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Hometown: New York City Major: Psychology
Minor: Science, Technology and Society
Internship placement: Department of Justice, Consumer Protection Branch
Why did you decide to do Michigan in Washington?
It was my junior year of college when I first discovered the Michigan in Washington program. I heard all about it from a friend that I worked with at U-M’s Department of Recreational Sports, as she had just come back from her MIW semester and had nothing but amazing things to say about the program. This prompted me to look more into the program itself, so I attended an information session and realized that it would be a great fit for me. While I loved Ann Arbor and college as a whole, I was at a point in my undergraduate career where I was looking for a change. As a junior, I had my fair share of sitting in lecture halls, and while I was learning a lot, I was eager to apply what I was learning to a real-world setting and wanted to explore my career interests through first-hand experience. I had recently discovered my passion for the legal field the year earlier and was excited by the opportunity to intern in DC and work for a cause that was greater than just myself, in public service. I was also looking to grow professionally and develop my interpersonal and really just life skills. Lastly, law school is definitely a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly, so I was looking to build confidence in myself and in that future goal.
What did you do during a typical day at your internship?
The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch enforces federal statutes that protect the health, safety and economic security of American consumers. The Branch has a wide array of practice areas such as healthcare fraud, elder fraud, and targeting deceptive practices in telemarketing, data privacy, food and safety, the pharmaceutical industry and more. As a result, my schedule can vary quite a bit day to day. Communication is especially important when working in a remote internship environment, so I like to start off my day by checking in with my intern supervisor. We also often have intern meetings and staff meetings.During the day, I manage my time between however many projects I’m currently working on, making sure to delegate what work to prioritize and when. My projects vary, as the Branch investigates and litigates both criminal and civil violations, and as I have been able to observe all the different stages of a case. One aspect that I really appreciate about my internship is the emphasis that attorneys make to include the interns in every step of the process, as we are invited to attend hearings and are always briefed on the relevancy of our work, such as how it will contribute to a case and make a broader impact. We have brown bag lunches, where attorneys from the Branch present on current cases they’re working on or discuss their law school and other professional experiences. There are also always webinars and workshops going on where I can learn more about the Branch and their collaboration with other federal agencies, so I usually try to squeeze a couple of these into my schedule each week.
What’s something that you’re proud of that you’ve done at your internship so far?
All of the work that I’ve done so far has also been so rewarding and fulfilling. Fraud and deceptive practices are unfortunately quite common, exist in so many forms, and affect such a broad range of consumers. The pandemic has also opened up an entirely new realm, that being COVID-19 related fraud. I get to see first-hand how relevant this work is and how much of an impact the Branch makes in protecting American consumers, from combating elder fraud to taking down major players in the opioid crisis. I’m proud and honored to contribute to such efforts. How has your skillset evolved or changed since you began working on this internship?
Do you think that the process is different because internships are virtual and, if so, how is it beneficial to your professional development?
My skill set has definitely evolved this semester. While I exercise a lot of the skills I acquired through college, such as my ability to conduct research, I have gained new skills, such as collecting and analyzing data, reviewing legal documents, and writing summaries. I am much more knowledgeable of legal terminology and have a better understanding of legal procedures. I also have a greater sense of accountability, as I’m responsible for managing my own time and progress on assignments. I do believe that the process is different since internships are virtual. One thing that changed a lot due to the pandemic is communication. There aren’t as many opportunities for run-ins that you’d usually have with an in-person setting, such as saying good morning to people on your way to your desk or eating lunch with others in the office. It can also be draining to stare at a screen all day, especially if it feels like there’s not much interaction with other human beings. Interning in a virtual environment definitely requires making more active efforts to meet people, as connections can’t be developed as naturally as they used to.This was something I had to think more consciously about, and it led me to seek out other ways to demonstrate engagement and replicate that sort of social interaction online. Surprisingly, this actually helped me gain more confidence in myself and made me much more comfortable with taking initiative. I realized that people are very willing to take a break from work to chat, for informational interviews or for fun. It’s all about taking that first step in reaching out or asking someone how their day is going. The first week of my internship, I organized a Zoom hangout with the other interns so that we could all get to know each other better. I hosted a similar event with my MIW cohort, and both were a great way to put faces to names and personalities to faces. While we weren’t able to do something like explore DC together, it did offer up a chance for us to bond with one another.
What advice would you give to a student interested in Michigan in Washington?
If you’re even just thinking about it, do it. Michigan in Washington has been such a transformative part of my undergraduate experience. I know it probably sounds super cheesy, but it’s really helped me realize where I want to be in life and what I want to be doing. I’ve finally figured out the place, type of work environment, field I belong in, and the kinds of people I want to surround myself with. My advice would be to go into MIW with an open mind and to make use of the many resources that are offered. When I first joined the cohort, I had no idea where I would be applying to for internships, I just knew I was interested in law and had a bit of an understanding of what kind. I was provided with so much guidance on how to narrow down my interests, how to translate my experiences through my resume and cover letters, and how to find internship programs that would be a good fit for me. Lastly, make an effort to build meaningful connections with others. Reach out to people, regardless of if they’re in your field of interest or not. I’m so appreciative of everyone I’ve met this semester and I’m grateful for what I’ve taken from each encounter. There’s always something to learn from someone, whether it’s people at your internship, your MIW mentors and advisors, or your MIW cohort.