleague, Ms.Alba who has a caring heart and loving soul. She shared with me many issues of the Latin American countries from areal, practical, civic perspective rather than a utopian vision of a veteran politician. She explained in great detail about the Costa Rican government, illegal immigration to US, drugs, fishing crimes and murders in Central America & the Caribbean Sea region. It has helped me to better understand the wall that Trumpis trying to build and the family separation crisis. Very few people from Asia would have the slightest idea of the brutality and cruelty happening near the border: People literally get shot in their heads when crossing the dessert. She imparted in me the concept of the ‘Pura Vida’ (Simple life in English) spirit of Costa Rica, which encourages optimism even in the darkest of days. In many emerging markets, China for instance, people would live much merrier if they can adopt this lifestyle to deal with long working hours and tremendous stress.
I also established many personal relationships through the embassy’s connections.These people range from a number of fields, for example, manager at SingaporeManufacturing Federation, senior analyst at Bloomberg and head of IntellectualProperty at Interpol, director at Trinity Church and so on.
It is also useful for me to gain insights of government relations sector. Her excellency Manazares used to work at Burson-Marsteller, a global public relation company. She shared many stories with me while working as a lobbyist in Brussel. Back then she was represnting her clients to voice out to the EU government about their concerns and benefits. Politics and Business are interlinked and sometimes overlap. An embassy works closely with the Chamber of Commerce. But working in a governmental mission has its own distinctive cultures. For example, you have to be very careful about diplomatic rankings and hierarchy; A Chargésd’affaires ad interimis different from Chargés d’affaires en pied. One can never be confused and address carelessly.