2020 PFIG Recipient Ashley Hale
Journal Entry #1
This summer, I am interning for the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H). Originally, the internship was to occur in Washington DC, but it was moved to a virtual internship as a result of COVID-19. I was originally concerned that I would not be able to adjust to a virtual internship, but the experience is far better than I could have hoped for. Everyone in H has worked to make the interns feel welcomed and a part of the team. The weekly WebEx video calls have been a great way to build camaraderie virtually. For example, we have decided to theme our weekly calls (the first theme was tropical/summer) in order to create a fun work environment from home.
As an intern, I have many responsibilities both individually and as part of the intern cohort. The major project for the summer interns is to research all of the legislation introduced in the 116th Congress to determine the key players and areas of importance. All interns are also responsible for taking notes on internal calls and briefings given to members or staffers from the Hill. Note-taking for H has been a great learning experience because the focus is different. I believe this experience will help me develop my writing skills in a way that will be extremely useful in the future. I have also worked with small groups of interns on creating presentations and working on internal training for within and outside of H.
One of my goals of this internship is to improve my professional communication skills. Specifically, I hope to improve my self-advocacy skills. Self-advocacy is how we as interns get to work on the projects we want to and be on the calls we want to. I believe developing this skill during this internship will be extremely useful as it is an important skill to have when looking for a career in government. One thing I learned during a networking event we had is that working in DC is all about who you know. By the end of this internship, I want to feel more comfortable communicating and self-advocating.
Journal Entry #2
Despite having been a part of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) for only two months, I continue to be surprised at how much I have accomplished. I recently participated in the launch of the Report on the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which has been one of the Secretary’s major initiatives. As a part of a small group of interns assigned to the launch, I have been tracking congressional support for the report on Twitter and in press releases, as well attending congressional briefings. Especially given the political climate right now, it has been very enlightening to see different reactions towards and criticisms of the report.
The entire team of interns has been working on a legislative research project since the beginning of our internship. We are compiling our research into issue papers and getting them cleared by our supervisors. I appreciate the opportunities we are being given to produce papers that will be circulated to the upper level of our bureau. H is a great place to work because a culture exists where interns are treated as equals, not nameless people who do menial tasks. The clearance process has also been a great interpersonal skill building opportunity. Even with the additional challenges posed by the virtual environment, we are still experiencing the good and bad of bureaucracy first hand.
I am extremely proud of my work on team-building within H. A small group of interns and I have been developing various weekly team-building activities in order to improve camaraderie within our bureau. It is amazing to see the commitment of my upper level colleagues to changing the culture within our bureau to make it more welcoming and inclusive. While running trivia nights and organizing themed WebEx’s isn’t changing any foreign policy, it is making a large difference for the better in how the H bureau works.
Journal Entry #3
As my internship in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) nears its end, I am proud to look back on all I have accomplished and all the skills I have developed. From aiding in the rollout of the Report on the Commission on Unalienable Rights to leading team building activities within H, I feel like I have made a small, but real impact on U.S. foreign policy and within the bureau. I am thankful to have been a part of a team so supportive of their interns. They do not fail to challenge us and allow us to grow, which has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. My communication skills have come a long way during this internship thanks to all of the work I have been given and everyone’s willingness to provide feedback throughout the internship.
One of the most important parts of this internship has been the career development aspects. Not only have I developed my professional skills, I have been able to hear from so many people on what their paths were like to their current position. I have also attended many career seminars on topics like Hill careers, the foreign service, and graduate school. I have been debating whether I want to go to graduate school and when I should do it, so the graduate school seminar was eye-opening. I have learned about so many different careers and paths through which to reach them, and I am looking forward to exploring some of them in the future.
If I had one piece of advice for a student considering the State Department internship program, it would be to find your passion. Apply to bureaus that excites you, even if you think they will be harder to get into. It makes the sometimes intense and difficult work enjoyable, especially when you know it is making an impact on the world. Potential H interns should take this to heart. The internship coordinators and supervisors were so supportive in having the interns work on what they were interested in. They even created additional projects so we could work on something that we found interesting. H and the State Department have been a great place to work, and I would recommend applying to the program.