Meet 2012 International Parliamentary Scholar Daniela White
Enlarge image Daniela White plans to pursue a career in politics or diplomacy upon completion of her Bundestag scholarship. (© Germany.info) Interning for a Minnesota Congressman in high school who focused on Germany in the Committee on Foreign Affairs piqued Daniela White's interest in German literature and European politics. The Bethesda, Maryland native was motivated to take intense German classes, which she pursued at Cornell University with a major in German Language and Literature and Government and a minor in Music. After receiving her B.A., she decided to focus further on political science and completed her Masters at Oxford University, writing her dissertation on Modern European Politics. White plans to one day become either an American diplomat or to run for the United States Congress, representing Maryland.
How did you first hear of IPS? What was the application process like?
My professor of German Literature at Cornell University, Professor Herbert Deinert, suggested the scholarship to me, since it would allow me to apply my interests in both German Literature as well as European Politics. The application process involved a written application which I handed in in July, followed by an interview at the German consulate in New York City in the fall. The interview panel included professors as well as high-ranking politicians from the German Bundestag. As you can imagine, I was really nervous!
What expectations did you have about the program before it began? What has been the same as you expected? Or different?
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, so I came to Berlin fairly open-minded. The interesting and surprising aspect of working for President Lammert is the ability to attend a lot of different Ausschüsse or caucuses. I was also wonderfully surprised to get my own office in the Reichstagsgebäude, the main parliament building, right next to the cupola!
What has been the high point of your IPS experience thus far?
Where can I start? A lot of different events have been incredibly interesting. I was able to take part in the whole election process of the new Bundespräsident, the Federal President, Germany's head of state. This involved the highly political Fraktionssitzung, or caucus, of the CDU in the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung the night before the election, where I had the chance to meet Chancellor Merkel. The following day, on Sunday, I was able to witness the election in the Plenum, which involved a series of voting formalities and a short speech by Gauck after the election. The atmosphere was really exciting and many German celebrities were invited to make a vote. The following Friday I was also able to witness the Gauck Vereidigung, or swearing in. Another high point has been the daily contact and work for my Abgeordneter, President of the Bundestag Dr. Norbert Lammert, which has involved writing speeches, preparing drafts and analyzing various political events. Overall the experience has been very rewarding.
What have you found the most challenging?
Some of legislative language can be quite complex with various subtle nuances, particularly in the legal caucus. Initially the Berlin traffic with its series of street cars and metro lines can be tricky to navigate, but once you get used to it, you can get nearly everywhere with public transportation.
Tell us a little bit about life in Berlin.
Berlin is a unique and wonderful city to live in, since it is both a political hub, as well as cultural and historical hub. As part of the framework of being involved in the Bundestag, there are a lot of events in the evenings that are political in nature. For instance, think tanks which are attached to political parties host various lectures which have been interesting to attend. Furthermore, this year there were elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Saarland, and there were evening celebrations hosted by the different parties.
Besides political events, I love going to museums on the weekends. Berlin has over 100 museums! Opera also holds a special place in my heart and I studied vocal performance in college, so on weekends, I also try to fit in attending concerts at one of Berlin’s three opera houses!
What do you have planned for August 1, 2012, or thereafter? How will your IPS experience help you in your journey going forward?
After the International Parliamentary Scholarship ends, I hope to work for a Senator or Congressman as a congressional staffer. I think my experience as an International Parliamentary Scholar has helped me to understand German politics and the legislative process better, which will be useful when dealing with German-American relations. The close contact with various politicians in the Bundestag, especially with President Lammert, has been intellectually stimulating and has helped me to gain experience and personal support for my future dreams of being active in politics as a diplomat or politician.