Who are you?
Nathan Fisher, Junior, International Affairs
Who is your employer?
U.S. Department of State
How did you learn about your internship?
I first learned about the Department of State internship program after hearing a previous intern share his experiences in INTA 2001 (Careers in INTA).
What was the application process like?
The application process was fairly straightforward and easy. You list your top two preferences, write a statement of purpose, and answer questions about your educational background. I was notified of my acceptance over 2 months after I applied. I then had to begin the process of getting a security clearance, which took almost 3 months and involved getting fingerprints made, an interview, a very long questionnaire and more follow-up questions.
What were your major tasks or projects at this internship?
Most of my tasks involved researching and reporting on a variety of themes ranging from cybersecurity to human rights to drug trafficking. I wrote several cables to Washington as well. I was also able to visit NGO's, meet with government officials, travel around Ecuador, and serve as my section's Halloween coordinator. No two days were ever the same! My biggest achievement was writing Volume 1 of the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) for Ecuador, which is an annual report published by State.
Do you have any recommendations for Georgia Tech students looking to intern in the same company or country?
International experience and knowing a second language are the two biggest recommendations I have. International experience is important because many State internships are at Embassies around the world. It can be challenging to live and work in another country for 3 months, but having previous experience abroad prepares you for the challenges and obstacles you might face. Furthermore, everyone at State speaks a second language with many fluent in a third. Knowing more than one language enables you to take on greater tasks and perform better. I used Spanish everyday to carry out research.
Where did you live? Did you find accomodations independently or with your company's help?
Many Embassies are able to offer apartments for interns. Unfortunately, Embassy Quito was not able to offer this, but I found a room to rent on AirBnB within walking distance from the Embassy. It was an extra expense for me, but I was in a great location and became great friends with the guy I was renting a room from. For the last month of my internship, I was able to house and dog sit for one of my colleagues while she was out of town.
How has this internship influenced your career path?
One of the most valuable things about this internship was that it gave me the opportunity to talk to Foreign Service Officers (FSO's) and learn how they got started, what they like about it, what they don't like, and how they deal with the challenges of living abroad and moving every 2 to 3 years. I could definitely seeing myself being a FSO and will be taking the Foreign Service Officer Test as soon as possible.
If paid, did the company you worked for pay you enough to live off of your salary or stipend, or did you have to supplement your income with personal funds?
State Department internships are unpaid, so everything had to be covered by me. My parents were very supportive, but Ecuador is also very cheap to live in. For instance, a typical lunch at the Embassy cost about $3.