Category Archives: Internships

Internship opportunities of particular interest for Honors students.

Student Voices – How my internship in Washington, D.C. made me realize something: our government is run by people

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, Abby Spiegelman ’18 shares her biggest lesson from interning in Washington, D.C.

– By Abigail Spiegelman

My name is Abby Spiegelman and I’m a senior University Studies major with a concentration in Biomedical Science. Two summers ago, I had the privilege of interning for Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17) in his Washington D.C. office.

Abby Spiegelman ’18 and Congressman Bill Flores ’76 (TX-17)

First and foremost, let me confirm and deny some assumptions you might be having at this moment. You are correct in your assumption that interns are at the bottom of the totem pole. Two of us shared a small desk that placed our backs to the door. After our computers, keyboards, and phones were positioned on this desk there was additional room for one of use to place an elbow on the corner. But we were interns, we shouldn’t have expected anything more- and we didn’t.

Nevertheless, you would be wrong to assume that all we did was fetch coffee and copy papers. There was some of that throughout my summer, but there was so much more.  I answered calls from constituents, helped write responses to constituent questions, gave tours of the U.S. Capitol, and attended Congressional committee hearings. These activities were amazing, and I learned from them all. But I don’t consider any of these impactful enough to dedicate this post to.

There is a general progression that interns tend to follow. On the first day we feel extremely important: after all, we’re interning in our nation’s capital. We select few are helping the cogs turn in our legislative branch. However, our bubble is burst when we quickly come to realize that “we select few” is actually applicable to hundreds of other interns, just as qualified (if not more so) as us. We then settle into a dazed stupor as comprehension dawns: the sheer number of people that work on the Hill is intimidating. How will we ever stand out? How will we make an impression? These questions lead to the acceptance phase. We realize that we probably won’t stand out, that the only way we’ll leave an impression is if we do something seriously wrong (and I’m talking “setting the copy machine on fire” wrong). We didn’t go to D.C. to rub elbows; we came to learn. Once we’ve accepted this we hunker down and get to work. That’s when the internship becomes meaningful.

Over the course of my summer I watched congressional staffers do their jobs and sometimes even helped them. I didn’t so much learn about the legislative process, but about the people behind that process. The staffers had good days, they had bad days, and they had days in-between. They made mistakes and were forgiving when I made more. I’m telling you this because there’s a tendency to glorify—or more accurately, vilify—our nation’s capital, and by extension, the people that work there. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, everyone there is someone just like us. They’re people that do the best they can with what they have and hope that that’s enough. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

When I started my internship, I didn’t realize this. I don’t know why; it should have been common sense, but it wasn’t. Congressman Flores has a remarkable staff (yes, of course I’m biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong). Every one of his staffers knew what they were doing and how to do it; the shared experience in the office was impressive. Each day I learned something new that I didn’t know before, be it a technical skill or a life lesson. I don’t have the time to write about everything I learned from each person, and you don’t have the patience to read it. Therefore, I’ll pick the one thing that stuck out to me the most about my internship in D.C.

Working in D.C. is not constant fun. The people there are overworked, overqualified, and underpaid. Like all jobs, it has its ups, but not enough to justify the corresponding downs. The volume of calls that I fielded from angry, unappreciative constituents was impressive and not in a good way. But as I stated earlier, there is a vast number of people that work there. Why? Obviously, you have some people that are using these jobs as a stepping stone for something they deem to be better. But most of the people I interacted with over the course of my summer were there because they felt a duty to help their country. It’s that calling, if you will, that keeps staffers working late nights and early mornings for seemingly little benefit. Our government is dependent on these staffers and the members they work for, and that’s why government will never be perfect. My internship taught me to appreciate the imperfections in our government because achieving perfection would mean the loss of the people that make our government meaningful.

Unfortunately, I can’t write about that one moment that changed it all for me. That single, profound occurrence that set me on my future path. That’s because my internship didn’t come down to moments, it came down to people. There are some incredible people that work in Washington, D.C. and there are some not so incredible people that work there too. But meeting and interacting with them all was truly an experience of a lifetime.

I don’t know if I want to work for Congress once I graduate. I still don’t know what I want to do with my post-college life, and that’s okay. But I do know that if I decide I want to work for Congress that I’ll be working alongside some of the most driven and brightest individuals I’ve ever met. Washington, D.C. isn’t for everyone, and Congress is for even fewer. But those few are why I still believe it’s possible for America’s government to be that “shining city on a hill” and why I’ll always appreciate my internship in Washington, D.C.

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Honors Students Selected for D.C. Internships

Two University Honors Students, Gabrielle Ford ’18 and Clare Elizondo ’18, were selected for Summer 2017 internships in Washington, D.C. as part of the Public Policy Internship Program.

