Name: Juliana Fernandez
Major: Political Science and philosophy
Where did you intern? Florida District 116 State Rep. Daniel Perez’s Office
What did you do there? I assisted constituents from the district with every day concerns on the phone and in person, while also contributing innovative ideas for projects in the office
How did you get your internship? Through FIU’s Honors College Career Services.
What projects did you work on? I worked with the secretary and the legislative assistant on projects to create personal connections with all the constituents, such as individual emails, birthday calls and meetings—while also working on new ideas for Perez’s upcoming campaign.
What was the coolest thing that happened during your internship? Once I had been interning in the office for a while and had gained so much knowledge, I was able to pass on that knowledge when the office hired two new interns and it was my job to supervise and teach them everything I knew. I taught them how to address the constituents (even when you might not necessarily know the answers to their questions), how to navigate and find documents on our online system, how to respond to emails and concerns, make appointments, etc. It was a really cool experience to be able to teach everything I had learned and supervise them as they did their work.
What did you like most about your experience? What I liked most about my experience was that I was able to see in real life a lot of the material I had been learning in my political science classes at FIU. I consider myself someone who really enjoys politics, and whenever I get the chance to, I try to keep myself updated with the news on TV or reading articles online. So being able to experience it first hand was an incredible opportunity.
What did you learn about yourself? I learned working in politics is a tricky business. Sometimes you want to do the best you can to help the constituents, but at times your hands might be tied. But, even when those situations happen, it is still an amazing feeling when you are able to help a regular citizen with something they can’t do and make their lives a little better. It is about seeing the bigger picture and how each decision that you make will always have a positive and negative effect. It is all about a balance.
How did you expand your professional network? Through this internship, I made great connections by networking in the office and meeting new people involved in or interested in politics. I was able to collect a lot of their business cards for future inquiries. And, I was even able to receive a letter of recommendation from the representative himself.
How does your internship connect back to your coursework? A lot of the courses that I have taken at FIU fall under categories like American government, political theory, comparative politics and international relations. These classes definitely helped me understand better some of the work I was doing in the office. This internship even satisfied the “political science elective” section of my major. Also, during the time I was starting the internship, I was selected to be a part of the Honors College Dean’s Scholars Public Policy Fly-In to Washington, D.C. I was invited by the dean to represent the Honors College in an immersive 3-day experience focused on the future of public policy, where I met with various federal agencies, think tanks and private organizations to discuss current issues and their contributions to policy. All of these experiences through FIU helped me immensely in my new internship.
How did it help you prove yourself in the “real world”? Even though this was my first internship and I didn't’t have much first hand experience in the field prior the internship, I still wanted to prove myself that I was able to succeed. I always tried to do my work the best I could, be a fast learner, take notes when I was being taught, behave and speak professionally, be organized and arrived on time.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? When considering applying to an internship for the first time, it definitely can be a little scary and overwhelming. At first you might not know exactly how things are done at the place, or you might not have prior experience in the field. But it is important to remember that you’re not the only person going through this process. Everyone around you went through the same steps you are taking; they all started somewhere and eventually climbed their way up. What is important is to trust your instincts and take that first step that will open doors to the future. In the internship, always listen to their instructions, be as professional as you can be, ask questions when you have concerns, and enjoy your time!