My internship at the White House

Name: Daniela Cediel

Major: Public administration

Where you interned: This past summer, I was part of the Official White House Internship Program; I worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

What did you do there? My role contributed to the immense operation of processing the correspondence (mail and email) that reached the White House.

How did you get your internship?  I simply applied online. On the official White House website, there’s a link to the internship program and I followed the directions from there.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? Public administration is the academic discipline that revolves around the implementation of governmental policy. As a student in that field, you are actively engaged in learning all the various functions needed in the administration of government. It is also the discipline that, in my opinion, is actively preparing public servants. The White House Internship is centered on public service over politics. So, my internship and coursework correlated perfectly.

What was the coolest thing about your internship?  I had numerous unforgettable experiences but my favorite had to be the speaker series. Interns were granted the privilege of sitting in and listening to lectures from senior leaders at the White House. These lectures taught me so much about the kind of leader I want to be in the future.

What did you learn about yourself?  Through this internship experience, I really learned about my capabilities as a person. If college is supposed to train students on time management, this experience was an intense boot camp.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? The White House Internship is a full-time public service program, as well as a full-time job. This means I wasn’t just working in the Office of Presidential Correspondence; I was also responsible for attending workshops, lectures, events and community service projects. I participated in as much as possible without compromising my work assignments. Along with interning at the White House, I was also a part of another internship program called The Washington Center Internship Program. The Washington Center consisted of career development seminars, community service projects and a weekly evening class. Not to mention, I also had the privilege of being a part of the first official internship cohort that inaugurated the university’s satellite office, FIU in D.C. There were times I didn’t think I was going to be able to accomplish everything that needed to get done weekly, but I did. To look back and see how I achieved that, has absolutely increased my professional confidence.

How did you expand your professional network? I made it a priority to create meaningful relationships, rather than giving my business card to every person I met. I followed up with those I felt especially connected to and set up meetings to further conversation. By making the effort to attend events and having those one-on-one meetings, I established sincere professional relationships that have lasted after the internship.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?”  The internship itself was the “real world” and I found that throughout my time there I had to apply my skills, rather than learning new ones. I learned many new tasks that I had never done before, but no one was going to sit down and train me how to work well with others or have a good work ethic; that was on me. Due to the nature of the job, there was a short learning curve when training for my assignment. Being able to master a task that I had never done before in only a couple of days is what the real world looks like. To be competitive in the job market, one must be able to learn new tasks quickly and my internship enhanced that skill for me.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Don’t get intimidated by the application process. Many times, institutions and organizations make the process intentionally laborious because they want the best. Just follow directions carefully and always check your work. The details matter. Nowadays, everything is automated and those simple mistakes could potentially eliminate you from the “review pile.” Ask friends or family to look over your application before you submit it. This can keep you from being disqualified from something you may very well be qualified for.