A Fourth of July à la française

Senior Laura Doolin, second from the right.

September 19, 2012

By Laura Doolin ’13

As an American, July 4 is one of our most patriotic and celebrated days of the year. As an American living in France, however, the day is quite a different experience. There were no barbecues, parades and not even a single burst of fireworks. But don’t feel sorry for me; my Fourth of July was better than any barbecue or parade could have ever been.

As in intern for the United States Consulate in Rennes, France, I had the pleasure of organizing an Independence Day celebration for the entire northwestern area of France. Together with Consul Rob Tate and the rest of the consulate team, we hosted over 200 people at the city hall in Rennes to celebrate America’s independence.

The Consulate in Rennes serves to assist the roughly 10,000 American citizens living in northwestern France, as well as relations between American and French businesses, which are already quite prevalent. The Consulate also participates in the organization of various cultural exchanges and exhibitions. With a small team of three staffers, I’ve had the opportunity to play a large role in the duties of the Consulate. From organizing business meetings, to attending ceremonies and to planning the July Fourth celebrations, my job description is really quite broad.

With majors in both international studies and French, my internship with the State Department has really given me the opportunity to further develop my understanding of both majors in a professional setting. Not only am I getting to view diplomacy in action with a longtime American ally, I have the opportunity to speak and improve my French while doing so.

After weeks of planning, it was finally time for the holiday. I arrived at city hall to assist the caterers and musicians in their preparations, and fully expected to be led into a standard banquet-type room. However, I was in for quite a shock. The party was held in one of the most elegant rooms I have ever seen. There were crystal chandeliers, gold trimmed furniture and mirrors on every wall, not to mention the beautiful view of the Opera across the square. After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I got to work preparing for the day’s celebration.

Around 6:30 p.m., guests started arriving. They ranged from English professors at the local university to political figures of the area. The Consul gave a speech that described the long friendship between France and the United States, dating back to the Revolutionary War and continuing today with shared economic and social values. The speech was followed by a reception that served a variety of American fare from mini-hotdogs and hamburgers to chocolate chip cookies.

I couldn’t tailor an internship better suited to my interests. The International Studies and French departments at Bradley have really shaped my interests, goals and dreams of working in diplomacy. My time at the Consulate in Rennes has reaffirmed my dream, and furthermore, has made that dream a reality.