Internships can be great opportunities to discover what you want to do with your future… and what you don’t want to do. In order to discover if you are on the right track and are truly pursuing what you are passionate about, you are going to have to get redirected in life a few times. I am certainly no exception to this. What I have realized from my internship experience in Washington, D.C., is that sometimes life will throw you a curve ball and all you have to work with is a golf club. My point being: it’s okay to not be prepared, as these are the moments that help challenge you to really think about where you want to direct your pursuits.
(Left: Me with our group of international delegates while visiting the Organization of American States. Right: My office in an annex of the main building… yes, it was a cubicle, and no, there were no windows near me.)
I worked last summer as an intern for the Department of State’s “International Visitor Leadership Program.” I am majoring in International Relations and Political Science, so an opportunity like this was like finding the golden ticket of internships. I was able to work closely with State Department officials, acting as an assistant program manager for our international delegates who visited the United States. At the same time as this internship, I was taking a class taught by a former Senior Foreign Service Officer, learning about the implications of U.S. foreign policy on world affairs. I was in heaven, learning firsthand how the State Department worked from the civil service side, while also learning from someone who held the very career I wanted for myself. However, as the summer progressed, I learned that the path I thought I wanted for myself was not leading in the direction I wanted to go.
As I attended research openings, think tank events, meetings, and tours with the international delegates, I learned more about what other industries have done in the field of international relations. In turn, I learned more about what being an employee at the Department of State meant. When in my internship position, I realized that I was in a department that tended to follow policy recommendations made by others. An order would be issued and passed along the line until it was implemented.
(Outside the Senate Chambers with the delegates & the Washington Monument on my last day)
I do not want to simply execute policy – I want to make it. If I would have continued down the path I had set for myself before this internship, I would have had to serve a long time in the Foreign Service until I potentially reached a high enough position to influence policy decisions. For me, this was not enough. I enjoy researching issues, applying policy recommendations, and advocating on behalf of an issue. After years of believing I would work for the Department of State, I came to realize that I may have to alter my career path in order to best fit what I wanted for myself.
(In front of the State Capitol on the D.C. walking tour with my roommate, Aja)
Because the position of President of the United States is already filled, I had to begin my search elsewhere. Now, I’m looking into the possibility of interning with a research think tank this coming summer, in order to be a part of the research process that goes into making policy decisions.
My D.C. experience taught me not only that change is okay but it is also an inevitable part of the process of discovering what you are truly passionate about. Internships like mine help people put into perspective where they want to see themselves in the next five or ten years. If that image is not where you want to be, then change it! It is never too late, and even if your experience does not reinforce what you hoped it would, it may instead reveal a different direction for you to follow.
By: Madison Creery, Fourth Year, Political Science & International Relations (Conflict & Foreign Policy)
Edited by: Katie Kiesewetter, Blog Manager