For my last blog post, I would like to reflect on my wonderful experience as an intern for the Center for Global Studies at Penn State for the Fall 2013 semester, and the best lessons I have learned in these fourteen weeks.
Computer skills are definitely something that I have improved on this semester. One of the biggest projects I dedicated my time to was changing information from a website to an Excel sheet. In the past, when I found a problem with a document I made (especially in Excel) I would get frustrated and quit, but when I encountered these problems as an intern at CGS, I had to calm down, step back, and come up with a reasonable approach for solving the problem as quickly and effectively as possible. At the beginning of the semester, I was asked to help reformat the newsletter. Doing this was, to be honest, extremely tedious. Every picture I moved, moved the box underneath, every font change affected the layout, and nothing seemed to move around where I wanted it to. I never had the chance to be the coordinator of the monthly newsletter, but by November I felt confident enough to volunteer to do so. Another task I did was composing a handout for the World Stories Alive program. This required using a template and shifting out content, colors, boxes, and pictures. I was afraid that this would be a hard task for me, but I actually enjoyed doing it, and was very happy with my final product. Technology may not be my best friend, but it is always a job requirement when I apply for internships and jobs, and I can confidently and honestly say that I have a lot of experience with Excel, word processing, and formatting.
Email has always been a difficult medium for me. I am used to texting, Facebook messaging, and making phone calls to receive and share information. Even my summer jobs in the past have not used email very frequently. I get dozens of emails a day to my psu email from club list-servs, internship advertisements, PSU newswires, etc., and sometimes I let so many pile up that I miss important information. This semester to maximize my efficiency and eliminate the chance that I would miss an email (after I did at the beginning of the semester), I created a CGS folder on my webmail account. Filtering emails from Sarah, my supervisor, Kortnie, our administrative assistant, Katie, our lead intern, Molly, our grad intern, or Matthew, Annie, and Sheryl, my co-interns, into one logical and organized place, made everything a lot easier for me. Now, thanks to Sarah’s 24 hour rule, I am a master at answering emails. I usually respond as soon as I open them, and if I cannot give the subject my full attention, I will respond when I get the time within a few hours. I have also learned that ALL emails from CGS personnel need to be opened and read carefully to begin with.
This internship gave me a lot of responsibility, and I really had to rise to the occasion. The way my class schedule worked, I could not make it into the office until late in the afternoon on Monday and Thursdays, at which point my supervisor was scheduled to leave for the day. Often times, I was left alone to get work done. The temptation was there to leave and go home or simply sit at my computer and play on Facebook, but I knew what was expected of me and what I needed to accomplish, and was able to fight the temptation and make the mature decision to be honest and hardworking, which is the qualities they saw in me when I was hired.
A lot of freedom is also given to me in planning lessons for my after school club at YSCP. Throughout the semester, my co-leader and I were only observed twice. The other weeks we still needed to create meaningful and worthwhile lessons for our nine 3rd and 4th grade students. This job meant so much to me that it was never tempting to disrespect my students and poorly represent the Center by giving a poorly planned lesson. I always felt that my hard work paid off.
Aside from my experience with the World on Trial event (see World on Trial blog post), my favorite tasks were teaching at YSCP and at America Reads. This has taught me a lot about my ability to working with children and the enjoyment I get from doing so. I hope that in my time as an attorney I get to work with children, and I also have dreams of retiring fairly young from the legal field and working as a teacher for a few years.
The experience of teaching a “UK culture” club was so rewarding for me because it allowed me to draw on my experience studying abroad in London last spring. When I interviewed for this internship, I referenced my abroad semester as one of my biggest qualifications for the job. Realistically, much of my office work did not require this experience, but this was definitely something that benefitted from my first-hand knowledge of British, Welch, and Scottish culture.
I would never admit it then, but at the beginning of the semester, I was very thin-skinned. When I received a criticism on a newsletter article I wrote, my lack of ability to answer an email quickly enough, or had a mis-spelling pointed out, I shirked away from these comments and had a difficult time not seeing them as personal attacks. However, after making several small mistakes and being kindly and professionally taught by Sarah, I learned that these “criticisms” are massively constructive and that the more feedback I get, the better. Now I happily invite comments on my newsletters, blogs, lesson plans, etc. I have become a much stronger intern because of the feedback I received (both negative and positive) from my supervisor.
My resume and linkedin account are much stronger because of this experience, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to work for Penn State, and specifically the Center for Global Studies. My co-interns, lead intern, grad intern, and supervisor have all been amazing contacts and resources for me, and I hope to re-connect with everyone in the future. I am sure that because of this experience, all of us will have new opportunities for competitive jobs we may not have before. I have applied for an international State Department post, an international Humanity in Action program, and will apply to law schools with confidence that I will thrive.