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Student Tips: Further Your Professional Development Through an Internship

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked as a policy intern for Defenders of Wildlife. I was specifically working on a five-year plan regarding endangered species in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). My time at Defenders was incredible. I had a remarkable and hard-working supervisor. She was knowledgeable in her field and had years of experience working in the field and in the office on policy. I learned how to draft a memorandum, how to find literature regarding endangered species, the story and history of the Endangered Species Act, and so much more. Because this internship was remote, I worked tirelessly on my written communication skills. I mentioned to my supervisor that that was an area I wanted to excel in, so she did everything in her power to make me a more concise and effective writer.  

Last summer, I worked as a policy intern at the national office of Mental Health America (MHA). I learned about the upcoming launch of 988, the literature behind mental health and mental health accessibility/services, and how to draft a recommendation to Congress. During my first week as an intern, I sat in a room full of CEOs from across the country. I learned about the work in their offices, their teams, and all the innovative research as well as policy they were conducting and drafting. I had severe imposter syndrome. Did I belong in a room full of CEOs? Yes, I did, and I still do. I quickly learned to get out of my comfort zone and see these CEOs as people with incredible ideas and an abundance of knowledge. These were people that I could be learning from, so I let myself learn from them.  

This summer, I spent ten weeks in Los Angeles conducting neuroscience research at UCLA. I learned how to scruff and give animal injections, the literature of neuroscience articles, histology processes, and how to run behavioral assays. I attended lectures with scientists conducting incredible research. I spent hundreds of hours honing the skills required to work in a lab. I learned about academia and what it’s like to conduct research for a Ph.D. I was able to get a start on my life as a scientist. I spoke with my supervisor about career opportunities and what paths are available because of my experiences. Together, we were able to compile a list of routes I could take to become the person and professional I want to be.  

My exposure to all three internships has made me a more competitive, knowledgeable, and well-rounded candidate for the professional career I want to pursue. Additionally, I gained friendships and mentors who will be a part of my future and are curious about what I am up to. I also learned a great deal about myself and what it’s like to live in different cities alone. I stepped far out of my comfort zone and enjoyed every second of creating myself professionally, culturally, and personally.  

About the Author

I am a senior at Long Island University Brooklyn pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelor of Art in Psychology. I will graduate from the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship in September of 2023. My goal is to pursue an MD.

Profile Photo of Xonhane Medina