This summer, I am interning at the International Trade Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. So far, it has been consistent with what I expected in some respects, but very different in others. I knew going into this internship that most of my time would be spent conducting due diligence, that is to say searching databases, completing checklists on the U.S. companies seeking help from the Advocacy Center, and reporting any negative findings. However, I was not expecting the sheer breadth of topics and issues that I would learn about/be exposed to. On any given day, I could be researching companies that sell, or hope to sell, anything from heavy equipment to software to governments anywhere in Europe, Central Asia, or the Western Hemisphere. Overall, it has been a great experience so far. I feel that I have learned a lot, both about international trade as a field of work and about the International Trade Administration.
One of the things that surprised me is how different my WOW internship has been from my typical life as a Brandeis student, especially regarding how my day is structured. As a student, I am in class for, on average, 3-4 hours a day, and, aside from my work schedule and the campus activities I am involved in, the rest of my time is unstructured. As long as I have my readings and assignments completed by the time they are due, it does not matter when I complete them. Meanwhile, the schedule for my internship is much more set (9-5). During those hours, I am working on tasks at my internship, and when it is outside of those hours, I can go for a walk, hang out with friends, etc. Neither schedule is inherently better or worse – for example, it is nice to have a firm sense of when I am done with work for the day – but they are very different mindsets.
Furthermore, I feel like I am building and improving many skills through my internship work. The most significant of these are my abilities to conduct research and think critically, which I continue to hone through conducting due diligence and constantly asking myself if something is a red flag. I anticipate that these skills will be very transferable to my life on-campus and my future career plans. The ability to find and process information efficiently and critically is invaluable in any job or classroom, but, since I hope to get a job that involves researching and presenting my findings, it is experience that should prove valuable.
Lastly, I am gaining some useful, tangible skills through my internship, such as how to use Salesforce and a few new databases. While they are not difficult to learn, they are sources that I anticipate using again in the future since they are very commonplace in the work world.