2007 PFIG Recipient Le-Anh Bui
College of Arts and Sciences
Psychology and Spanish
2008 Graduation Year
Internship: US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, DC
This summer I am interning with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). I applied for the position last November, ECA contacted me in December for an interview, and my security clearance and the details of my internship were finalized in the spring. I am working in the Alumni Affairs office, which provides resources to alumni of U.S. government-sponsored foreign exchange programs both to and from the United States. The Fulbright Scholar program is probably one of the better-known programs that ECA sponsors, but there are at least a hundred other programs of varying scope and duration, designed for participants of all different age groups and backgrounds.
I hope my internship experience will provide me with an interesting background that I can build on and bring with me to a career in law. I hope to meet people from around the world and within the State Department, and I’m looking forward to broadening my knowledge of different parts of the world.
Notes on the first week
I started my internship about two weeks ago. I am assisting the Regional Coordinators in our office in charge of the Western Hemisphere (excluding the United States) and most of Asia and the Pacific, so I deal primarily with events in those parts of the world. I accompany my supervisors to meetings with other officials who work with their regions, and a large part of my job is to assist in maintaining the State Alumni website, one of the key resources the Alumni Affairs office provides to program participants. Alumni create profiles on the website to gain access to features like alumni news stories, job and grant listings, and research databases, and the website also helps the alumni locate other program participants and build networks worldwide.
One of my main responsibilities is to post news that our office receives from various sources (often U.S. embassies overseas) as articles on the website. I have to make sure that the news stories are clear, concise, and focused on the alumni, and it is always really interesting and eye-opening to discover how many alumni there are all over the world and what amazing things they have been doing since completing their exchange programs. Most recently, I have been translating news stories from Spanish language sources into English, and it has been the most fun thing I’ve done thus far. It’s sometimes a bit of challenge, but the work is all the more rewarding, and I really enjoy the opportunity to put my background in Spanish to good use.
Last week, I attended a year-end conference for alumni of a youth program that brings students from Middle Eastern countries to study in the U.S. for a year, and I’m sure it will be one of the highlights of my intern experience. It was exciting to actually meet alumni in person and learn a little bit about their exchange experiences, and I was impressed by the students’ knowledge of and interest in their countries’ political and social climates and their relationships with the United States. Meeting the alumni made what I’m doing seem much more real, and I’m looking forward to attending more conferences like this one as the summer goes on.
I am about to wrap up the 6th week of my internship, which means I am already more than halfway done! I’m pleased with the way my internship has turned out – I am still doing some of the things that I mentioned in my first journal entry, and I’ve been assigned some projects in addition to those responsibilities.
Our office recently conducted an Alumni Coordination Workshop in Frankfurt, Germany, and I helped with preparation for the event. Another intern and I collaborated to do a major update of our office’s PowerPoint presentation introducing and explaining the State Alumni website, and our new version of the presentation will be utilized not only by the Alumni office but by our overseas contacts and colleagues as well. I also drew up an evaluation form for participants of the workshop to provide us with useful feedback for future workshops.
Currently, I am working on a project to compile updated information on the State Department’s various exchange programs and to analyze the data for several statistics, including the number of new exchanges per year and per country, the number of exchange program participants per country and per year, and the number of participants per program, per country, per year. I’m very interested to see how the figures turn out.
I am also coordinating the effort to translate a main page of the State Alumni website into several different languages. This project involves working with the State Department’s Language Services office to translate the text into some more common foreign languages, contacting various embassies and consulates to seek their help with translations into additional languages, and tracking the contacts that the Regional Coordinators make out to their respective regions. We have a few languages ready to go, so I’m about to start working on the design of the new page on which the translated text will appear, and I’m excited that our office is able to provide this feature to alumni around the world who speak languages other than English.
Time flew by unbelievably quickly in the last few weeks of my internship, as I wrapped up the two projects I described in my previous journal entry. I am particularly proud of how the translation project turned out, and if you’re interested in seeing the final product, visit https://alumni.state.gov and check out the language links in the “State Alumni Is…” section at the bottom of the page. I really enjoyed the responsibilities that came with overseeing the project, which included everything from working with Language Services to resolve formatting issues and establishing relationships with contacts at embassies and consulates, to teaching myself to use Photoshop and creating the actual translated pages for each of the foreign languages. It is wonderful to know that my work will benefit the alumni who visit the site and help further the Alumni office’s goal of facilitating the continuation of the educational exchange experience even after the exchange program itself is over.
Over the course of these past ten weeks, it was amazing to witness daily the profound impact that education has had on hundreds of thousands of exchange program alumni, and the experience has truly affirmed my belief in the importance and power of education. Appropriately, a very personally rewarding part of my internship was the opportunity that it afforded me to expand my own knowledge of the world. Maybe I was completely ignorant at the beginning of the summer, but now I can name the capitals of Central Asia, describe the history of the Netherlands, and give you a brief biography of the late king of Tonga. In all seriousness, I really have learned so much about other countries that I never knew before and probably never would have learned otherwise. The best part is that a large chunk of my newfound knowledge came from actually meeting people from around the world and hearing firsthand about their lives and experiences. My summer with the State Department, though I never left Washington, D.C., has provided me with a greater global awareness and understanding that I hope will provide me with a unique approach to a legal career.