Chris Steele, L’11, paved his own path to the perfect summer internship, which combines his study of international law with his experiences in what he calls “one of the greatest countries on Earth” — Romania.

This enthusiasm will serve the future diplomat well, but when Steele first traveled to Romania as a missionary fresh out of high school, he did not like what he saw. “The cities were filthy, the people were mad or depressed or suspicious, and the streets were jammed with cars, people, and light rail,” he says.

It took Steele a few months to understand the complexity of the country and the people who live there. He drew on a lesson from a high school teacher back in Utah, who had told him, “It is impossible to hate someone if you understand them.”

During the two years he spent on his mission, his Romanian language skills dramatically improved as he spoke with hundreds of people each week. Through those conversations he also learned to see through their eyes. “It’s hard to go through 40 years of darkness and not come out a little suspicious,” he says.

The connections he felt with Romanians led to a turning point in Steele’s professional growth. “This is when I began to see the world as a single entity,” he says. His interests turned to international law, with a goal of helping to “facilitate a world community,” he says.

After his mission, Steele graduated from Utah State University with a major in law and constitutional studies and a philosophy minor. Intrigued by the opportunities at the University of Richmond School of Law — including its proximity to Washington — he moved to the East Coast for law school.

At Richmond, Steele works as a research assistant to professor John Paul Jones, a role that has helped him become familiar with a number of constitutions from around the world. He learned about European Union law firsthand as a participant in the school’s study abroad program in Cambridge, England.

For his final summer of law school, Steele looked for an internship that would let him return to Romania to “experience another side of the country.” In his search for law firms that do international work, he was surprised to find that Virginia-based McGuireWoods had a consulting branch in Romania.

Steele reached out to the Bucharest branch's general manager about the possibility of an internship. After interviewing Steele when she was in Richmond, the manager offered him the position. He was awarded a C. Weinstein Grant from the Office of International Education and a scholarship from the Virginia International Business Council to help with his expenses.

Steele will work alongside the firm’s consultants, who represent several U.S. corporate clients in interactions with the Romanian government and new partners. He hopes to learn about the nation’s legal and political infrastructure, as well as how corporations interact with a foreign government.

“My ideal career would be to work as a United States diplomat,” Steele says, looking to the future. “I think that the international community has much to learn from the United States and that the United States has much to learn from the international community. I would like to help make those lessons a reality.”