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Internship through Penn State's Washington Program
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Caitlin Gest

Paterno Fellow
Hometown: State College, PA
Major: Political Science
Minors: Sexuality and Gender Studies & History

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I initially heard about the Washington Program from a fellow member of an organization I am involved in. After our conversation, I went online and found the Washington Program's website. I had been thinking of looking for an internship in DC, but didn't know where to start. After doing a little research on the program, I submitted my application early and subsequently interviewed with Dr. Richards, the head of the program. Several weeks later I heard that I had been accepted.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Soon after my sophomore year ended, I was contacted by Scott Colburn, the program coordinator, and was given several leads about organizations to apply to. He instructed me on the application requirements for each of them, and I subsequently submitted the information. Several months later, in August I received another email from Scott informing me that I had been placed with the DC Office of the Attorney General in the Child Protective Section.

Once I started my internship, my experience was nothing but positive. Both of my supervising attorneys were Penn State graduates, and were more than willing to allow me full participation in all of the work. One of the attorneys was even an alum of the Washington Program and is currently one of its board members. They provided me with many opportunities to advance my own skills and were open to communication about which aspects of the job I was most interested in and curious about. It was a fantastic experience.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience has had a profound impact on my academic interests. When I first entered the program, my initial thought was that it would serve as a litmus test of sorts, in order for me to discover whether my interest in law was serious and something I would pursue post graduation. My supervising attorneys were very willing to talk with me about the realities of a career in public interest law, and the advantages and disadvantages of their particular job. This experience greatly affected my current academic plans. As a part of the internship, I read many psychological and psychiatric reports, which I actually found very interesting. As a result, I am taking two psychology classes this spring, with the hope of getting involved in some research and taking more psychology classes in the fall.

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

When I entered my internship, my tentative career plan was to go to law school and find a legal job in the public interest sector. My goal with the internship was to determine whether this plan was viable. That is, I wanted to experience what that career path could be like and see if my interest was serious, or if there was some other path I was more interested in pursuing. Because of the high level of participation I was allowed in my internship, I did get a firsthand look at what a career as a government lawyer in child protection is like. My career goals have shifted and are now less concrete as a result of my exposure to other areas of study. I found that I was particularly interested in the psychological component of the job that I discovered through reading parental mental health assessments, so I am considering paths related to that area of interest.

Would you recommend this experience to other liberal arts students?

Yes.

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