Lessons from my Summer Internship with FPA U

Last Thursday I finished up my summer internship with FPA U. Over the course of the summer, I learned a lot, from working in an office environment to learning about career development in the field of international affairs. I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of my co-workers, which I was fortunate to do since the FPA office has about 20 employees.

While I could make a long list of all the things I’ve learned, below are some of the most valuable lessons:

As I mentioned in my Summer Lesson in Social Media post, I’ve realized how it’s critical to create an online presence for yourself. Not only have I become more familiar with Twitter and LinkedIn, but I also discovered that many people read the AU Intern Blog. Before I became a blogger for this website, I would have never thought that Jenna Johnson, the Washington Post Higher Education Reporter, would tweet about my blog post or that my blog posts would sometimes show up in Google searches related to FPA U. So while it’s important to create an online presence for yourself, be sure that you are careful and professional with what you post online.

Despite the importance of technology in today’s workplace, it’s also crucial to work on old-fashioned communication skills (Conversation Still Counts). While email seems to be the main form of communication, it’s still important to work on your people and communication skills. Not only will it help you with job interviews, meetings and networking, but it will also be beneficial throughout your internship or job.

Another important lesson is that you should never let your age be an obstacle. After a few weeks at my internship, I realized that I was the only undergraduate in the office. While it might seem intimidating to be the youngest person, don’t let your age limit your efforts. After all, since you were selected as an intern or other job, your supervisor believed that you were capable of carrying out your responsibilities.

That being said, while you might think you’re “just an intern”, don’t be afraid to speak up and make a suggestion. For instance, I suggested to the FPA U Program Manager that we use QR images for the event flyers. After discussing the idea with the rest of the staff, we ended up taking my suggestion. While this might seem like a minor accomplishment, it demonstrates that an intern’s point-of-view can be taken into consideration. While your co-workers or supervisors might not agree with your idea, you should never be afraid of speaking up.

As I head to Nairobi for my semester abroad, where I will be interning with a local organization, I am thankful for the great experience I had working at the Foreign Policy Association this summer. I plan to stay in contact with the FPA and take the lessons I’ve learned this summer with me to Kenya.

On a side note, if you’re a student and are interested in becoming involved with FPA U, I highly recommend applying for the Fall 2011 FPA U Student Ambassador position listed on AU CareerWeb. Or, if you are interested in attending the FPA U Fall seminar program, check out the schedule at http://www.fpau.org/. FPA U has a great program for the fall and whether you’re a student ambassador or a seminar attendee, I promise that your experience will be worth it!