EUintheUS Alumni Spotlight: Adrian Gahan
Reflections and lessons learned — 10 years later
How did you find out about the internship at the Delegation?
I had just finished my master’s in European Studies at Cambridge and the obvious thing to do would have been to do an internship in Brussels. But the EU Ambassador at the time, John Bruton, was a former Irish prime minister — and I’m from Ireland. I was particularly interested in American politics and thought I would try my luck and apply in DC rather than Brussels — and it worked!
Tell us a little bit about your experience as an intern.
The Ambassador spent a lot of time going up to hill meetings with senators and congressmen and traveling around the United States. In advance of a meeting or trip, my job was to do background research and write briefings. I found it really interesting because I love U.S. history and politics and it gave me an opportunity to research different cities, states, politicians, demographics. I left with a very large collection of trivia about American states (laughs).
What is the most important thing you learned about the EU as an intern?
The most important thing I learned, which I didn’t fully appreciate before coming to the U.S., was the weight that the EU punches when it deals with the U.S. as a trade bloc. Politically, countries like to represent themselves as Member States. But when a little country like Ireland with 4.5 million people wants to strike a trade deal with the U.S., a country of 320 million people, it speaks to the U.S. via the European Union — because the EU is the largest single market in the world (500 million). There is strength in numbers.
How did your internship influence your career path?
It was extremely influential. Policymaking in the EU is quite complex and my internship gave me a very good insight into how policy is made. I was interested in the environment and climate change policy, and was able to go back to job interviews in London and explain how EU energy policy related to the global climate process, and how that related to UK & U.S. policymaking. I had a level of insight that I wouldn’t have had from just working in the UK or Irish parliaments.
Have you stayed in touch with anyone from your intern cohort?
Yes I have! I’ve got friends in Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, and Germany that work in different private and public sector jobs — and in the EU institutions. After the UK referendum, I was in touch with a number of people across different Member States and the EU institutions. It’s a great network and we’re getting to the age now where some of us are in very interesting and quite senior roles. It’s an important network to have and keep. That’s one of the real benefits of doing the internship.
What are you up to now?
I have been Managing Director of a London-based corporate responsibility consultancy, Sancroft, for the past number of years. It was founded by former UK Environment Secretary, John Gummer (Lord Deben). We advise companies like Coca-Cola, Hilton, and Kroger on how they can improve their environmental and social impact. Prior to Sancroft I worked for three years as a policy adviser to The Right Hon. Greg Clark MP, now the UK Business Secretary. Before working for the Conservative Party I was a Policy Analyst on the Regulatory Affairs team at BP Alternative Energy in London. And before that I was interning in D.C. with the EU!
What advice would you give to yourself as an intern 10 years ago?
Don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you leave university. What’s most important is to find a theme that you’re passionate about. For example, if you are passionate about protecting the environment you could pursue that goal from any number of angles: You could work for a large business, or a start-up, or in politics, or with an NGO or the media — there’s lot of ways that you could pursue your passion and I don’t think one is better than the other. The important thing is to find a theme you’re passionate about. Pursue it and you’ll always feel like you’re making progress and won’t be bored.
What is one thing you would share with Americans about the EU?
I think that the EU is one of the most remarkable and successful political projects in history. The EU has helped to bring 60 years of peace and stability to a continent which managed to tear itself apart time and time again over previous centuries. The U.S. has been a key contributor to European peace and stability, primarily in the form of NATO. Some U.S., UK, and European political voices are now seeking to undermine these imperfect yet effective systems of cooperation. We must not allow that to happen. A strong EU is good for the U.S. and good for the world, as we mutually benefit from the resulting peace, democracy, and rules-based markets. This is surely something worth promoting and worth defending — on both sides of the Atlantic.
Adrian was an intern in the Press & Public Diplomacy Section at the EU Delegation March — September 2006.
Are you a former EU Delegation intern? We’d love to hear what you’re up to and feature you in our next EUintheUS Alumni Spotlight. Just send an email to Delegation-USA-Alumni@eeas.europa.eu.