TAM student, Mareike Oldemeinen, wrote this piece about our recent TAM trip to DC over fall break. This trip takes place each October and is designed to expose TAM students to a variety of professional settings in DC and to a variety of professional perspectives on Transatlantic affairs. This year, we were hosted by TAM graduates at four of our five sessions. We had site visits at the Brookings Institution, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the US Dept of Energy, the US Department of State, and the EU Delegation to the US. In addition, we had a wonderful TAM student – alumni reception on Thursday evening. Many thanks to all of our site-visit hosts, the grads who came out to the party, and to the students who were awesome participants and asked great questions at each stop. It was a wonderful trip!
Please read about Mareike’s DC experience below:
Looking back on our trip to D.C., it seems as though we were there for much longer than two days! We all know that Sarah is a brilliant organizer, but this time she outdid herself by putting together an exciting and interesting schedule, covering various different topics and institutions. By Friday evening, we all felt a positive sense of exhaustion – the result of plenty of thought-provoking discussions, many new impressions and ideas that we took from the different site visits, and the valuable and much appreciated exchanges with TAM-Alumni.
My personal highlights were the sessions held at the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Brookings Institution on our first day. As I have never even visited a think-tank before, it was the first time I got to experience this kind of environment and engage with their researchers. Hearing more about the history, organizational structure and research foci of both institutions, we learned that there is great diversity among the different think-tanks.
The Brookings Institution, as one of the most renowned think-tanks, has a variety of different research centers that cover a plethora of geographical regions and topics. Our TAM-Alumnus, Camilo Ramirez, had organized a discussion with Constanze Stelzenmüller, who is a Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at Brookings in the Center on the United States and Europe. Hired initially as a ‘Germany Expert’, she currently spends the majority of her time covering the U.S. elections. During our conversation with her, we focused not only on the implications of election developments on the U.S.-American political landscape but also discussed the significance of these events for Europe and the future of the transatlantic-relationship.
The Bertelsmann Foundation, on the other hand, gave us the opportunity to delve into the environment of a much smaller, ‘boutique’ think-tank. Here, we were hosted by a 2015 TAM grad named Jeff Brown. As the North American arm of the German ‘Bertelsmann Stiftung’, Bertelsmann’s focus lies on transatlantic relations. Being German myself, I was particularly interested to hear about their extensive work focusing on German-American relations and on explaining German politics and the political system to their American audience. We also learned that the Bertelsmann Foundation hosts smaller round-table discussion-groups or panels in addition to the classic modes of outreach through publications or email. During these events, important stakeholders and decision-makers exchange their ideas or debate specific issues that are of particular importance to their work and to creating effective policy.
During all of our visits and conversations with the alumni, we were able to pick up on several common threads: First, no one’s career path seems to have followed a straight line or a meticulous plan. It appears that the times where one dared to be adventurous and wandered off course have been the most defining moments for finding a meaningful career. Second, most alumni praised the unique experience and skill-set that they were able to gain as part of TAM and explained how TAM has contributed greatly to their career progression. Third and finally, no matter what career path alumni pursued, the special nature of the TAM-Program, the extensive experience gained, and the time spent abroad served to make them stand out as a competitive applicant.
Overall, the trip to D.C. was a great opportunity for all of us to gain further insights into potential career paths and to connect with the amazing alumni network. It once again highlighted the unique and wonderful character of this program and those who are part of it!