2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Amber Arnold

Amber Arnold

Internship Location: U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environments and Scientific Affairs

Journal Entry #1:

This summer, I am working for the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environments and Scientific Affairs at the capital. As I am a double major in Public Policy and Global Environments, I found this internship as an exciting intersection of my two interests. Prior to beginning the job, I was unsure of exactly what I was going to be doing as an intern in a place that holds such an important position in our nation's political and international affairs. After receiving the proper clearance and contacting my supervisor briefly, I showed up to the first day of work along with about 40 other Department interns. Of course, the first day was full of information and learning courses that were set up to guide us through our 10 weeks as smoothly as possible. 

The next few days were filled with meeting people in my direct department, receiving security requirements, and getting an understanding of the importance of proper protocol. I learned that the first week of a job has its challenges, such as a backlog in IT even though much of my work could not begin until I received credentials from them, or taking on the confusing layout of a building that stretches the length of two blocks. 

Overall, I am extremely happy with how my first week played out. I went in with a positive outlook, telling myself to just be friendly, respectful, and willing to engage with any project. I found that many people took an interest in my educational background as well as some of my personal accomplishments, leaving open avenues to future coffee meet-ups where I look forward to asking them how their career paths formed. I look forward to engaging with them and taking in the advice they have to offer, after all, they have much more experience than I do! 

Journal Entry #2:

It seems like the beginning of this internship was far in the past and yet, it was only a few weeks ago. I can say pretty confidently that I went into this internship with little idea of what it would be and that it had gone above and beyond my expectations. The lessons I have learned so far, through projects as well as being in the workplace atmosphere of the State Department, have already contributed more skills to my professional life that I had no idea I even needed. The projects, daily tasks, random tasks, the people in my sphere, and the people around the building have all made this a complex experience.

So far, my projects have ranged from analyzing and presenting survey data to a group of regional hub officers from around the world to interviewing astronauts and diplomats to create a social media campaign. While I have learned many practical skills in these projects, like numerous excel shortcuts and professional grammar requirements, I have also taken on a new level of confidence when it comes to professional interaction. My co-workers give me real work that actually matters and is of substance. Which may not sound like a lot, but it is worth so much to be treated like the adult that I am beginning to become and leave at the end of the work day feeling like I contributed to something.

I think that these skills have set me up better for interviews, networking, and job exploration, a lot of which I will be doing in the next few months. In the few weeks that I have left, I hope to finish up some longer term projects I have been working on. There are few things as satisfying as seeing hard work really come together. Luckily, I have been given the chance to put in hard work this summer, something I was a little nervous about not being granted this summer. I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring.

Journal Entry #3: 

Now that this internship is behind me, I can look back on all my experiences and see how some built on others, some taught me lessons throughout, and all were moments I will not soon forget. I accomplished quite a bit in my time with the State Department, from small projects that needed to be done quickly, to larger projects that lasted throughout my internship. I learned more about myself and the workplace in all of these accomplishments and also the challenges that they sometimes presented me with during the process.

One success that I am pleased with this summer is the standard of effort I put into my work every day. When I was at work, I was willing to do any kind of project that was offered up to me, no matter how odd, impossible, or mindless it seemed. This enabled me to get experience in all sorts of fields and topics, from public diplomacy and space, to social media and wildlife trafficking. While I gained knowledge from the breadth of the topics I was working on, I found that my willingness to help people on any project was the true reward and aided me in building relationships within the office place. I came in with the mindset that I wanted to network and be friends with my coworkers, so I really loved the atmosphere I was met within the office. I will say that this networking made it much harder to say goodbye at the end of my time in the office!

As for challenges, there were many but nothing that made me want to get through the internship faster. The challenges made the work interesting, invigorating, and actually made me feel more accomplished and satisfied with my work when I overcame them. That leads me to one of my main takeaways as I look to applying to jobs in the coming months. I truly want a job that challenges and rewards me, enabling me to feel that I have made an influence and accomplished real work at the end of the day.

It will be odd going back to classes and the student life, but I definitely return with a new outlook. I would highly recommend that other students take risks and look outside of their comfort zones, it is difficult, but in the end it is so rewarding.