During the Fall semester of 2016, Broadcast Journalism student Valentina Palm landed an internship at the nation’s capital with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Juggling research, social media and more, Valentina gained insight into political communications, all while the previous presidential and midterm elections took place.
Name: Valentina Palm
Major: Broadcast Journalism
Where did you intern?
I interned in Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional office in Capitol Hill. I did my internship during the Fall semester of 2016 when the last presidential and midterm elections took place.
What did you do there?
I worked for the Communications Director in her D.C. congressional office writing official statements, letters and social media content. I also worked as a research assistant for the legislative team. As a congressional intern, I was also the support for office logistics including leading Capitol Hill tours, assisting in mailing projects and answering phones.
How did you get your internship?
I directly applied to the Congresswoman’s intern program through her website attaching all required documents, one of them being an essay expressing my admiration for her political career and what she has done for South Floridians and the Venezuelan community.
What projects did you work on?
I assisted the communications department with writing drafts for the Congresswoman’s one-minutes and creating social media posts. I also served as a research assistant for the legislative team, researching policy and legislation that were up for vote in Congress. During my internship, I also got the opportunity to develop research on the political situation of my home country, Venezuela. The Congresswoman has advocated for democracy and human rights in Venezuela, so I fact-checked news from Venezuela to update her on the country’s situation.
What was the coolest thing that happened during your internship?
At the time of my internship, the last Presidential and Congressional elections took place. I felt privileged to attend briefings and receptions to witness their development from Washington, D.C. in Capitol Hill. I also visited D.C. universities, where I attended student debates.
What did you like most about your experience?
What I liked the most was that I actually worked with her professional staff on the development of important research and projects for the congresswoman’s actions in Congress.
What did you learn about yourself?
My willingness to learn gave me more opportunities to participate in projects over other interns who were intimidated to take on unfamiliar tasks. I learned that I don’t know how capable I am of tackling a challenging task until I do it. I also learned the importance of maintaining my confidence in any setting so everybody can take me seriously regardless of my professional position.
How did you expand your professional network?
I had the opportunity to meet Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, but more importantly, I got the opportunity to work with Ros-Lehtinen’s professional team. My supervisor Taylor Johnson mentored me during my time in D.C., giving me opportunities to participate in the development of high-responsibility projects. I also got to meet other congressional interns from all over the country who I still network with today. My experience working in D.C made me understand the value of having a personal network and how it can help you develop your own projects.
How did it help you prove yourself in the “real world”?
It helped me prove myself in the “real world” because I was assigned tasks of high responsibility with tough deadlines. I had to deliver results at a congressional standard.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process?
Apply, even if you think might not get in. Always try, and if you don’t get it, try again. Opportunities are out there, but you have to look for them. They are only given to those who show interest in learning.