2018 PFIG Recipient Sarah Hitchcock

Sarah Hitchcock

Journal Entry #1

I have officially just completed my first week at the Department of State! It has been an exciting week, with a lot to learn and absorb. On my first official day, I arrived to the massive building complex with around 100 other interns for our orientation. We were briefed by many different offices on rules, regulations, and life at the Department of State. That morning, I began to realize the wide variety of careers and paths you can take if you decide to commit to a life at the Department of State.  You can do anything from becoming an ambassador, working on national security, human rights, or in the behind the scenes work that supports all the bureaus.

My specific internship will be in the Office of Civil Rights, working under the Secretary’s Bureau. This office deals with a wide variety of issues. They handle EEO cases for employees at the Department, help educate employees on diversity in the workplace, as well as conduct internal inquires for the organization. There are many attorneys in my office and I hope to learn more about the legal field through my time in this internship. I also hope to get a taste about working for the Department and see if I am interested in pursuing this career in the future. Overall, I am excited about all the opportunities to come this summer at my internship!

Journal Entry #2

I am now about half way done with my internship at the Department of State. I am starting to get more responsibilities and learn more about my office, which is really interesting. Our office is incredibly busy after former Secretary of State, Tillerson, mandated in January 2018 that all Department of State employees must receive a follow-up EEO and harassment training. Coupled with the “Me Too” movement and general increased culture of wanting to preserve a safe working environment, it seems that employees are really starting to speak up and want to protect their rights.

My summer project with the other interns in my office was to facilitate a presentation and discussion with other interns across the Department of State. The goal of this presentation was to help train and educate interns, who sometimes are unaware of their rights and protections in the workplace. We framed this presentation in terms of EEO and harassment policies. I thought that this project was really meaningful because it was a great opportunity to interact with many other interns from different bureaus. We had the opportunity to start the project from the ground up- which meant we were awarded the agency to do many things on our own. For example, we reserved our own spaces, coordinated times, created a presentation, practiced with many individuals (including our director), and advertised the event throughout the Department. We had a really great turnout, with about fifty other interns. It was really meaningful to work on a project like this from the start to the finish!

Another task I am working on is becoming an investigator for our office. This means that I have the responsibility of conducting internal inquiries for the Department. These inquiries deal with allegations of sexual and discriminatory harassment. As an investigator, it is my responsibility to set up interviews, conduct interviews with these individuals, and draft memos to the head of various Bureaus and Posts with our Office’s findings. During this process, I get to team up with an experience attorney advisor who represents the Office of Civil rights. This job is super interesting because I have the ability to communicate with individuals from all over the Department and across the world. This position is also challenging because it is dealing with highly sensitive situations and often emotionally distressed participants. From conducting these interviews, I get to learn a lot about other jobs and positions throughout the Department. This is a really unique opportunity to meet various people from outside of my office. I also get to travel all over the DC area to conduct interviews at Department annexes!

Journal Entry #3

I can’t believe it is my last week interning at the Department of State! This summer has moved so quickly and I feel like I have learned a lot from this position. I have had so many amazing opportunities throughout the summer that I am so thankful for experiencing it all. Everyone in my office was really invested in my growth and experience during my internship. For example, every week the director of my office would host “intern hour” just to talk with us. We would have focus topics, such as mock interviews, public speaking, and networking. I was really happy that our Director took the time to invest in the interns personally, especially because he has such a busy schedule.

Another amazing thing that I am taking away from the summer is all the interesting experiences I have had across the Department. Since our office conducts internal inquiries, I had the opportunity to travel across different Department locations for interviews. It was really cool to go into different offices and annexes across the DMV area. I got to see really interesting locations that I would not have if I was in a different office. I feel like this was a unique opportunity that many other interns did not experience.

One of the coolest opportunities I had was accompanying the Senior Attorney Advisor in my office to a briefing on Capitol Hill. During this briefing, other Department of State representatives from other offices also attended to discuss the topic of sexual harassment at State. It was such an interesting and unique experience that I am so happy I got to participate. Before the briefing, I helped my Senior Attorney advisor compute data from our online reporting system. I analyzed figures and statistics to create charts and graphs answering questions that Congress had provided us.

One of my favorite memories from the summer was all the interesting field trips I had the opportunity to take part in. I got to visit the Library of Congress, the United State Capitol, the National Passport Center, the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Reception Rooms, the Department of Justice, the Foreign Service Institute (the school for Foreign Service Officers), and the Holocaust Museum. One of my favorite tours was the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. They had an entire room dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, which I thought was really cool coming from a University of Virginia student perspective. The Diplomatic Reception Rooms also had the desk where the Founding Fathers signed the Treaty of Paris, giving the United States freedom from England. Overall, this tour was a super interesting experience and cool for a History Major like myself!

I am so thankful for the amazing summer internship and the ability to take part in an internship that I truly loved every day. Working at the Department of State made me feel like I was really a part of something bigger than myself as a citizen. I am so grateful to the Parents Fund Internship Grant for providing me the opportunity to take part in this experience!