Finding a Future Path: My Internship at the U.S. Department of State by Catherine Marvin

Finding a Future Path: My Internship at the U.S. Department of State by Catherine Marvin

As a freshman entering college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to accomplish in my future career. While I felt I had a passion for helping people, many of my family members came from nursing and business backgrounds. Thus, I had little guidance. However, near the end of my freshman year of college, after speaking to my residential advisor regarding my aspirations to support developing countries, she informed me of the major in Global Affairs. The next day, I made my way directly to the GLOA advising office and changed my major. Though, I believed I would always return to my hometown in New Jersey, majoring in Global Affairs has changed my life in more ways than I can imagine, including my home. 

My college experience was shaped by the people I surrounded myself with. As a senior graduating this May and reflecting on my time at Mason, the best advice I have for any GLOA major is to take every opportunity and always start conversations with the people you meet. My opportunities at Mason are the reason I decided what I would like to achieve in my career. As a sophomore, I studied in Quito, Ecuador for two weeks and in Madrid, Spain for two months. However, my study abroad in Spain was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though very frustrating, this experience forced me to be an adaptable person, and that is very appreciated by employers.

When I returned to the U.S. during the pandemic, I received an email from a GLOA advisor informing me that I was eligible to apply for the GLOA Honors Program, allowing me to complete a year-long research project on a global issue. At this time I was entering my junior year and needed more experience in research to enhance my resume. I was accepted into the program late summer of 2020 and had no idea what I wanted to research. I then decided to speak with a professor regarding my interest in Latin America, and they recommended I research microloans and the impact of microfinance institutions on people in Latin America. After completing my research, I knew that I would now be prepared in pursuing internships. 

In my first three years at Mason, I applied and was rejected from three State Department internships. I once again decided to apply for the unpaid student internship program at the State Department for the spring of my final semester of senior year. To my surprise, I landed this internship, receiving two offers from different offices in the agency. Since my research experience enhanced my interest in public policy, I decided to accept the offer from the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere (WHA/PPC). 

Now that my internship with the U.S. Department of State has come to an end, I can confidently say that my work ethic and dedication have led me to where I am today. As an unpaid intern working remotely for WHA/PPC, it was critical for me to actively communicate and ask, “What can I help with next?” My internship role allowed me to draft documents for the Assistant Secretary and the Secretary of State, partake in Congressional affairs, and attend virtual conferences taking place in Latin America. These experiences not only strengthened my knowledge of foreign affairs but also my professional writing abilities.

Many people I talk to nowadays ask me, “So what is the plan after you graduate?” As an intern who constantly asked my colleagues to meet with me for informational interviews, I am very interested in pursuing foreign service and plan to sit for the foreign service officer test this upcoming October. Additionally, my collaborative spirit helped me immensely in gaining connections in governmental and non-governmental organizations. I continue to keep in touch with my State colleagues who even requested I use them as references in future internships and employment opportunities. My advice for anyone interested in applying for internships is to use the resources at Mason and through GLOA to your advantage. You will never regret taking an opportunity that will help you learn and gain experience. Additionally, if you get rejected from something the first time, keep trying if it is what you want; you will get there.