As I enter the last week of my internship at the State Department, the original goals that I outlined during my WOW application provide a good sense of how my summer in Washington D.C. has helped me to grow, personally and professionally. The academic goal that I had set for myself was to improve my research skills. During my initial interview, the deputy director of my office suggested research would be one element of my internship, and I was intrigued by the idea of improving upon that skill in a professional setting. While my internship was not research-heavy in the way that I was anticipating, one of my last projects was to write a report on the kafala work sponsorship program that exists in many countries in the Middle East. At what was almost the last minute, my original academic goal was met, and I grappled with the struggles of research outside of an academic institution where there is not a convenient library database to pull articles from.
My career and personal goals were more successful, which were to network with State Department employees and to see how I enjoy living in Washington D.C. Between getting to know the interesting people in my office and meeting employees in other offices and bureaus, I am ending this summer with an expanded network of professionals who I have been lucky enough to already receive advice from and who I know I will be able to reach out to in the future with career questions. I also loved my time in D.C. this summer! It feels like there is a never-ending list of things to do every weekend, which includes all of the fantastic Smithsonian museums that are always free. Two of the Smithsonian museums require getting (free) tickets in advance, and I have been lucky to attend these more exclusive museums. I visited the Holocaust Museum with a couple of my friends from Brandeis, and I visited the African American Museum of History and Culture when the closing event for the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was held there. After this summer, I am strongly considering returning to D.C. after graduation, since this summer has shown me how much I enjoy living here.
This internship hasn’t necessarily clarified my career interests, but it has helped me realize how many different paths there can be to reach the same end goal. I know I want to help people and I would love to work in women’s empowerment, and I’ve been able to learn more about the ways those goals can be accomplished within and outside the State Department. For any other students who are interested in my internship or in working for the State Department, I would recommend exploring the many different ways that exist to get involved with State, which make you a more competitive applicant for a summer internship. I applied to be a Virtual Student Federal Service intern during the 2017-2018 school year, and I was able to assist the U.S. Embassy to Libya with their alumni outreach. I also participated in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which is a State Department funded program that brings high school students overseas to begin studying a critical language. While NSLI-Y is only open to high school students, the Critical Language Scholarship is the college equivalent, and I strongly believe that nothing is as impactful as practical experiences overseas to familiarize yourself with whichever region of the world that you’re most passionate about.
The experience that I’m most proud of this summer started as the project that I felt most unqualified to handle. I was tasked with helping to organize the swearing-in ceremony for the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. That responsibility included drafting a speech for Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to give when he attends the swearing-in ceremony. Unfortunately, the swearing-in ceremony’s date was recently changed so I will not be able to attend and I’m sure Secretary Pompeo’s official speechwriters will change what I drafted. However, preparing a swearing-in ceremony for a high-ranking official in the Department and writing words that might be spoken by Secretary Pompeo was definitely one of the highlights of my internship.
Overall, I’m so appreciative of the opportunity that I’ve had this summer! Between the people I’ve met, the experience of working in the main State Department building, and the lessons I’ve learned, this summer has been incredibly informative and enjoyable.