My journey as a Saltire Scholar

Máté Örs Kedves

(BA) Hons History and Politics, University of Glasgow

Government Affairs and Policy Intern, Baker Hughes

Hello, my name is Máté and this summer, I'm working with Baker Hughes in Washington DC as a Government Affairs and Policy Intern. Follow me on my journey as a Saltire Scholar:


Day 1/11.06.2022, Saturday - My journey to the USA

I woke up at 4:40ish and went to take a shower. My Über came a bit early but waited for me so that was fine.

At the airport, I met Sophie (another intern in DC) and we waited to get on our flight to Dublin, the first stop on our way to Washington DC. Our flight to Dublin was supposed to be checked in at a desk occupied with BA passengers - we did not want to go into that huge queue, so I went up to a staff member, who told us that the number on the screen was actually not correct. The actual line we needed to stand in was one other person, so that was a relief.

Checking into the flight was swift and the security check was fast too. The flight itself was with an ATR 72, with the old-timey rotors. It was not as loud as I thought but the landing was very bouncy... The whole flight was about 55 minutes which was small in comparison to the journey over the Atlantic!

At Dublin airport, we just went to our connecting flight with no more check-ins, and no security checks, so we were all good! We also went through the US Preclearance line which allowed us to avoid the huge queue in DC.

Finally, we boarded the plane. The big one. We sat on the plane before taking off for a good hour due to a ‘short engineering problem’. It should have been 10 minutes, but what can you do. After this, we took off. We were given some decent food, some pillows and earplugs. When we were closing in on passing Greenland, there were five and a half hours left of our journey at that point… I could not sleep or find a comfortable position, but we survived!

In DC we only needed to pick up our luggage after taking the TRAIN in the airport (because it is so huge you would not want to walk it, see MAP). Thanks to the preclearance we were able to just leave! I bought some food, because I was hungry, then played some cards with Sophie until Barney arrived. I did not have cellular data which is not ideal in terms of finding places. I would recommend checking this before leaving because it can be a large issue if one travels alone, especially at the beginning. The more you live in the area and learn your routes it will be fine, but initially, data can be crucial!

We took a free shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn where we spent our first night. We ate some food here, after having the same issue as with the plane ticket as it also was booked on my middle name.

It is insane to be here, still have not taken it in, but at the same time I feel confident and relaxed as it is ‘just another city’. It is an interesting mix of feelings. Also, the fact that we were up for 20+ hours made it feel weird. Good times ahead, I feel very optimistic!


Day 2/12.06.2022, Sunday - Moving into permanent accommodation

Woke up at 4:30ish, as I was not really sleepy. At home it would have been 9:30, so understandable, I reckon that is jetlag for you... I went to the gym of the Inn, talked to my parents and went back up into the room, where I watched some F1 during which I was able to go back to sleep.

We checked out at 12pm and ordered an Uber. The car was a Honda Odyssey which is simply HUGE! It really feels like a boat on the road. Then we arrived at the Georgetown University Campus. We eventually found the accommodation office as well, where we were able to pick up our keys - it took us a little while to find out accommodation.

When we arrived we noticed that the apartment needed some essentials to make it feel homely, so we visited TK Max, Trader Joe's and Walmart. We picked up some cutlery and other cooking supplies - something we hadn't anticipated we would need. There is a lesson though, take a closer look at the accommodation you are given and consider the essentials you may need so there are no surprises when you arrive!

Whilst out shopping, we walked a good couple of hours but managed to take a quick look at the White House and the Washington Monument, as well as some other pretty government buildings. We took the bus home which only accepts a travel card or cash, so that was a bit confusing too.

We also bought sim cards to have data finally, but apparently, my device is not ‘advanced’ enough to be using US sim cards, so I am kind of in a trap at the moment, I will try to figure that out in the next few days. For now, I am using my Hungarian data which I bought for a good 10+ bucks for three days...

We had a couple of beers last night as it was Sophie’s 21st birthday and then went to sleep.

Despite the challenges, I'm having a great experience so far and look forward to my internship with Baker Hughes!


Day 3/3/13.06.2022, Monday - My first day at work

On my first day, I unfortunately still felt am still very much jet lagged waking up at 3:30 am at first, but at least I was able to go back to sleep. I reckon in a week I will be well adjusted already!

I started my day off with some toast, got into my best suit and tried to find my way to work for the first time. I managed to find the GU 'shuttle bus' but unfortunately it takes us to the Capitol, which is a good 30 minutes walk away from my workplace. It was 25 degrees Celsius (and rising) and I was in a full suit - something you should consider when you're interning abroad!

I finally reached the Baker Hughes building - it is simply the cleanest-looking office building I have ever seen. The lobby looks like it belongs to a 5-star hotel. After showing my ID to the receptionist, I was able to get into the office. It is amazing.

