2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Sofie Wyatt

Sofie Wyatt

Internship Location: Peace Corps

Journal Entry #1:

Hello, I am Sofie, a fourth-year Foreign Affairs and History major. This summer I am interning at the Peace Corps’ (PC) Office of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs (SPIGA) - a small but vital office. SPIGA develops and implements the Peace Corps’ partnerships with U.S. government agencies, international NGOs and multilateral institutions. These partnerships help advance PC’s mission by providing invaluable resources and opportunities for PC volunteers’ projects in the field. With common goals and initiatives, these partnerships significantly increase the success of our service programs.

For the past three weeks I have been focusing on organizing and analyzing a large batch of survey data from Peace Corps personnel in the field. Once completed, the workbook and a report I’ve started will be used to assess the partnerships that are most beneficial to Peace Corps posts, and identify informal partnerships that should be developed further. I have really enjoyed working on this survey assignment because I get to read perspectives about the logistics of completing Peace Corps projects that people normally don’t figure out until they have started as a volunteer. In regards to informal partnerships, I have worked on briefs and potential partnership summaries to help assess a program run by Arizona State University that Peace Corps volunteers have been putting to use at serval posts. In the coming weeks and months these informational materials will be used to determine whether or not the Peace Corps will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ASU.

It has been great to have a supervisor who encourages growth and learning amongst her interns, both in and out of the office. I have had the opportunity to learn about the work being done in other departments by attending several interdepartmental meetings with grants management and health. My supervisor has been kind enough to let myself and the other intern leave work to attend various speaker events and panels within the agency, at think tanks and nonprofits. Most recently we attended a panel on cybersecurity at the Wilson Center, and a panel at the United States Institute of Peace that discussed making peace negotiations more inclusive. I have voiced my interest in helping with some of the larger proposals handled in SPIGA and I am hoping I can get going on another big assignment soon. I am very excited to continue interning at the Peace Corps and I am looking forward to my future projects here at SPIGA. Knowing that I am playing a role - however small - in such a fantastic agency makes work incredibly rewarding. In the next week or so I will be reaching out the the recruitment office so that I can discuss my plans to serve as a PC volunteer after graduation.

Journal Entry #2: 

In my previous blog post, I mentioned seeking out a recruiter to discuss my goal to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV). The meeting went very well, and I have a new sense of direction about the Peace Corps service. Although I am far from an invitation to serve - I haven’t even started my application yet! - my internship has reinforced my goal to be a PCV and seek out a career in service to others. My personal background in agriculture and my professional/volunteering background in education will qualify me for a lot of volunteering positions, I just need to figure out in which sector I want to focus on!

Work has been going exceptionally well. I helped coordinate an event that drew over fifty attendees, and I’ve just completed my first assignment for the Director’s office. I have been completing small assignments on the side while working on the summer-long data analysis, which we will be presenting in about two weeks. One of these small assignments has been filing old documents, which I have found surprisingly relaxing! In addition to attending lectures and panels around the D.C. area, I have been attending weekly round-table discussions for interns and Peace Corps chief officers and executives which the Grants department is hosting. I have found these discussions to be incredibly informative and inspiring. The variety of paths and choices that have led people to become leaders at the Peace Corps is amazing and has been reassuring for a soon-to-be college graduate. I have found common traits in these professionals: grace, tenacity, humor, intelligence and an undeniable passion for humanity. Some started in the private sector, some struggled to find their first job out of college, some were involved in politics, but all felt compelled to work in public service. I believe interest in public service is inextricably tied to the qualities mentioned above and as we - recipients of the Parents Fund Internship Grant - leave school and look for work I know we’ll grow to be sagacious and successful too. 

On a personal note, with just one month left in the D.C. metro area, I have been leaving the house (I’m an hour outside of D.C.) to explore all of the notable D.C attractions I missed last summer. In terms of personal growth, outside of the professional sphere, I’ve become much more comfortable going out and doing things I enjoy around the city by myself. Treating myself to dinner, going to events alone, or taking myself out on the weekends used to be an almost insurmountable challenge for me, an introvert. I’ve loved visiting museums, attending lectures and reading in the sculpture garden during my free time this summer.

I’m hoping to finish strong this last month at the Peace Corps and will submit another update as my internship is closing.

Journal Entry #3: 

At the end of my internship, the interns in my office gave a presentation to the full-time employees and the director of our office detailing the data analysis we had been working on for almost the entire summer. The insights we gained from this project were used to create briefs to inform new country directors of the active and most popular partnerships in their countries.

As my internship began to wind down I began preparing for my ongoing projects to be transitioned to the incoming fall interns. The biggest of those projects was preparing files to be sent to the National Archives. Saying goodbye to the other interns was sad, as we had all grown close throughout the summer and often spent time together outside of work. I am looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone from the office throughout the school year and hope that I can see them the next time I am in the area.

Interning at the Peace Corps has been, without question, the best job I have had (so far, of course). The workplace environment was so collaborative, inclusive and friendly. Everyone was incredibly passionate about the Peace Corps’ mission and building cross-cultural relationships. My projects were very engaging and I, as an intern, was getting to do real work around the office rather than just menial administrative tasks. I hope in the future I am able to work at an organization with a culture similar to the one I found at the Peace Corps. I learned a great deal about how the Peace Corps engages with its host communities through volunteer projects and grants. This knowledge will be invaluable to me if I ever get accepted to be a Volunteer. In general, I became more familiar with how organizations working in advocacy and development liaison and formalize relationships with one another. The aid and development sector is filled with hundreds of organizations focused upon dozens of different issue-areas; partnerships and Memoranda of Understanding make it easier for nonprofits and NGOs to coordinate efforts towards common, constructive goals.

I am very grateful to the Parents Fund Internship Grant for making this internship a possibility for me. The experiences I had at the Peace Corps will serve me well in my future career.