Ford provided some a brief reflection on the process to help students who may be interested in applying to the program themselves.

Gabrielle Ford ’18, 2017 PPIP Summer Intern

Where will you be interning?

I will be interning in the Bureau of East Asia and the Pacific, Office of Economic Policy at the U.S. Department of State.

What advice to you have for applicants?

To apply for PPIP you had to submit a resume, 2 letters of rec, and a 1-2 page paper covering an area of policy that interests you. After that you signed up for a panel interview. It was one of the most difficult interviews I’ve been through, but it made me think about what I wanted to do in life and exactly how I was going to accomplish it. You have to go in there with a plan you can clearly articulate.

How will this experience help you work toward your future goals?

When I graduate I will be doing Teach for America (TFA) in Memphis TN. I plan on obtaining a graduate degree through TFA’s partnership with John Hopkins online, and pursuing a career in education policy. My internship helped solidify that I was on the right track in choosing Teach for America, and gave me a deeper understanding of how to push policies and projects through the federal government.

Interested in applying? Visit http://ppip.tamu.edu/Internships/Apply-Now, or for more information check out the blog posts from interns at http://ppip.tamu.edu/Blog/Public-Policy-Internship-Program-Blog/.

Former Student Spotlight – Nahua Kang

Nahua Kang ’14 graduated in December 2013 with a degree in history. While at A&M, Nahua was a University Scholar and a member of the Corps of Cadets. In the post linked below, he shares lessons learned working with entrepreneurs and start-ups in Germany. Here’s an excerpt:

Spending a summer in the startup scene in the beautiful Frankfurt am Main has taught me a lot. I met interesting people and have luckily been inspired by some true entrepreneurs. I’ve also made mistakes, “contributed” to misunderstandings and miscommunication, and observed different leadership styles. Here are some thoughts for others who are exploring startups and entrepreneurship.

On Personal Development

  1. Most people you have met are replaceable. Be irreplaceable.

  2. An easy way to be irreplaceable is to be a generalist-specialist in seemingly unrelated fields: Be a top strategy consultant who knows how to hack AI; be a great artist who knows the intricacies of blockchain.

  3. Generalist-specialist doesn’t mean “generalist”. It means interdisciplinary specialist (my personal interpretation of Peter Thiel’s sharp opinion against generalists in Zero to One).

  4. Curiosity and open-mindedness drive learning. Be a life-long learner and reader. The moment you stop learning is the moment you become replaceable.

  5. So learn, learn, and learn. Yes you can do math. Yes you can paint. All you need is passion, practice, and perseverance.

  6. Communication matters. Writing matters. (I got 2 new internship opportunities, both of which require generalist-specialist skill sets and solid writing skills in English).

To read the full post including Nahua’s additional advice on Career and Leadership, visit his post on Medium.com (please be aware that there is some strong language used).

We love to share news and success stories from our Honors Former Students! If you have something to share with our current, former, and prospective students and their families, please contact honors@tamu.edu.

Finding Motivation: Raoul Bascon Internship

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, senior applied mathematical sciences major Raoul Bascon ‘18 describes what he learned about motivation in his internship last semester.

 By Raoul Bascon –

I’ve run the Aramco Half Marathon in Houston five times and the Chevron Marathon in Houston once. The course has changed once since I’ve been running, so I’ve seen a good amount of Houston in the 13 plus hours I’ve run during the races over the years.  But when I joined the other 20,000 runners at the starting line on January 16th earlier this year, I was not thinking about the miles I was about to run.  My mind was focused on the weeks I’m about to spend living and working in this city that seemed unknown and new.

Men and women run down a residential street wearing race bibs.
Raoul Bascon ’18 (foreground) running in his first half marathon in 2010.

Fast forward three months later.  It’s 4:30pm, I get to my uncle and aunt’s place from my internship, and I’m about to lace up my sneakers and go for a run…….on the same circular route……that I have run…… every Tuesday and Thursday……for the past I don’t know how many weeks…………and I really don’t want to go.

If you couldn’t tell, I love running. I also really love analogies. So, as I sat on the couch contemplating the existence of that day’s afternoon run, I was faced with the reality of my life: I wasn’t made to do the same thing over and over and over again.

I wasn’t made to keep making the same mistakes; I wasn’t made to achieve the same accomplishments; I wasn’t made to see the same sights time and again.

I was made for more.

