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Home > PHC Senior Named Embassy's "Top Performing Intern"

Paist Top Performer at Embassy Copenhagen

December 8th, 2008

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727


Senior Brittany Paist (3rd from R) receives Top Performing Intern award

Early this semester, senior Brittany Paist found herself in Greenland for a day, thanks to a freak storm that stranded her at a U.S. air base in Thule and gave her time to see glaciers and the Northern Lights. The rest of the time she has been living in Denmark, interning with the U.S. Department of State at Embassy Copenhagen—researching climate control, producing newsletters and reports, and bicycling with her supervisor through winter rain to appointments. And as if such experiences and resume-building assignments were not enough, Paist has recently received the Embassy’s Top Performing Intern award for Fall 2008.

Her supervisor writes, “I have often been struck by [Brittany’s] ability to tackle an entirely new task or subject, quickly assimilate key points, and focus on the specific task, often beating tough deadlines to get the job done. . . . In my estimation, Brittany’s skills make her an ideal candidate for the Foreign Service, should she choose to pursue a career in diplomacy.”

Paist in Greenland

Among other duties, Paist organized a three-day tour of renewable energy sites in Denmark for staff of the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Office (ESTH) at the Embassy. Relates her supervisor, “The resulting schedule was substantively on target and logistically flawless.” Paist also produced the ESTH’s bi-weekly office newsletter, which disseminates “environment, science, technology and health news from Denmark and Greenland” to “a host of U.S. agencies and departments.” Over and beyond expectations, she revamped the format of the newsletter, “winning kudos for content and format from several readers.”

When asked about the role her PHC education played in her success, Paist responds with enthusiasm that, “PHC gave me the tools with which to approach an entirely different and, truly, foreign experience.”

Visiting the Louvre

Specifically, she notes, “PHC’s rigorous inclusion of research and writing in its curriculum has been some of the most valuable training I have received to date. Though I have certainly gained a great range of knowledge and skills throughout my internship, I never felt unprepared for or significantly intimidated by any assignment that my supervisor gave me. This meant that I was able to jump right into Embassy work.”

As Paist returns to the U.S. in a few weeks, her desire to serve the U.S. overseas has only grown. She hopes to work for a federal agency or an international nonprofit organization after graduation. Her success in Copenhagen suggests Paist might well achieve her goal. As her supervisor shares, “Brittany showed great ability and capacity to learn and complete any assignment. When she had difficulty she asked for guidance and used new information to accomplish the task. This ability suggests that she will quickly be able to assimilate any information she may initially lack about the institutional context of Foreign Service work, and be fully successful as a Foreign Service Officer.”

Paist’s outstanding success at the Department of State reflects the overall impression Patrick Henry College students are making in the professional world, says PHC’s Associate Dean for Men, Jeffrey Thornhill, who coordinates the College’s internship program. Flexibility, a solid education, a winsome manner, and hands-on experience make a compelling combination indeed.