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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.

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Name: Line Victoria Blirup Jensen
Education: BA in Political Science, MA in Political Science
Internship period: February 2020 – July 2020
Role: Intern in the Political Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

As the political intern, I was responsible for monitoring international and regional news media and the daily news coverage, as well as preparing and participating in external meetings and conferences. I was primarily engaged in pertaining foreign and domestic political affairs, G20, human rights, economic and financial affairs and sector political developments. I also assisted the Embassy during the COVID-19 crisis.

What did you learn?

The internship gave a comprehensive insight to the political and economic affairs in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and the Middle East in general. I was able to learn first-hand about the more practical aspects of diplomacy and the daily work at an Embassy. As an intern, I quickly learned how to adjust to the rapid changes, which is an essential part of working in an unpredictable work environment.

What was your best experience?

I have had numerous experiences both personally and professionally, such as driving up the west coast, sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the desert, attending a horse race with the Ambassador or covering a G20 conference at the Ritz. Although I would say, the most memorable experience was witnessing the changes Saudi Arabia is undergoing and the progress the country is moving towards.

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

It is hard to describe Saudi Arabia to anyone who has not been there because just in the short amount of time I was able to live there so many changes were taking place on a daily basis. You really only hear about a fraction of it in the media or in the studies, so having the opportunity to live there and be a part of it was amazing. Although it is different both socially and culturally, I was able to meet so many wonderful people during my stay, which has given me lifelong friendships all over the world.

What is your best advice for future interns?

Stay open-minded, adventurous and curious. There is so much to experience in Saudi Arabia both culturally and socially. Do not hesitate to try new things and share it with other people you do not necessarily know beforehand. The most memorable experiences will be the unexpected and unplanned events that occurs when you deviate from the original plan. Somehow, everything always works out in Saudi Arabia. And last but not least – learn the meaning of “inshallah”.

Ellen

Name: Ellen Haahr Rittenhofer
Education: BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies, MA in International Security and Law
Internship period: February 2020 – July 2020
Role: Intern in the Commercial Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

My main assignments were to create content for the Business Club Denmark newsletters, website editing, attending EU commercial meetings, write cables from the meetings, and to communicate with Danish companies.

What did you learn?

I learned a lot about economic diplomacy and the important tasks that an embassy executes every day. I also gained some great marketing and research skills. 

What was your best experience?

I have had many great experiences in Saudi Arabia. It has been amazing to experience how kind and friendly the locals are and to get to make new friendships. Travelling around Saudi Arabia in a rented car with my co-intern Line was also an unforgettable adventure. I would recommend to everyone going to Saudi Arabia to do the same. 

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

Much easier than you think. As a woman, I could easily walk and drive around alone to visit some of Riyadh's many wonderful restaurants, malls, attractions, etc. Living in Saudi Arabia was quite easy and offered many interesting encounters despite the COVID-19 situation.

What is your best advice to future interns?

Try to get out of the Diplomatic Quarter and make friends with the locals. This is the best way to get to know the many different aspects of Saudi Arabia. Moreover, of course just remember to enjoy your time here and make sure you see as much of the region as possible. 

 

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Name: Victor Simon Lindegaard Jacobsen
Education: MA in Contemporary Middle East Studies
Internship period: February 2019 – July 2019
Role: Intern in the Political Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

During my time as Political Intern, I had quite a varied portfolio of assignments. I engaged in assignments pertaining to foreign- and domestic affairs, security policy, economic and financial affairs as well as tourism. In simpler terms, I had daily assignments concerning monitoring and analysing the developments in the countries that the embassy covers, which is done with open-source information as well as meeting diplomats and other contacts. I also had larger assignments, such as preparing and implementing the Danish contribution to the Nordic booth at Riyadh Travel Fair, analysing the renewable energy market in Saudi Arabia and the presentation of the economic section of the Middle East Peace Process plan.

What did you learn?

Arriving as a university student, you essentially learn how to turn all of your knowledge from your academic studies into tangible results, which is both fun and challenging. At the same time, you get this incredible experience of Danish diplomacy in action, which is something no amount of studying will provide you. I would also say that I learned a lot about myself, for example how I handled myself under pressure, which you will face often with the region’s unpredictability.

What was your best experience?

Aside from the exciting challenges you experience at work, it is hard to simply name a few. Nevertheless, on a personal note, I will always remember all the people that I met whilst I was there and the experience of visiting a country that is unbeknownst to most back home.

