The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Bridger, an SMPA senior studying political communication and business administration.
When I arrived at GW almost four years ago, international trade was not high on my list of issues of interest. Indeed, I am quite sure I had no idea what “international trade” really meant, to say nothing of how it impacts the lives of people all across the globe. However, as my time at GW wore on, and the issue became more and more salient, I decided it was time to educate myself on the issue. Since I was a Political Communications major who had already finished his Political Science courses, I turned to the world of internships to do just that.
I spent the summer of 2016 at the United States Trade Representative (USTR), working in their Public Affairs Office. While I have interned many places throughout my time at GW, I had never taken on a full time internship. To those reading this, wondering if you should work full time for a summer, I would advise you to do so. At the USTR, not only was I able to develop far more meaningful professional relationships than I have previously at internships, but I was also able to grasp the material to the point that I felt I had, at the very least, achieved a solid understanding of a very complex subject. Moreover, by interning in the summer, I felt I was able to get my first real glimpse into what the “real world” of 9-6 work looks like. You don’t realize, as a student, how tired you’ll be at the end of the day, or how little time there is during a work week for things you really enjoy. While that may sound a bit downtrodden, the experience of working at the USTR made me realize that prioritizing what is important, and working somewhere where you are fulfilled and happy, truly are keys to an enjoyable life.
Furthermore, for those reading and wondering if they should use internships to expand their knowledge base, I say go for it. Believe me when I say I did not have a great grasp on the Trans Pacific Partnership when I arrived at the Winder Building in early June, and that was definitely intimidating. However, by the time I left I felt I had achieved a mastery of the subject, and that I could defend the deal’s merits to anyone. By throwing yourself into professional situations that force you to “figure it out”, you, in a way, force yourself to improve. Especially when pay is minimal or nonexistent, finding ways to take things away from an internship other than the line on your resume is the most worthwhile thing you can do. Expand your horizons, don’t worry if you don’t know everything about a subject, and, if possible, try an internship that allows you to explore a topic that you may not know all that much about.