LD: Lunch with the Ambassador

Rebecca Cao DiplomatThis post is part of Le Diplomate series, in which I will chronicle my travel joys and tribulations as an intern for the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. OECD in Paris. 

Yesterday, I had a whirlwind of a day that started with wondering what the appropriate attire is for lunch with an ambassador and ended with jumpstarting my car outside my dorm. First, though, I have to back up a few paces and explain how this amazing opportunity materialized.

The French chemist Louis Pasteur used to say, “La chance ne sourit qu’aux esprits bien préparés.” This roughly translates to, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I’ve never realized how true this statement is, because the twist and turns of events that led me to yesterday seemed to have been divinely plotted, yet it was largely a matter of having been in the right place at the right time.

First, last fall, I received an email about an international internship and study abroad program, MIISP. This set in motion a series of events that led me to apply for and receive my State Department internship. Then, I decided to apply for funding, as the internship is unpaid with no benefits (anybody have advice on finding housing in Paris?). Out of the blue, I was invited to lunch with Ambassador Richard A. Boucher, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD. After receiving two of the fellowships I applied for, I realized that one of the grant coordinators had penciled me in for lunch.

Upon arriving at the conference room in the International Institute, I noticed three things. 1) I was undressed, 2) there were about a dozen others invited, and 3) I had a name card!

I realize that it’s probably uncultured of me to be so excited, but heck, I’ve never had a name card except for that wedding years ago! I even had one of those clear clip-on tags with “University of Michigan” typed below my name, which I wanted to take home with me as a souvenir, but the assistant asked to recycle. The food was delicious — tortellini, stuffed chicken breast, fresh fruit. The only downside was trying not to get caught with my mouth full. Of course, the best part was the company.

I was among three students at the lunch, all of us either current or previous interns at the OECD. On my left was the director of the International Studies concentration at the University and on my right was his assistant (the entire time, I was trying to figure out what our seating arrangement signified, but concluded that I was over-thinking it). The rest of the guests were either professors or coordinators and honestly, it hurt my brain trying to keep up with the conversation. I did manage to ask a half-decent intellectual question and nodded in fake understanding the rest of the time.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more enlightening opportunity and I hope I never forget that at one point in my life, I was dazzled by name cards and chicken. Apparently, according to Ambassador Boucher, if you wish to become a diplomat, the most important piece of advice to keep in mind is: don’t mumble!

Duly noted.

À bientôt,



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