I was greeted by personal assistant Bettina who was very nice. I spent most of my morning trying to do the training and set up my work laptop. It has been a pleasure. At around 11ish Matt came back and we had a quick chat, then we went back to work.

We went out to have lunch at 12:30. For the first time ever, I tried Campari as a starter and crab cake as the main. It was delicious. We had a chat about the company and its structure, about food, golf and a bit about the NBA as well.

After lunch we got back to the office, I had a short chat with Matt in his office before he left for his business trip. I presented him with the Scotch whisky that I got, so that was a good start to a meeting. My other boss Julia is currently on vacation.

I went back home after work, I had a talk with one of my friends currently also in the US. It is funny that we are in the same country and yet so far away. At least we have the same time zone, not like most of my other friends and my entire family. In the evening I also talked to my dad a bit, which is always good, it allows me to step back into my comfort zone a bit, which is much appreciated when everything is so new.


Day 4, 14/06/2022, Tuesday

I am starting to have a portion of a routine: an approximate time I wake up and I kind of know my route to work and my bus as well.

At work, first I tried to sort out a badge for myself, so I can have a souvenir of the company besides the T-shirt and the mug that I got. Then I was reading Baker Hughes documents trying to understand the company better, and my department’s role within it.

My tasks for the day were listening to the 7th Annual Central and Eastern European Energy Security Conference and to attend a House Select Committee hearing. The first was an exciting discussion at times. It was a whole day event, so I had to leave it as the other event was about to begin on Capitol Hill. I tried to get in touch with the Committee to ask if I was allowed to attend in person, but I could not, so I decided to try my luck and took the subway there. After being turned away at the gate of the building I just walked around a bit then took the subway back. Before that I took some time to just BE there. It was amazing to just walk around the Capitol and the area in general. It is still surreal that I am physically here and not just watching this place through a screen.

For the rest of the day, I re-joined the CEE meeting, then left work to go to Walmart to pick up a pan, two pots, and some food and cleaning products. Then I went to Union Station to take out some cash in a nearby ATM and load some money onto my ‘Smart trip’ card (for some reason I can only do cash top-ups). Then I proceeded to get onto the wrong bus and spend 2 of my precious dollars on my freshly topped up card. Luckily, the correct bus did not have a working till (something that happens fairly often), so in the end I did not waste any money.

I got home, talked a bit to Barney and Sophie, about their first few days. Then I cooked some fried rice and ate it for dinner. My first home cooked meal since I have been here if we do not count toast… It was great!


Day 7, 17/06/2022, Friday

My first day in home office. It is amazing that my company has a specific day for this. The idea is that with my Friday's from home office I explore the city of DC as well as working which is simply a fantastic idea! Nevertheless, for this first home office day, I actually stayed at home...

As I had finished most of my specific tasks, I kept on just learning more about the company. I checked out some more things in the shared folders and tried to gauge a bit better what Baker Hughes did. Then I found the World Energy Outlook 2020 report created by the International Energy Agency and decided to look into that one a bit. I have read about how some people in the energy sector see the recovery from the pandemic. As the report was written before the invasion the forecasts were somewhat off, but I still learnt a lot about the energy sector.

I was invited to go out this night, but I decided to just stay in and sleep. The previous days were just filled with adrenaline, and I had to rest a bit. The tiredness of the entire week hit me at once because finally there was nothing I absolutely needed to do. The travelling, the shopping for essentials, the work and the jetlag all piled up. I went to bed early and had a great sleep.


Week 2

Already by the second week my journal sections became patchy and short, so in the following I am summing up the week I had.

Overall, it was an amazing week, it began with hanging out with locals on Sunday (watching the F1 race), and Monday as it was a bank holiday. It was Juneteenth, so together with Sophie and Barney we explored the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, then together with another intern at their organisation we did some proper sightseeing. We visited the Washington Monument, the White House (from far away), the WW2 memorial, the Reflective Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a fun long weekend with getting most of the touristy bits of a DC trip out of the way.

Then the workweek began… I got a project in preparation of the 118th Congress and how it changes thanks to redistricting. It was a bit of a struggle for me, and I only figured out why when I got home. I had to realize that in the coming 9 weeks, I will not be on holiday, rather working full-time. This was not my expectation so I would recommend keeping this in mind for any future Scholars. It is a great experience, but it is a WORK experience!

The rest of the week, I attended a panel event on the energy sector, which helped me understand the situation that I got into a bit better. It was great that the speakers were not only giving their own ideas but engaged in debate in front of our eyes. It was fascinating as well as useful for me. I also got the opportunity to go to an event where I could see and talk to US Ambassadors and chargé d’affaires in person, although I mostly engaged with young professionals at the dawn of their foreign service careers. It was surreal!