Now, of course, I had come across this notion before in my life, but this semester, it really clicked.  I was working in Houston while most of my friends kept taking classes at Texas A&M.  I have a lot of extended family in Houston but often times my interests didn’t match theirs.  So, I found myself bored and lonely, caught in the same routine, day after day, week after week: wake up early, go to work, do work, go back home, work out, shower, eat, read, go to the chapel, sleep, wake up early….

And now it was April.  I had hit a wall.

Don’t get me wrong: I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given with this internship, I love the people I work with and the work that I am doing, and I understand that I am undeniably fortunate in the life that I lead.  But, in the monotony of the course of my semester, I found it hard to believe that I meant those three statements.

Then, a mentor invited me and another member of the program I am in to dinner.  While holding a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other he straight-up asked me, “Are you motivated by money?” And like a good, little Christian, my direct, immediate response was (and is), “No.” And the conversation carried on.

Later that night, I found myself mulling over his question, or, more accurately, a variation of his question: What motivates me?  The question literally begged me to think back to the beginning. The answer became my second wind.

For better or worse, I am a results oriented individual.  As such, I am motivated by the results of my work, and if they do not match up with what I perceive is my best work, I am left unsatisfied.  When I look back at this past semester with this realization, I am significantly less confused and significantly more ready for the remainder of my….well….for the rest of my life.

I lulled in the comfort and ease of what I was used to: the routine, the people I knew, the course that was familiar.  But, I knew that I was made for more—that I wasn’t doing my best—and that left me unfulfilled, bored and tired.

When I settled for less than my best, I laid the foundation for the wall that cemented my aspirations and kept me from running the race that was designed for me. (Double analogy—bonus points!)

So, thank you Houston! Thank you to everyone I knew, everyone I met, everyone who helped me and everyone who challenged me to be better…to be my best.  I’m done with metaphorically running in circles and ready to run the race God designed for me. I’m ready to take wrong turns, trip many times, and trudge through walls. But, most importantly, I’m ready to enjoy the race with friends, family and Christ running alongside.

Carnegie Endowment Offers Fellowship to Graduating Seniors

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States. Founded in 1910, its work is nonpartisan and dedicated to achieving practical results.

Each year, the Carnegie Endowment selects 8 to 10 graduating seniors as Carnegie Junior Fellows.  The Junior Fellows are matched with senior associates – academics, former government officials, lawyers and journalists from around the world – to work on a variety of international affairs issues.  Junior Fellows have the opportunity to conduct research for books, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, journalists and government officials.

Junior Fellows spend one year (beginning August 1st) at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, DC.  Positions are full-time and include a salary and benefits package.

Applications are accepted only from graduating college seniors or individuals who have graduated within the past academic year.  No one will be considered who has started graduate studies (except those who have recently completed a joint bachelors/masters degree program).  Applicants should have completed a significant amount of course work related to their discipline of interest.  Language and other skills may also be required for certain assignments.  The selection process for the Junior Fellows Program is very competitive.  Accordingly, applicants should be of high academic quality.

Students will specify in their applications one area of specialty:

• Democracy/Rule of Law – Political Science background preferred.
• Middle East Studies – Native or near-native Arabic language skills essential.
• Nonproliferation
• South Asian Studies – Strong math skills required in additional to background in international affairs or political science.
• Energy and Climate
• Chinese Studies – Mandarin Chinese reading skills a huge plus.
• Russian/Eurasian Studies – Excellent Russian language skills required

Mokhtar Awad
Mokhtar Awad, 2012 Carnegie Junior Fellow

Mokhtar Awad ’12 was selected as a 2012-2013 Carnegie Junior Fellow for the Middle East Program.

Students who are interested in applying for University nomination should contact Jonathan Kotinek (jkotinek@tamu.edu) or call 979-845-1957 to schedule an appointment.

Apply to the Public Policy Internship Program!

The Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) provides students with real-world experience and hands-on learning through policy-related internships in Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX; and various European locations.  PPIP internships complement and reinforce students’ coursework, give students inside knowledge about their professional future, and provide hosting organizations with additional support.

The Texas A&M University Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) was established in 1999 by Dr. Ray Bowen, then President of Texas A&M University, to respond to society’s increasing interest and participation in public policy issues and programs. Since then approximately 600 Aggies have interned in Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX and abroad.  PPIP is coordinated from the office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.  This allows the program to be coordinated centrally through the colleges to provide an integrated academic and policy-related internship program for the campus and community. (From http://ppip.tamu.edu/about).

Barbara Tsao '17
Barbara Tsao ’17

University Scholar Barbara Tsao ’17 was selected for the Summer 2016 Public Policy Internship Program. She took the time to share some thoughts about the process of applying and how this experience will help her in the future.

Where did you intern?

