Industry Focused / Internships / Student Success

Putting Knowledge Into Action: Interning at the Washington Foreign Press Center

BP Oct 14 2015 SMann

By Sarah Mann, BA in Political Communication, GWU, 2015

While studying international relations and multilateral diplomacy in Geneva, Switzerland, I found out that I had been selected to intern at the U.S. Department of State when I returned to D.C. in the spring. Specifically, I would have the chance to work at their Washington Foreign Press Center (within the Bureau of Public Affairs), and I soon discovered the State Department’s capacity to act as an essential resource for foreign correspondents stationed in the U.S. Due to the fact that I study Political Communication in the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) and am extremely interested in international affairs, this internship was an amazing opportunity for me to put my knowledge into action and pursue a career path that piqued my interest.

Knowing that my internship would be unpaid, I realized that I would need to have part-time job in addition to my internship while simultaneously being enrolled as a full-time student at GW. In this situation, I knew that I would have little to no time to dedicate to my studies and extracurricular activities. With that, I decided to apply for a Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund grant (KACIF), knowing that without it I would have ultimately had to dismiss this opportunity simply because I would be unable to afford it. Being awarded a KACIF grant allowed me to take advantage of this internship and gave me the chance to gain valuable experience working in public affairs, communication and international relations.

In 1946, the Foreign Press Liaison office was opened in New York City to accommodate the journalists who arrived to cover the newly formed United Nations. This office served as an interface between the U.S. government and foreign correspondents. As international coverage of U.S. politics grew, FPC office in D.C. was established to ensure that foreign correspondents could effectively cover American issues with greater depth and frequency. The FPCs became a key tool in fulfilling the transmission of domestic messages to an international audience, and still serve this role today.

In my position, I worked directly with Public Affairs Officers whose wide range of international experience demonstrated the value that a State Department career possesses. I was given a significant amount of responsibility as an intern, being tasked with redesigning and maintaining our office’s website and social media accounts, both of which garnered several thousand views and engagement on a daily basis. I learned how to communicate with foreign media, both personally and via online correspondence. I witnessed first-hand the planning, organization, and execution of countless briefings with State Department officials, and was even able to work at a summit on terrorism violent extremism that drew key delegates and press coverage from around the world.

This experience allowed me to directly apply everything I had learned in the classroom at SMPA and all that I learned abroad studying international relations and multilateral diplomacy. Engaging with foreign correspondents and providing them with information and access to credible sources on a daily basis was a great way to understand how the State Department operates with respect to public affairs and international audience engagement. In the future, I plan to use this internship experience to further develop a career in public affairs with a concentration in international issues. The communications and media relations skills I gained in this internship have been very useful in my last two positions, and I know that this experience is one that I will carry with me for many years to come.

Note: the KACIF application for spring 2016 internships opens on October 15th. Apply HERE.

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