Dr. Eddie Mienie interviewed Alex Chastain, an alumnus who graduated in ’20 with an International Affairs degree, and Emily Green, a senior majoring in International Affairs, about their recent study abroad experiences.

Alex Chastain

The PSIA Department at the University of North Georgia has afforded me several opportunities during the completion of my degree.  For my International Affairs degree, I was required to complete an international internship.  Specifically, I applied for the opportunity at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany based on several key reasons.  As a contracted member of the Corps of Cadets, I was afforded the chance to compete for several specific internship slots.  I had completed my study abroad learning Russian in the Baltics and wanted to diversify my European experiences outside of that region.  My European concentration worked well with this opportunity in Germany.  I was able to work side-by-side with operational level NCOs and Officers from across NATO.  This enhanced my cross-cultural competencies and deepened my understanding of the security alliance.

My typical week at the NATO School involved working with an operational level officer on preparing and executing a course on a given topic.  The classes varied weekly, and covered topics ranging from Surface-based Air Defense to public relations.  I was also able to complete the NATO Staff Officer Orientation Course during my internship, which will enable me to better work with the alliance, if necessary, as a commissioned Army Officer.  I was also able to build a network of contacts through the courses that will prove useful in the future.  I was surprised to see just how difficult it was to build consensus within NATO and bring all 29 members together at the operational level.

My three years of courses, prior to the internship, helped me to understand the motivating factors behind some of the decisions made by member-states when interacting with the Alliance.  My degree’s courses prepared me well for the interactions I experienced at the NATO school.  Having grown up in Blue Ridge, this degree path has afforded me a great opportunity to explore the different cultures, languages, and governmental systems within Europe.  It has also prepared me well as I get ready to commission.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the education I received at Fannin County High School and everyone there that has helped me succeed through the years.

Emily Green

Coming from a tiny little town like Warner Robins, Georgia, I was excited to have the ability to experience working in a different country. I’ve always grown up around different cultures, even my little high school (Houston County High School) had a great deal of diversity due to its close proximity to Robins Air Force Base. I decided to apply for my specific internship with Aid to the Church in Need because I really loved its dedication to fulfilling the physical and spiritual needs of those in non-Christian countries. I simply shot off an email to the director of the non-profit’s Irish branch and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Ireland with no idea of what to expect.

There was never a truly typical day with Aid to the Church. Every day I did something new; from organizing our storage room to meeting with the Primate of All-Ireland. I was even sent on an informational trip to France to assess whether or not Aid to the Church should start an annual pilgrimage for benefactors. The office itself wasn’t even a typical Irish office, my co-workers consisted of individuals from all over Europe; each with their own views on the work being done. The nature of the work was also surprising, I was expecting to primarily deal with marketing, budgets, and other classic fundraising aspects of non-profits. However, the majority of my job dealt with relationships. Whether it was talking to other non-profits to coordinate our fundraising efforts, convincing individuals to lend their skills to our cause, or interacting with media groups that wanted to showcase our efforts, everything revolved around relationships.

Throughout my courses at UNG, I was able to really dive into the relationships between Church and State in various countries. The topic has always been interesting to me, so whenever given the opportunity to write a research paper on the subject, I did. This past research helped me to be more aware of subtle features within my internship. Aid to the Church in Need has a relationship much different than other non-profits in Ireland, specifically that the organization refuses to take any money from the government. The organization instead chose to raise all of its money through a bi-monthly magazine, bucket collecting, appealing to benefactors in person, and various other methods. The money is then sent to countries experiencing high levels of Christian persecution to provide physical and spiritual necessities.

The whole experience was a very rewarding one. I was able to work alongside the director of the organization and learn a great deal from him. I was also exposed to the complexities of networking, managing relationships, and other vital aspects of running a non-profit. I interacted with people from all over the world and got to experience a side of Dublin that I never would have known about. Overall, it was an incredible internship and I am so thankful that the International Affairs program required it because I would have never sought it out myself.