On Friday as a task of mine, I started exploring DC by going to the Portrait Gallery. It was quite amazing as the place looks simply stunning, however, they do not have sockets to charge your laptop, so I ran out of battery. After looking at the portraits of US Presidents, I went home and went out in the evening with Sophie and Barney and some of the locals. It was a blast. We went to the bar on Limes which was also a lot of fun!

The second weekend I have spent a lot of time resting again, as well as starting to read a book I got from the company on the energy sector which I found immensely useful. I also had the opportunity to talk to my family. The 6-hour time difference compared to Hungary is quite disruptive. It is possible to have short chats in the early morning, but the easiest solutions are the weekends. It has been quite a week and I am looking forward to seeing where the next ones take me!


Halfway Point

I have been in the US for 5 weeks now, and it has been nothing like I anticipated, mainly as I had no idea what I was getting into.

In terms of work, I have participated in projects within several departments at Baker Hughes. I worked with the UK, the EU and the US regional groups as well as a little with the Energy Transition team. I have written webinar reports, created briefing notes ahead of meetings, and many other quick and sometimes longer tasks. I have learnt so much about the energy sector and how such a large company operates. I still cannot believe I am here, and I am doing proper work. The most surreal part is that my projects have been used by permanent employees of the company. I am so happy I am able to assist other people and hopefully make their work somewhat easier while I am here.

And as for our free time: we were lucky to meet Michael Smith, who is an advocate for the Programme here in DC. He took us to a baseball game which was amazing! We got to watch the Nationals (unfortunately they lost) from a VIP booth! He has been such a great guide in DC. Especially for me personally as he introduced me to several members of the Hungarian community in DC. It was fantastic to speak my native language so far away from our little country, and to get to know these people whose parents or themselves fled from the Soviet regime. I have been taken by their wisdom and generosity towards me!

One of the weekends we took a train to Virginia Beach, and I was able to splash around in the ocean for the very first time in my life… It is a five-hour train ride, but it is definitely worth it! The ocean is the best wave-pool (in my opinion)!

And now a couple of top tips for future Scholars:

Top tip 1: Even though everyone is telling you that this is the summer of your life (and it really is amazing) do not be surprised if at some point you feel like it is getting a little bit ‘average’. Waking up, going to work, working 8 hours, going to the gym, going to shops, cook, sleep and repeat. This is normal. I had a rough week when I started to settle into it, because it indeed is an internship, not a vacation. You are not just having fun for 10 weeks, you actually are supposed to do things, have responsibilities and have a taste of young adult life. This is not to say, that I did not enjoy my first 5 weeks immensely, or I did not go out and have fun, I just want to note that at some point it might start to feel regular. And this on its own is an amazing feat. It means you are able to adapt to a whole new situation, in a new country, with new people and new challenges in a matter of weeks! So, I would advise anyone becoming a Saltire Scholar, do not be afraid to just live your life here, because that is what it will be like in the world of work (I assume).

Top tip 2: The funds you get from Saltire can easily be enough if you do your own shopping and don’t go out every night! Nevertheless, if you plan to explore a bit of the US (e.g. go to VA Beach, or NYC) bring some extra cash. It is not likely that anyone will be so generous as to fund your trip and accommodation in the US again, so it is a good idea to make the most of the trip!


Week 6 and 7

By this time, I have accustomed to working life pretty well. Working on multiple projects across several departments is very exciting! My tasks are similar to what I have been doing so far, mainly researching and report writing with the occasional short high-priority tasks. These are due to the fact that news and events globally affect a company of this size thus we have to be able to react to them.

Outside of work these two weeks contained a lot of new experiences as well!

  • We had Rhudi visiting from New York (week 6) and Eilidh visiting from Boston (week 7). This is something I would recommend for any future scholars. By this time all of us had encountered so many new things that we had a LOT to talk about! These two visits were just absolutely amazing with being able to show people around in ‘our city’ a little bit. Hearing about how being a Scholar feels in another place is also fantastic.
  • We were invited to a whisky tasting at the British Embassy which was a great opportunity to meet each other’s supervisors and other great people involved in getting us here. It was an honour and a pleasure!
  • Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Barney and Sophie as their internships have finished, which also meant that we had to move flats. Packing everything together with all the goods we bought for the dorm was difficult but getting to the new place was very easy with ordering an Uber. We were able to leave our luggage here before we could check in, so that was very convenient as well. When we got into our rooms, we were both floored… We had everything from plates to coffee machines and even cleaning products. I had my first home cooked meal from a plate since I have been here, and it was majestic!
  • And a not so fun experience is me twisting my ankle playing basketball at the university gym. But at least this allows me to share my experiences with the US healthcare system and luckily the injury is minor. Thanks to Saltire and CIEE I am fully covered which is essential as the first question an urgent care receptionist asks for is insurance and ID. Important things to note: you have to pay something for your visit. Thanks to the coverage it is only a limited amount (urgent care: 20$, hospital is 100$). You also need to go to a place that is in contract with your insurance company, otherwise you will be liable for all the expenses, that can easily mount to thousands of dollars. I would suggest talking to your Saltire contact as well as call your insurance company. The combination of these two sources of information allowed me to get through this fairly easy! And be careful, because twisting your ankle before moving day is not fun…

I have also realised how much faster the ‘last few weeks’ go by than the first few did. The halfway point feels much more like a two-thirds way point…

I cannot believe I am leaving in a couple of days. Happy to go home, but sad to leave.


