Internship with Plan International USA
Up one level
Susan Nahvi

Paterno Fellow
Major: International Politics and French
Hometown: State College

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this enrichment experience through the Penn State Washington Program. This program, which is offered by the Communications Department, helps students find housing and internships in Washington, DC. This program came to my attention when I received an email from the Political Science Department advertising it. Once in the program, the internship coordinator, Katie Sullivan, asked about my interests and kept her eye out for positions that might interest me.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Plan International USA is an international development organization. This organization focuses on helping create sustainable development in developing countries, with their projects focusing specifically on children, education, girls' empowerment, water sanitation and health. I was working for the Foundation Relations team, which obtains funding for their projects from private and family foundations. Being in this position, I had an overview of the entire organization. I saw how we identified funders that had similar goals; how programs were crafted that would accomplish our goals and appeal to donors; and how we had to follow up with donors on project implementation. Most of my work centered on grant prospecting, grant writing, research, and note taking. My supervisor encouraged me to attend meetings from all of the different teams, which gave me a better sense of the work that we did as an organization and how many different career paths this included. I talked with employees from human resources, communications, fundraising, project implementation, measurement and effectiveness, business development, and corporate outreach.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This internship had a large impact on my academics. This year, I am writing a thesis as part of my honors requirements, and at the beginning of the summer, I already had an idea in place for my thesis topic. However, over the summer, I was introduced to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which were the subject of one of Plan’s upcoming projects. Being in these meetings really piqued my interest, and I started thinking about how to turn this into a thesis topic. I ended up deciding to change my thesis topic, and I’ll be looking at the Millennium Development Goals, which preceded the SDGs. I wanted to research a topic I was passionate about, and being in this internship helped me learn where those passions lie.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

While I have not completely ruled out other options, I am highly interested in international development as a career. Working for Plan International USA, I gained an appreciation for the problems that face developing countries, such as child trafficking, low availability of education, and fewer opportunities for women and girls. I was impressed by the passion everyone had for doing their work well and trying to help others. I also began to understand some of the problems that exist within the field of international development, such as program ineffectiveness and not understanding local conditions. I think exploring measurement and effectiveness (basically accountability) would be both rewarding and interesting. I hope to gain more experience in the field of international development after graduation.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I felt like I was given work that really mattered to the organization, and I always felt like a contributing member of the team.

I would recommend both the Washington Program and Plan International USA to other students. The Washington Program was a great help in finding housing and the position. At Plan International USA, I felt like I was given work that really mattered to the organization, and I always felt like a contributing member of the team. I was encouraged to learn as much as possible while I was there, and whether or not a student wants to go into international development afterwards, working at this organization was a great learning experience.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows program highlights the importance of experiences like internships and study abroad. These requirements helped me decide to take advantage of the opportunities that came my way, such as the Penn State Washington Program. Being a part of an honors program specifically for liberal arts has also helped me realize that the soft skill of liberal arts majors are just as important as the hard skills of other majors. The ability to communicate effectively, write concisely, analyze word choice, collaborate and think critically are all skills that the Paterno Fellows program encourages and skills that are incredibly important in succeeding in the work place.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

Return to Top