My name is Haley Ventura and I am currently a Sophomore majoring in Global Studies and Spanish at the University of Illinois. Upon looking for an internship, I did a lot of searching. It would be a good idea for you to start writing down companies, brief descriptions of them after you apply, along with the date you applied. This helped me keep track of all the internships I applied for and have a schedule for sending follow up emails and such. In addition it’s a great way to quickly at a glance remember what an organization does and what position you applied for in case you get cold called.
I ended up being a Policy and Advocacy Intern at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. This is a nonprofit that works on promoting the end to the embargo on Cuba. On their website and in the application, it said I would be doing all sorts of cool things such as “Attend and report on meetings of various coalitions interested in lifting the Cuba travel ban, congressional hearings and other meetings pertaining to Cuba.” The last duty listed was “Update and maintain CDA website and social media sites,” but unfortunately this is really the only duty I ended up doing. My advice to you is to be very careful when picking an internship! Ask a lot of questions during your interview and make sure you know what you will be doing as an intern. I am unpaid, so it is especially frustrating to not be learning much here. Through my experience so far, unpaid interns are not valued very much so if I were to give you some advice, it would be to seek out a paid internship—even if it’s just a very low stipend.
On the bright side, I have learned a lot about Cuba and Latin America by going through my office’s library when there is not much to do. The organization has conducted research and partnered with other nonprofits and think tanks, and because of this they have a pretty abundant library. I have also learned a lot about working for a small nonprofit—there are usually only seven or eight people in the office every day. Every Wednesday I get to sit in on staff meetings and hear about ongoing projects, policy changes, and even financial struggles that seem to face many nonprofits.
The Center for Democracy in the Americas in located in Dupont Circle, which is such a fun area! There are many amazing places to eat, and it is a lot of fun to walk around and look at embassies during your lunch break. I recommend checking out the hole-in-the-wall empanada shop on Connecticut, along with the basement Hummus shop down the street. A great coffee place is right by the metro too, “Un Je Ne Sais Quoi,” (in French this means “an I don’t know what”). Besides all of the amazing food, it is just a fun area to be in. When I leave the office, every restaurant already has their signs up for happy hour! A lot of young people work around here, and it’s always bustling at night. Dupont Circle is where many of the nonprofits and think tanks are located and so if you’re interested in that, you might end up here.
Living in Washington DC for a semester has been a lot of fun. Take advantage of trying new foods, the free museums, cultural settings, and more!