Jennifer Huffman, '10
Alumna puts international studies degree to use in Germany
April 25, 2012
After studying abroad in Konstanz, Germany, as a student at Richmond, it was always Jennifer Huffman’s, ’10, goal to return.
Huffman applied twice to a youth exchange program that would send her back to Europe — and snagged a spot on her second try. She participates in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program for Young Professionals, a year-long program composed of three phases: language school for two months, a semester at a university for four months, and an internship for five months.
“I actually stumbled upon the flyer for the program at Georgetown’s career fair while I was a Capitol Hill intern in D.C.,” Huffman says. “I filed it away since it was too early to apply, but I sent in an application my senior year.”
Huffman majored in leadership and international studies, focusing on world politics and diplomacy, and minored in German. She also participated in Model U.N. for one year while at Richmond, and volunteered for a semester with the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired as part of a leadership course.
Volunteering is also a requirement of Huffman’s current program. She chose to work in a soup kitchen in Berlin called Nachtcafe.
“It’s really cool to see younger people engaging in the community, especially since Germany has a large welfare state,” Huffman says. “A typical day consists of making tea and coffee for guests, picking up leftover sandwiches donated by a local bakery, and deciding what to cook for dinner.
While half of the group starts cutting donated vegetables or potatoes, for example, a few go shopping at the local grocery store to fill in the gaps of what we need. Together we cut, slice, mix, wash, cook, and serve everything till about 10 p.m. Volunteerism, while not unique to America, is much more prominent [there] than it is here.”
When it came time for Huffman to choose a place to intern, she at first accepted an internship in the American office of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, or the German Institute of International and Security Affairs. But she was soon faced with more than one option.
“As soon as I had settled on working [at the institute], I was contacted by a German Congress member, Heinz Paula, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany,” Huffman says. “I got a phone call from his office and they invited me to an interview.”
Huffman went to meet Paula and two staffers, and after a quick interview and a mention of a stellar recommendation from her German host grandfather, she got the position and accepted it.
Huffman has done everything from translating an EU letter on animal rights from English into German, to researching the percentages of organic farms and farming in each German state, and taking notes in a committee meeting on handicapped tourism — all in German, of course.
“My brain is constantly in motion,” Huffman says. “I [recently] was able to attend the Gedenkveranstaltung für die Opfer rechtsextremistischer Gewalt (Memorial Service for the Victims of Right-Wing Extremist Violence), an event at which Angela Merkel spoke. It was a stunningly beautiful, touching ceremony that, as a closed event, I was only able to attend because of the access I have via the Bundestag.”
Huffman’s future plans include applying for graduate school in either European or security studies, and trying to combine her interests in security, German, and German-American relations.
“It’s amazing to me how well the German and American militaries cooperate with one another, yet how vastly differently the domestic population views international security policy, more specifically when major powers appropriately implement the use of force,” she says. “So that’s definitely a direction that has a lot of potential, whether it’s in America, Germany or another country.”