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

Way easier than I imagined before arriving in the country. Once you get over the traffic and being awoken in the morning by the call to prayer, it is quite easy to settle into life in Riyadh. Another difference is also how quickly a trip can be set up; you might meet a friend of a friend on a Tuesday evening and then get invited on a camping trip to the desert on Thursday. On a side note, I think that it should be mentioned that the general hospitality and friendliness of people in Saudi Arabia is something that I consider an untold story.    

What is your best advice to future interns?

I would give the same advice as I was given when I arrived: go out, meet people and try as many things as you can while you are there.

Julie Andersen

Name: Julie Andersen
Education: Arabic and Islamic Studies/International Communication English
Internship period: February 2019 – August 2019
Role: Intern in the Commercial Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

I had a big variety of assignments as an intern in the Commercial Section. I would attend EU commercial meetings, business meetings with Danish and Saudi Arabian companies and sector specific events hosted by the Embassy. During the meetings and events, I would take notes and photos for articles or reports. I have been highly involved in maintaining the Embassy’s social media platforms. My main focus was to build and develop the Trade Council Riyadh’s LinkedIn profile. Furthermore, I have assisted in creating content for our Business Club Denmark (BCD) reports as well as arranging and conducting events for the Embassy and the BCD.

What did you learn?

Being an intern at the Royal Danish Embassy has been extremely educating in many different ways. You work with diplomacy on a daily basis, and you learn how to operate effectively as part of a team in a busy and somewhat unpredictable work environment, where schedules and priorities often need to be rearranged. You also get to experience a unique country that has been closed for tourism until recently, and a country that is going through major changes. You witness these changes firsthand, and you get to be part of this transition, which is an incredible experience in itself.

What was your best experience?

It is impossible to name just one. The internship itself has offered many great experiences both professionally and personally. I got to challenge and develop myself every day at work. At the same time, I built strong friendships and relations and went on beautiful trips and visits around the region.

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

It is an interesting place to live in. As mentioned, you witness the changes happening from day to day, making Saudi Arabia more and more open and with increasing opportunities to have fun or activities to engage in in your private time. “Now is the time to be here” we often say to each other - and it really is!

What is your best advice to future interns?

Just do it! Be socially active, challenge yourself at work and grasp the opportunity to explore a huge and diverse country.

Jonas Jensen

Name: Jonas Stengaard Jensen
Education: BA in History, currently studying for an MA in Analytical Journalism
Internship period: August 2019 – January 2020
Role: Intern in the Political Section
Placement: The Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh

What were your main assignments?

As responsible for compiling the daily news overview at the Embassy, my main function was to monitor developments in the Saudi Arabian society and the Gulf region in general. As part of the political team, I got the opportunity to attend diplomatic meetings, conferences and other events and assist in writing reports. As an intern, I also had the pleasure of making sure that the Embassy was running smoothly on a more practical level by keeping the Embassy website up to date, preparing materials and organizing entertainment for internal Embassy events.

What did you learn?

Getting a break from academic university studies and getting to do a job that benefits my country has been both a rewarding and enlightening experience. I learned how to function efficiently as part of a team and make independent analysis of events in a wide range of topics from international security issues to sports and entertainment. This internship really sharpened my ability to quickly establish an overview of recent events and write concise and thorough reports.

What was your best experience?

I was swept away by the warm welcome of the Saudi Arabian people on their National Day. The Saudis cheered and asked for selfies, as I walked down the street in my traditional Saudi shemagh. This kind of friendliness is something I will always treasure. My best experience as an intern was also writing creatively, when I collaborated with colleagues from the Trade Department on the quarterly Business Club Denmark report. Making something both interesting and informative to read is a skill that is as much appreciated at the Embassy as anywhere else.

How is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

Living in Saudi Arabia is not quite the culture shock, one might expect. Riyadh offers most of the opportunities of any European city when it comes to restaurants, entertainment and everyday recreation in the charming Diplomatic Quarter. Most people speak decent English, and I was able to maintain most of my habits from back home without any difficulty. 42 degrees Celsius can sound frightening but in the desert, it is a much drier and more bearable heat than in coastal regions such as Denmark. I never felt any intense discomfort as air conditioners make all living and working areas nice and cool.

What is your best advice to future interns?

Being away from home and loved ones for months can be tough at times, but the experience is really worth it. You get to meet so many great people and experience a unique country just as it undergoes major changes.

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!

Hej

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.