Unexpected Finish

After all the fun activities I have talked about, I wanted to make a note of when not everything goes your way. I have tested positive for COVID...

This happened 1.5 weeks before my departure and I currently do not know if I can fly back home with my originally planned plane. Hoping for the best of course, but you never know with this virus.

I just wanted to take note of this because I think there are some lessons to be learnt from this.

1. My colleagues and the Saltire team are very nice and accommodating for such a situation. Everyone understands that it can happen at any time to anyone and we are prepared to deal with it.

2. It provides an additional case to improve one's resilience. It is an issue in a foreign country forcing you to cut all physical ties with the world. Of course video chats and so on work, but it is still an inconvenient state. You have to improve how you react and adapt to such a twist in your plans. As I have been hit pretty hard with the symptoms I have decided (having agreed to it with my supervisors) to rest mainly.

3. As all of us have been through lockdowns before for a significant amount of time it is not that big of a difference. Only now I have to work remotely a little as well compared to 2020.

Stay safe everyone, and I hope I get to fly home this Saturday. It has been a lot of fun, but I am ready to get home.


Travelling home

With all the complications of COVID, I was starting to get worried that I would not be able to fly home on time and with the plane I was supposed to. Luckily, this was not the case, I tested negative by Tuesday!

And then another obstacle came up…my flight had been cancelled. This on its own is not that surprising I guess, this is a common occurrence especially nowadays, nevertheless, it did not make getting home easier. Especially because I only found out around the time I was supposed to leave for the airport.

After a quick double check via 3 different websites, I had a talk with Katrina at Saltire to see what the next step would be. She told me to call the company and see what they can do. To my surprise everything had been sorted within a good half an hour. The only concern I had was that I was flying to Heathrow, and I have heard so many nightmare stories of baggage being lost, and utter chaos. I was also flying with British Airways (who I referred to in my first day blog too) and I was concerned I would be exposed to the same issues as those passengers were back in June.

BUT! All these fears were false, at least in my case. At the DC airport BA got me through check in within 15 minutes. Moreover, London security was a skip and a hop as well and I easily made my connection flight despite the hour delay from DC and landed in Glasgow with all my luggage ready to be collected.

One thing to keep in mind is that anything can go wrong around travel, but if one plans ahead (and luck is on their side) such issues can be resolved very easily! Saltire and Aer Lingus both were quick to react and professional in sorting the problem out!


Final thoughts

After having returned to Scotland and then to Hungary I have sat down to recollect and think through all the things that happened this summer. It has been a long process, since SO MANY things happened! This final issue in my blog is not to work through these in a chronological order, rather to collect my final thoughts about the trip.

Confidence and Resilience

I have encountered many new experiences and some obstacles as well during my 10 weeks. I had travelling issues to and from the US, I have sprained my ankle and explored the US healthcare system with the insurances and everything else, contracted COVID in my 9th week. And for the opportunities, I was asked to speak in some meetings and got the chance to meet former Ambassadors as well as other senior members of the DC society.

I needed to present myself in a professional manner, be concise and solve issues (if it came to that) quickly in a whole new environment. I would not say I was amazing at these yet, but I held my own and like any other skill this needs improvement through experience. I am glad I got to do these, even the challenges (for example having a flight cancelled without being notified). Although the problems were not so enjoyable at the moment, after the fact I am still happy they happened and were resolved swiftly to a degree thanks to my decisive action, and all the support I got from the Programme and people I met.

Work experience

I have never worked in an office full-time before. I enjoyed it and I was praised for being on time, acting professional. In my exit interview my supervisor told me that I fit in well in such an environment which him and I were both happy about.

Since Baker Hughes is a global company, I have learned a lot about how to approach people with issues in such a complex setting and being receptive and proactive when given constructive criticism.

Life is life

I have also realised that life is life in DC as well. You have a schedule and do your job despite you only being there for 10 weeks. It is not a holiday you are there to work. I enjoyed having this insight into what is most likely waiting for me in the future.

However, despite the c.40-hour workweeks I am happy that I was still able to be a tourist to a degree, thanks to my supervisors encouraging me to explore the city on Friday “home office” days.

Written by: Máté Örs Kedves
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