DIS: What is your name, home university, DIS semester and program, and what were you up to before you started interning??
Gus Griffin: To start off, my name is Augustus Patrick Griffin but for the most part everyone here calls me Gus. I went to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and I graduated in May 2013 with degrees in Political Science and Spanish Studies. During my junior year I decided to take my learning abroad and studied in the DIS European Politics program.
DIS: You had six months between graduating from college and becoming a DIS intern. What did you do?
GG: Before I started interning at DIS, I worked in Minneapolis for a few months after I graduated, then I moved home to save up money before making my journey back to Copenhagen. I was lucky enough to find out relatively early that I had gotten the job at DIS so in the six months leading up to the internship I worked at a golf course and a couple of restaurants.
DIS: What does a typical week in the DIS office bring?
GG: As an intern, there are times in the semester when you will be incredibly busy and others when you have the freedom to get ahead of the game and help out some of your co-workers, or take some time off to relax/travel. Busyness ebbs and flows with the DIS semester, but in general, a typical week in the office has me wearing lots of different hats and acting as a utility player of sorts.
DIS: What are some examples of tasks you do in the office?
GG: In one week my tasks range from filling out expense reports for a study tour that I helped lead, confirming or soliciting visits with lobbyists and EU representatives for a future European Politics study tour in Brussels, organizing an upcoming panel discussion on Syria and the effects of the civil war, renting bikes for a group of students learning about urban livability in Copenhagen, buying pastries and coffee for a core course social, researching sites to visit in Oslo and London for a new core course, attending interviews and teaching demonstrations for prospective faculty, and doing all of this while making myself available to faculty and staff (both in person and via email) for any immediate needs that might pop-up at random during the course of a day. Like I said, lots of different hats. But the best part about wearing all these hats is that you learn A TON of different skills and when you are busy it is hard to get bored. Most days I look up at the clock and can’t believe that 4 o’clock has rolled around.
DIS: If you could use three words to describe your time in Copenhagen and as a DIS intern, what would they be?
GG: Exciting, challenging, and stressful. I think that more than anything those three emotions sum up moving to a different country AND starting a new job full-time. You have to find a place to live – challenging and stressful. When you find it, EXCITING! But then you need to set it up and make it home – challenging and somewhat stressful! You have to get a bike because without one, Copenhagen just isn’t the same – stressful. Then you get a bike and start riding through the streets of Copenhagen like a Dane, ringing your bell and passing those slowpokes in the right lane – EXCITING! You start out without knowing your coworkers and the other interns – challenging – but in no time you become one of the DIS team, especially inside of your individual department – EXCITING. You start out not knowing what to expect in a semester working for DIS instead of participating as a student – challenging. Then, by the time study tour rolls around you can tell the students have tons of questions, are interested in why you came back, and appreciate the job you are doing – EXCITING.
There can be a lot of hurdles to jump when moving to a new country, trying to make friends, attempting to find your place in your department/office, and learning how to be good at your job. It can be challenging and stressful but in the end, when you finally accomplish those things it is really rewarding and exciting. Moreover, you get to share those feelings of accomplishment with the other interns because, at the end of the day, you are all in it together.
DIS: What do you do after you leave work?
GG: I think that one of the really unique things about DIS is that you get a lot of freedom to take on challenges outside of work. One of these challenges might be taking Danish classes after work, playing on a basketball team at Copenhagen University, or helping out with an academic event that DIS is hosting.
DIS: Can you tell us more about the academic events, and the role you play in these?
GG: Two events I helped organize outside of DIS stick out in particular. The first was a Symposium on Syria we put on at DIS in coordination with the Social Democrats in the Municipality of Copenhagen, and Radio 24Syv. The event was called ‘Three Years of Mass Violence in Syria: The Victims, the Perpetrators, and the Bystanders’ and I got to work side-by-side with a few different Danes to organize the logistics of the event from promoting the event with social media, to registering attendees, to helping organize travel expenses for the speakers. It was a lot of work and despite a few bumps along the way, everything worked out really well.
I also worked to organize a visit to DIS from U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford. Mr. Gifford was the Finance Director for President Obama’s re-election campaign and became the Ambassador to Denmark in August 2013. As a part of this event I coordinated with a caterer so we could have a social after Mr. Gifford spoke to students, to mingle and talk politics. I also helped promote the event across departments at DIS to help us to get as many students as possible to the event – it is pretty rare to be in such an intimate setting with a U.S. Ambassador, especially when this particular Ambassador was so open to taking questions. Of course, I didn’t plan or coordinate either of these events alone but they were both things that interested me and that I wanted to be a part of so I took the initiative to be a part of them – which DIS let me do!