Robert Wren Gordon stands in town in Yaounde, Cameroon, where he is interning for the summer. Gordon is a former Bloomingdale High School graduate who is now studying at Columbia University.
By Kristen Morrell
A former Bloomingdale High School student is taking a break from his studies at Colombia University to spend a summer in Africa.
Robert Wren Gordon, of Brandon, is a consular intern at the Embassy of the United States in Yaounde, Cameroon. He was selected for the position through a competitive internship program with the U.S. Department of State.
According to the department Website, interns are diverse, culturally aware, adaptable, well-rounded and strategic problem-solvers, who are committed to experiencing a public service opportunity.
“I hoped to receive an offer, but was in no way certain about being accepted,” Gordon said.
But his strong background in foreign language and good prior internship experience made Gordon fit for the job. With his acceptance, he became one step closer to his career goal.
“I applied for this internship because I’m interested in a career with the State Department, particularly as a foreign service officer,” he said.
Every day Gordon gets a feel for the kind of work by interacting with diplomats at the embassy.
“As someone who is interested in working abroad and potentially becoming a career diplomat, it’s important to have an experience like this,” Gordon said. “Especially in a developing country, such as Cameroon.
While this isn’t his first time abroad, Gordon said this is the first time he has lived outside of the U.S. for a substantial amount of time and the society is quite different.
He said most Yaounde residents live in tin-frame shacks without modern conveniences like running water, air conditioning, Internet or television.
As an embassy employee, Gordon receives many diplomatic privileges. He lives in a spacious American-style home, has free use of the embassy pool and fitness center and receives 24/7 access to the embassy duty car.
“Although I am in Africa, I recognize that I’m not really living an African life, but rather the life of an American expat,” he said.
However, living in Cameroon is still a challenge.
“There are quite a few restrictions on my movement that keep me from fully enjoying my experience,” he said. “We really do take personal safety for granted in America.”
Every time Gordon leaves his house or the embassy, he must take numerous safety precautions. Gordon explained that on his first day in Africa, a fellow American intern was robbed right before his eyes.
“That being said, I enjoy Cameroon,” Gordon said. “The weather and the vegetation remind me of Florida, and overall the people are quite friendly.”
On Monday, August 13, Gordon will end his 50-day-long internship and make the journey home to Florida. In the fall, he will return to Columbia to complete his bachelor’s degree.