Political science students represent US government through international internships
After the first semester of her freshman year, Lindsay Bryda changed her major to political science. She had taken a course with political science professor Laura Olson, Ph.D., and fell in love with the subject matter. This change led to her studying abroad in the Balkans through a class in the political science department and then interning abroad twice for the U.S. Department of State.
This semester, the senior political science major is interning full time in Vienna, Austria, with the State Department. Bryda is just one of four that have or will complete internships abroad through the State Department in the last year. These students received funds from the political science department’s foundation to support their international internship experience, as a result of donations from departmental alumni and friends.
Political Science Department Chair Jeff Peake said he is proud of these students who have earned these opportunities.
“These internships are highly selective as the students are in charge of writing reports and interacting with diplomats. It provides valuable international experience for them and helps them gain a new perspective of working for the government,” Peake said. “This is the first time I’m aware of having four students intern abroad with the State Department in one calendar year.”
During the summer, Bryda, also an honors student in the Calhoun Honors College, interned at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China working in the management and human resources department.
For her internship in Vienna, Bryda is spending 14 weeks this semester interning for the U.S. Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE). Within that umbrella organization, Bryda splits her duties between the U.S. Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Arms Control section. Her duties include research and support services for international conferences. For example, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry traveled to Vienna for the 62nd IAEA General Conference in September, and Bryda assisted the delegation with logistics like conference room allocation and ensuring the most recent files were available.
For Arms Control, Bryda will assist the U.S. Delegation to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. She functions as a note-taker during meetings and her transcriptions and summaries often are the basis for cables sent to Washington.
“Even as an intern, I’m still representing the USA and it’s a great feeling,” she said.
For Bryda, this internship is extremely important to her career aspirations.
“Once I changed my major to political science, I knew I wanted to do something international,” Bryda said. “I still plan to join the foreign service. I love the work. I’m more interested in international law, international organizations, and this internship is a great fit for what I’d like to do afterwards.”
Meet some of our other international interns:
Callahan Moore, a double major in political science and historyd and an honors student in the Calhoun Honors College, interned at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria, over the summer. She attended United Nations meetings about various drug and crime issues. She was with the U.S. Delegation, writing readouts of meetings and sending them to Washington, D.C. as well as helping plan events.
But, what she didn’t foresee was how much she would work cultivating relationships with diplomats to advance American interests at the UN.
“What the State Department does and what diplomacy looks like is not just what you see on TV or what happens in the large-scale meetings,” she said. “It’s a lot more of what happens behind the scenes, like the relationship building between counterparts.”
Her internship helped her realize some potential careers and gave her the opportunity to learn more about international affairs graduate programs from other interns.
“I like knowing the work I do has implications for national security, diplomacy and even U.S. policy,” she said. “I could see myself doing something for the state department as a foreign service officer or diplomatic security.”
Matthew Looper, a senior double major in political science and psychology and an honors student in the Calhoun Honors College, interned in Serbia for nine weeks over the summer with the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, in the economics department after completing a study abroad semester in Belgrade through the Political Science department in spring 2017. He was one of three interns – one was a grad student from Texas and another was an undergraduate student from Wisconsin– whose task was to write reports to send back to Washington, D.C.
“They would give me a topic such as tourism. I’d research it and meet with people,” Looper said. “I met with assistant ministers, experts and tour guides. I even met with an American professor who was an archeologist working on a tourism destination.”
During his time in Belgrade, he said he gained valuable experience and insight which helped him realize that he is interested in working for the government, but would like to explore a different role.
“It gave me insight on working for the government where I gained hands-on experience with diplomacy and got to see how the diplomats interacted with each other,” Looper said. “I was there seeing how it worked behind the scenes, instead of just seeing it on the news.”
The fourth student to intern with the State Department is Mary Lyons. She will be an intern in the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the upcoming spring semester. While not interning abroad, Austin Schlueter will also intern at the State Department in Washington, D.C., during the upcoming spring semester. Both Lyons and Schlueter spent a semester in Belgrade, Serbia, in the Political Science Department’s study abroad program in spring 2017.
Looper, Moore and Bryda encourage other students to apply for this type of experience.
“Apply,” Bryda said. “You never know what you are going to get. It’s surreal. I didn’t think I would get both internships and have the opportunity to meet the people I did.”