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Testimonials from previous interns

This page is dedicated to our previous interns at the Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh. On this page you will find statements about their work experiences as interns,  but also their personal impressions of the people, culture, and life in Saudi Arabia.

Alan Custovic

Name: Alan Custovic
Education: MA in Business, Language and Culture with the focus on Global Marketing Management
Internship period: August 2018 – January 2019
Role: Intern in the commercial section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

 Interns at the Trade Council in Riyadh have the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility. One of my main tasks was to contribute to the monthly market report for the members of our Business Club Denmark. Furthermore, I have assisted the Trade Council on assignments such as arranging and conducting events, preparation and participation in meetings and exhibitions, market research and sector analyses. In addition, the internship also included creating and editing content for our website and social media platforms.

 

What did you learn?

 I find it hard to give a short answer to this. I faced many new challenges during my internship in Riyadh and I have learned a lot through the busy and active work environment at the embassy. By being a commercial intern in Riyadh, I have gained insight into the Middle Eastern culture and firsthand experience in how crucial cultural understanding can be, particularly in a business perspective. I learned how important diplomacy is to Danish companies in this region and that we can help them open doors and achieve results.

 

What was your best experience?

 I have had several good experiences during my six months in Riyadh. Work-wise, participating in high-profile meetings and attending the different business events and exhibitions was exciting. It is hard to single out one specific event. Personally, the very best thing for me was all the people that I met along the road and all the different road trips, desert trips, cultural festivals or national days. I came home with a lot of new friends and good memories. 

 

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

 Saudi Arabia is a special place to experience, especially due to the rapid changes it has been undergoing in the last few years. There are 105 embassies in Riyadh and most of them are located in the diplomatic quarter. Living there gives you plenty of opportunities to meet with people from all over the world and develop an international network. One day you might be at the Spanish national day and the next day you might be camping in the Desert with some locals. The “real” Saudi Arabia is found outside of the diplomatic bubble and by going out and experiencing the culture and interacting with the locals, it made me dismiss some of the prejudices, which I had before entering the country.

What is your best advice to future interns?

Grasp the opportunities that presents themselves to ensure the most memorable and educative experiences. Even though the Middle Eastern hospitality is wonderful, the environment in Saudi Arabia is also very network-based. Having empathy, being open-minded and friendly goes a long way and you might just get you invited to a lot more events and gatherings. You get the chance to experience a interesting culture in a country that not many people have access to – get the most out of it!

Name: Birgitte Finnemann
Education: Middle Eastern Society and Language - Arabic
Internship period: February 2018 – August 2018
Role: Political Intern
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

During my internship, I was engaged in assignments pertaining foreign and domestic affairs, cultural and economic issues. I frequently wrote ad hoc reports on the complex political and humanitarian developments in Yemen and women’s status within Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries. My main assignment was dedicated to analyses of gender relations and human rights. I participated in a vast amount of likeminded, EU- and UN meetings and prepared drafts for the Ambassador’s internal and external presentations with influential stakeholder and Saudi Arabian authorities.

What did you learn?

I not only gained a lot of knowledge about the Islamic legal system, applied customary law and the regional policies and economies of rentier states. Following the embassy’s staff’s daily tasks – it be in the political and trade section – I realized the importance of cultural appropriation and political collaboration with other countries and its correlates with trade opportunities for Danish companies. Before coming to Riyadh I had never expected ‘networking’ to be a core part of diplomacy. Thus, I understood the importance of continuous collaboration across governmental and non-governmental players when addressing contentious human rights issues, trade deals etc.

What was your best experience?

All in all, the stimulating work must have been the best experience. Aside from work, I recall my Saudi female friend driving the car on June 23 2018 as one of my happiest days in Riyadh (KSA’s women’s driving ban was lifted at that date).

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

Living in Saudi Arabia is rather easy as long as you adjust to some of the customs that apply in the country, it can be wearing the so-called ‘abaya’. Being a woman in Saudi Arabia you are more restricted than men in societal behavior. However, despite the notorious gender segregation and lacking infrastructure, I was perfectly able to commute by myself in Riyadh and travel around the country alone.

What is your best advice to future interns?

Don’t miss out on the cultural encounters with the Saudi people and the beautiful nature that it has to offer. Enjoy it while you can and expose yourself to a once in a lifetime experience!

Name:  Jonas Yazo Srouji
Education: BA in History, currently studying for an MA in Middle East Studies
Internship period: August 2018 – January 2019
Role: Intern in the Political Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

Just about everything. The Political Section at the Embassy is rather small, so thematically I worked on everything from human rights, the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, to Saudi educational and economic policy. In more practical terms, the mainstay of my work were to monitor and analyze developments in the countries that we cover, both through online sources, as well as by meetings with other diplomats and contacts.

What did you learn?

What did I not learn? I got to see and be a part of diplomacy in action, I got access to one of the most closed off countries in the world, during a time of massive change, and I got to work on some of the most talked about events in the world, as they were developing. A university degree might prepare you in some ways, but none of this is easily done, and the only real way to learn it is to engage with it professionally every day.

What was your best experience?

Professionally one of the most interesting experiences was to prepare and join a trip to Kuwait with the Ambassador. Not only did I participate in the preparation but I was also with the Ambassador in meetings with ministers and partners in Kuwait.

Privately, I think taking part in the celebrations of the Saudi National Day was something I will never forget. The thousands of happy people singing and dancing in the streets of Riyadh – where all public gatherings, not to speak of dancing, were prohibited just a short while ago – was both unexpected and an incredible experience.

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

Surprisingly fun! What we hear in Denmark is usually only the worst stories. We don’t hear about the friendly and hospitable people populating this country, and it is impossible to describe the euphoria of the locals when faced with the new entertainment possibilities opening while I was here.

What is your best advice to future interns?

Just say yes. To everything. Especially the first month or two. It is important to have good friends and a good network, and you get that by accepting invitations. If you decline the first time, you might not get invited the second – but if you show up three times and make friends, they will not forget you. In addition, you will probably remember the friends you made for the rest of your life. So don’t be afraid, you will enjoy both the Kingdom and the expat community here.