SIA student completes internship in Kyrgyzstan

Floyd and the coordinators at the American Corner in Kant, Kyrgyz Republic.
Cody Floyd along with coordinators at the American Corner in Kant, Kyrgyz Republic. Credit: Provided

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Cody Floyd, second-year student at Penn State School of International Affairs, completed his internship at the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where he worked in the Public Diplomacy Department for 10 weeks. Floyd coordinated and participated in events, compiled highlights from his colleagues, consulted local teachers and experts for projects, and worked directly with Kyrgyz students. “No two days were the same. It made it exciting,” Floyd said.

This wasn’t the first time Floyd had been in Kyrgyzstan. Floyd was in the Army Reserve for seven years and served in Afghanistan from 2011-2012. During that time, Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan was a transit point to send troops to Afghanistan. Floyd thought the country was beautiful and hoped he’d be able to come back. While he didn’t return through the Army, he would get the opportunity one decade later as a Penn State School of International Affairs student with a concentration in Security Studies and Intelligence Studies.

In his internship with the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Floyd worked with Emerging Voices, one of the subdivisions within the Public Diplomacy Department. Through this program, Floyd exchanged U.S. culture and promoted education with younger Kyrgyz students at the high school and college levels. Floyd also helped with American Spaces, a State Department program that focuses on outreach to citizens of other countries to learn about the United States.

“Given Cody’s experience with the role of the U.S. military in Central Asian republics like Kyrgyzstan, it was exciting to see him round out his experience by working on the public diplomacy efforts of the State Department. He will be well-placed to pursue a career in any of the dimensions of U.S. foreign policy, given the diversity of perspectives and preparation he brings to the table,” said Grant Littke, director of career services at the Penn State School of International Affairs.

Floyd applied what he learned in his SIA courses—writing memos, the economics of other countries and how they work, how foreign influence affects economy, and looking at situations from another country’s perspective—to help him succeed at his internship. While his education prepared him to handle his responsibilities, Floyd also credited the Embassy with providing a positive environment for all who worked there.

“It surprised me how much everyone was willing to make me feel like I belonged there already. It had a family atmosphere—everybody got along and worked together really well,” Floyd said.

“Cody’s internship in Kyrgyzstan gave him the unique opportunity for hands-on experience in a foreign U.S. Embassy. His educational and cultural experience demonstrates how SIA students can work anywhere in the world,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh distinguished faculty scholar, and professor of law.

Floyd with Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, Deputy Chargé Dàffaires of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, and Kyrgyz students at the IEW Fair
Floyd, second row, with Toktobubu Ashimbaeva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic (seventh from left), KG Moore, Deputy Chargé Dàffaires of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, (ninth from left)and Kyrgyz students during the IEW Fair. Credit: Provided

The largest program Floyd worked on was International Education Week as the Chief Coordinator. He reached out to several international educational and international admissions programs to coordinate to meet in one location for International Education Week so they could provide information about their programs to Kyrgyz students. The event took place over three days with high participation from educational programs and students—hundreds of students came to learn about the various opportunities. “This took weeks of planning, and I think I earned a few more gray hairs because of it,” he joked.

Floyd connected with the Kyrgyz people with ease. “They were extremely welcoming of me as an outsider. I was concerned about that because I don’t speak any Russian. Shopping was definitely an experience—but everybody was extremely friendly. I was also shocked at the number of young people there who have studied English,” he added.

The local students were curious about what he thought of Kyrgyzstan and they were pleasantly surprised to hear that he loved it. “I think the people are amazing and that helped form a connection between myself and them,” he said.

The cultural exchange gave Floyd the opportunity to break through stereotypes and provide students with a new perspective on what Americans are really like. “I was the first American that they had ever spoken to—and I could help steer them towards education programs that the U.S. and our international partners were offering. I felt really fortunate to have the opportunity to be the first American they met,” Floyd said.

Floyd talking to students at fair.
Floyd speaks with Kyrgyz students at the IEW Fair. Credit: Provided

Nolen Johnson, Deputy Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Embassy Bishkek, said, “Working with Cody was a fantastic opportunity for myself and the rest of the staff, because he had such a positive attitude and lots of energy. Whether it was analyzing Chinese government soft power in Kyrgyzstan, or chatting with Kyrgyz university students at public events, he was always putting his heart and soul into everything he did. After the COVID-related suspension of the State Department internship program, it was wonderful to restart it with such a great colleague and friend like Cody.”

Johnson expanded on how these internship opportunities benefit students. “Cody and other State Department interns receive invaluable skills, and a much more comprehensive nuanced understanding of the U.S. foreign policy system, having worked at one of our Embassies overseas, or at the State Department in Washington. In addition, these internships allow participants to familiarize themselves with all of the different sections of our Embassy, helping them to decide which of the five State Department Foreign Service career tracks fit best with their personal motivations and career aspirations, should they decide to pursue a foreign service career,” said Johnson.

When Floyd returned from his internship, he decided that he wants to continue pursuing public diplomacy work. “I realized after doing this internship and being the first American that people talk to, knowing what that can mean for public diplomacy and the relationship the United States has with other countries,” he said, “that brought me back to that feeling in Afghanistan that what I’m doing here matters. It matters to me, it matters to the people I’m working with, and what I’m doing is important.”

Floyd with student from Afghanistan at the IEW Fair.
Floyd with a student from Afghanistan at the IEW Fair. Credit: Provided

Floyd advised that students seeking internships abroad be proactive and submit their applications as early as possible. He also spoke to students who are apprehensive about going far away from home. “Don’t feel like you don’t belong there. If they’ve selected you, it’s for a reason. You’ve earned your chance to be there and it’s your job to make the most of it,” said Floyd.

Floyd plans to get involved in Foreign Service Affairs and seek out opportunities that have to do with public diplomacy and security studies to see what doors open for him. “This internship changed my life. I’ll keep applying for jobs, but I know now where my heart’s at,” he said.