Washington D.C., U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Why did you decide to pursue an internship? What did you think of this internship?
I applied independently through the State Department's Student Internship Program. I chose two preference on where to intern, at the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York City and the in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) based in Washington, D.C.. I was placed in my second choice, PRM.
I chose to pursue an internship, specifically with the Department of State, for two reasons. The first was I needed some sort of experience to put on my resume relating to my studies and the field I hope to enter, international affairs. Secondly, I wanted to start to see the differences firsthand between working with an NGO, for the State Department, or for the United Nations. My internship in PRM was perfect for this because the Bureau works closely with various nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
What were your major responsibilities and/or accomplishments as an intern?What is the most memorable part of your internship?
The most memorable part of my internship was the week I was able spend traveling with supervisor to Chicago visiting refugee families and the resettlement organizations there, and in particular the day we had to interview an newly arrived Somali refugee sans interpreter. You learn very quickly how to get creative with just hand gestures!
I worked in the Office of Admission in the Bureau. Admissions works with resettling refugees in the United States, who can not return to their homes or integrate into the countries they fled to. PRM has contract with nine different U.S.-based NGOs that resettle between 50,000 and 70,000 refugees annually around the United States through the US Refugee Admissions Program. I was responsible for dealing with the logistics and communications for scheduling monitoring trips to resettlement sites and for different aspects of developing our cultural orientation curriculm for newly resettled refugees.
What sort of 'sales pitch' would you use to convince another student to pursue an internship? What advice would you give a prospective intern?
I would tell a prospective intern that an internship is the best way to find out if a certain career or field is right for you. Besides being great material for a resume, it allows you to better learn about yourself, the environment you thrive in, and helps you to get at what you are really passionate about.
How has your internship changed your UMass experience?
I will be using the connections I made in Washington to help me research for my thesis this year. After working in refugee affairs, I plan to use my knowledge of the systems in place to focus my thesis on the current and past humanitarian missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Do you have any other advise, or interesting stories?
There were several brownbags and different intern events every week run by either the State Department Internship Program or in my Bureau. These events allowed me to learn more about different subjects that were not part of my daily portfolio and about futher internship and fellowship opportunities.
Networking is huge. I tried to take every chance I could to get coffee or lunch with people in my office and throughout the State Department to learn about their career paths and get advice on graduate school, further internships, and life in general. There is always so much to learn and I have broadened my options for after graduation besides just graduate school.
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