Chatting up former presidents. Lunching with ambassadors. Touring the Pentagon. All in a day’s work for 46 UC Irvine students in the UCDC Internship Program, in which undergraduate and graduate students explore career options in Washington government offices, nonprofit organizations and special-interest groups.
Here, a few of them discuss life in the nation’s capital:
Name: Francois Genard
Major/level: International studies senior; French minor
Internship: International Action’s Haiti water project
Highlights: Celebrating Bastille Day in Dupont Circle; meeting former President Clinton
Working on: Translating grant proposals to English from French for the Haiti Water Project, a nonprofit group founded in 2005 to prevent waterborne diseases from spreading in Haiti
Thoughts: Haiti is in bad shape, and hurricane season is just around the corner. We really need grant money to expand our programs and raise awareness about Haiti. I introduced myself to Bill Clinton during the national conference of Campus Progress, an organization that promotes youth advocacy on a variety of environmental and political issues. I gave him my card, even though seven bodyguards and dozens of screaming students surrounded him. He recently visited Haiti and seems to care about improving the country. During my free time, I attend classes on fundraising as well as workshops on how to advocate for the environment, healthcare and education. I’m also involved in a summer leadership program with Global Zero, an organization that seeks to rid the world of nuclear weapons by 2030. My days here are very full, and I always go to bed tired, but I feel like I am making a difference.
Name: Jayme Nagle
Major/level: Criminology, law & society senior; education minor
Internship: U.S. Department of Justice
Highlights: Touring the Pentagon; visiting the National Zoo
Working on: Reviewing grant applications for state-run drug treatment and mental health programs aimed at juveniles
Thoughts: The best thing about my internship is that I have not done one administrative task so far. They let me do a lot here, and I feel like they really want me to learn. I had the chance to attend a House hearing on prisons and youth intervention and meet law enforcement officials from Spain and Brazil. I think the biggest misconception people have about D.C. internships is that you have to be a political science major or want to work for the government. But really anyone can find an internship and enjoy the experience.
Name: Erin Viray
Major/level: International studies junior
Internship: World Affairs Councils of America
Highlights: Touring the French ambassador’s residence; July 4 fireworks show at the National Mall
Working on: Writing letters to council branches around the world and meeting with ambassadors from Afghanistan, Bahrain and Algeria
Thoughts: I share an office with interns from across the country, and it’s great because we all have the same goals and aspirations. We get to participate in many interesting events, such as lunching with ambassadors and touring their official residences. It’s also really cool to walk to historic monuments and experience all this city has to offer. My goal is to return and work for a nonprofit and concentrate on alleviating poverty in Asia. I lived in the Philippines for 10 years and traveled extensively throughout Asia, and I would love to be part of any efforts to eradicate poverty in that region.
Name: Silove Barwari
Major/level: International studies senior, with Middle East emphasis
Internship: Kurdistan Regional Government
Highlights: Visiting Library of Congress; July 4 Aretha Franklin performance at the National Mall
Working on: Attending Middle East policy meetings on Capitol Hill and writing reports for the Kurdistan Regional Government
Thoughts: My main job is to keep an eye out for think tanks, events and discussions relevant to Iraq, specifically to Iraqi Kurds living in the Kurdistan region – which covers eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and parts of Syria. The Kurds are the largest ethnic group without a country, although Kurdistan does have its own government and an emerging oil industry. The Kurdistan region held its first presidential election this summer, and everything in our office has revolved around the election. I was born in Iran, but my parents are Iraqi Kurds. This internship has given me a better understanding of the politics and government of Kurdistan and the improvements made in the region.
Name: Heather Conniff
Major/level: Biology and political science junior
Internship: Sen. Diane Feinstein
Highlights: Internship perks such as access to the Library of Congress reading room
Working on: Attending Senate health committee hearings and reporting to the Democratic senator’s health legislative assistant
Thoughts: I’ve always wanted to work in a Senate office. You get to be involved with legislation and witness firsthand how the Senate works with the House to create bills. I went to lunch with Sen. Feinstein and found her to be very nice and straightforward. She gives the interns tips on public speaking, as well as how to balance career and family life. Everything seems to move at a fast pace in Washington, D.C., which I really like. The other day, I spotted Joe Biden and John McCain at a Senate confirmation hearing for Al Franken. I definitely recommend that prospective interns apply for a position in a senator’s office. Working on the Hill, you get to see how government really works.