I interned for the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) this summer in Washington, D.C. APHSA is a nonprofit organization that represents state human service agencies across the nation and works with policymakers to promote effective policies on Capitol Hill. More specifically, I worked with the National Collaborative for Integration of Health & Human Services to track legislation regarding the Affordable Care Act.

What was the application and interview process like for PPIP?

I would say that the application process was quite comparable to the University Scholar application process. The PPIP application requires the submission of a transcript, resume, cover letter, 3 letters of recommendation, an essay covering a policy of interest, and a final interview before a panel. I have never written a cover letter before, nor have I ever asked for more than one letter of recommendation at a time. Having these experiences definitely made me more confident in my ability to craft the best possible version of myself to any organization. Overall, I believe the process was an excellent primer for admissions to any professional school.

[n.b. You can find helpful guides to writing cover letters, as well as many other important writing and speaking activities, at the University Writing Center website: http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Guides]

How will your internship fit into your long-term goals?

I am currently a senior pursuing a Biomedical Science major with Honors Fellow distinction. I possess a great passion for science, law, and ethics. As such, my future plans in academia include a J.D. and M.A. in bioethics. My ultimate goal is to pursue a career in law regarding health policy. To this end, I believe APHSA provided me with the finest opportunity available for acquiring real-world training in the exciting and ever-expanding field of health law. Working alongside policy advocates and attorneys further solidified my passion for law and the way it blends with our nation’s health policy.

The application deadline for both Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 opportunities is this Friday, September 16 at 5:00 PM. For more information about the Public Policy Internship Program or to complete your application, visit http://ppip.tamu.edu.

To discover other enriching experiences available to undergraduates at Texas A&M, visit Undergraduate Studies at http://us.tamu.edu.

 

For Those Who Haven’t Messed Up…Yet

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. Below is a reflection from Alyson Miranda ’17 on her experience as an intern in Washington, D.C.

– By Alyson Miranda

We all know those perfect people—in fact, I’m one of them! *insert dramatic hair flip*

Not quite.

I am four weeks into my internship at the Department of Energy. Although my bioenvironmental sciences major didn’t quite set me up for work in HR, I’m learning a lot. I hit the ground running on Day 1, and since then my weeks have flown by with countless emails, meetings, and reflections like, “Wait, so what do I tell people when they ask what I want to do with the rest of my life?” which are met by deep pondering. Living in D.C. has also been exciting (can you say “Papa Francis?”), and I’d recommend [the Public Policy Internship Program] to ANYONE remotely interested in policy—whether that’s in their respective field, related to federal or international policy, or just a curiosity. (Pssst, here’s a secret: you don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life to be here!) Anywho, all in all, I’ve felt pretty successful throughout the adjustment.

Cue the mistakes.

This week, I felt the pressure of responsibility fall on my head. I’m thinking of two specific incidences (I say “specific” because I have a background project of working with Microsoft Access, which is a program that continually reminds me of my incompetencies… not always a bad thing).

First job: I was supposed to set up a meeting with a new contact within the Department of Energy. But I juggled emails in the wrong order—by the way, that means you should check the newest emails first—so we ended up rescheduling a previously planned meeting two or three times. I also accidentally hung up the phone on my supervisor. Woopsies.

Second job: After the meeting with the new contact, I was supposed to relay another list of contacts. Somewhere in our exchanges, I misunderstood and instead coordinated an effort to reach out and secure participants for an event. The new contact then corrected me, and I had to go back and email all of the people we reached out to.

Although they weren’t disastrous mistakes that caused harm, I know that I probably didn’t seem excessively competent. Being able to schedule a meeting, answer the phone, and take orders—these are easy enough tasks. In the end, I smoothed things out with the parties involved and hopefully retained a positive reputation. How did I do it?

Here’s a survival guide to mistake recovery:

  1. Be polite, always. Use your “thank you”s and your “have a great day”s. That includes email, in person, and over the phone. Manners are not antiquated, even in the hoppin’ town of Washington, D.C.
  2. Accept when you’re wrong, and be ready to act and fix the mistake. Similarly, if you don’t know an answer, go and find it.
  3. Be genuine in your efforts to do the best job you can. Don’t take short cuts or the lazy way out. Send individualized emails to the parties involved, if it isn’t burdensome to the recipients.

So, for all you perfect people (and the rest of the world): Failing is a chance to show that you can handle mistakes with grace. It builds character. Happy failing!

For more information about the Public Policy Internship Program, visit http://ppip.tamu.edu.

To read more about the importance of learning from failure, check out “In Praise of the F Word” and “Why Failure is Crucial for a Student’s Success.”

Aly Miranda - Internship
Aly Miranda ’17, surviving the sunrise and avoiding the monster mosquitos on Chincoteague Island