My internship with the State Department’s Office of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs

Name: Paola Santiago

Major: Interdisciplinary studies

Where are you interning? The State Department in the Bureau of Consular Affairs

What is your title? Intern for the Office of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs

How did you get your internship? We were sitting in diplomacy class and our professor –Brian Fonseca, director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs – invited his colleagues who work for the State Department to speak to us. They offered us the opportunity to intern for the State Department, and we got the housing squared away. The only thing left to think about was whether to book a 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. flight.

How does your internship connect to your current coursework? My honors class deals with issues that the State Department debates. It’s gratifying to be in the vicinity of where some of these discussions are held.

What was the coolest thing that has happened thus far in your internship? I had the opportunity to escort foreign dignitaries and ambassadors at an event; some remembered my name! Very cool.

What do you enjoy most about your experience? I love meeting people from different walks of life. Also, it’s humbling to be able to travel away from home and explore different landscapes and work environments. It’s a big change, going from being a pre-school teacher at the First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables to an intern at the State Department.

What have you learned about yourself?  I’ve learned to be flexible in terms of assignments. I’m honestly willing to do anything. Need me to sharpen your pencils? You got it! Upload a thousand documents? Already done.

How has the position increased your professional confidence? Because of this experience, I’m more self-assured when I step into an interview. I feel that the professional ambience of my work has instilled in me formalities I had not considered at previous employments.

How have you expanded your professional network? Intern events, workshops and going out in D.C. has introduced me to a wide scope of people who have given me immeasurable professional advice. I know I can contact them in the future.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Be open. You are going to meet all kinds of people, take advantage of the fact that you don’t know whether you are going to be in the same building as this person or at the same job. Maybe this person works for someone who knows someone who can get you a job at the place you want to work. So always be polite, professional, but, most importantly, be yourself.

FIU in D.C. is working with more than 50 students interning in the nation’s capital this summer. The office has planned several networking programs and continues to serve as a resource for the students as they gain real-world experience in the city. To learn more about the opportunities available with FIU in D.C., visit the office’s website.