VSFS Internship: Mallory McGovern, FSU History alumna (BA 2020)

Fri, 07/01/22
Mallory McGovern

Mallory McGovern, an FSU History graduate (BA 2020) and current MA student in American Studies at George Washington University, applied to be a Virtual Student Federal Service intern for 2021/22 with EducationUSA.

EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States.

How did you decide what department and project to apply for?

That was the hardest part of the application process: choosing what to apply for. I started by just looking at all of the project listings and then filtering by the agencies/departments that stood out to me. I found that I mostly gravitated to the Department of State programs (which EducationUSA falls under) because of the diversity of tasks and the opportunity to work with people outside of the US. Most of my time was spent narrowing to my top three choices; the application process itself was very simple and quick.

What do you do? What are your responsibilities?

Since EducationUSA is aimed at bringing international students to U.S. universities, I was able to draw on my own undergraduate experience a lot, and my knowledge as a native English speaker. I was assigned to working with high schoolers from the Baltic states who were considering coming to the U.S. for university. I knew very little about that part of the world and working with those students has opened my eyes to their cultures and lives.

My supervisors were very willing to allow me to play off of my strengths and interests when it came to my responsibilities. My main responsibilities were planning and presenting different lessons and workshops, as well as some general event coordination tasks (scheduling, sharing events with students, creating a group chat). One of my favorite workshops I led was on academic writing for US universities. I was able to discuss not only the standard paper writing process, but the opportunities for collaboration and writing assistance in a university setting.

VSFS only requires around ten hours of commitment per week, and my particular position was often very flexible with this requirement, making it easy to balance with school. I did have to work with a different time zone, however, which could be challenging.

How much training did you receive?

Most of the training I received was in how to represent EducationUSA accurately and appropriately to students by following their “brand” guidelines. I also talked with my supervisors about how to communicate with Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian students, as they tend to be a bit shyer than the average American high schooler.

What surprised you about your internship?

I was surprised by how much responsibility and agency I was given from the very beginning of my internship. My supervisors trusted me to form my presentations and pick topics that I liked and felt would be relevant to students. Most of my topics were aimed at introducing students to the expectations of American university and professional culture. Skills like building a personal brand through a resume and mastering public speaking were key. However, we were also able to do a few more “fun” topics, like a presentation on Halloween and Thanksgiving that included an activity where students were able to put together their own Thanksgiving menu.

What was the hardest part about your internship?

The time difference can be a challenge. Since we mainly communicate via email, this means that messages are often coming in during the middle of the night or early hours for the person on the other side. We also had a mishap with an event start time because of Daylight Savings ending on a different date in the Baltics than it does in the US.

What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship?

I enjoyed the times when I was able to interact one-on-one with students. Students were often very hesitant to speak up in the larger presentations, so it was very exciting when I finally did get to chat with some of them and help with things like conversation skills or essay writing. This internship also made me a lot more comfortable presenting virtually, which I think is becoming an increasingly relevant skill.

What advice would you give yourself about this internship if you could go back in time?

I would encourage myself to be more upfront with my supervisors earlier on in the process. While they were incredibly accommodating to my interests, I still think I could have pushed more for that one-on-one time with students that was so rewarding to me.

What advice would you give to other students?

My advice to other students would be to pick something that might be out of their wheelhouse. While I enjoyed this position, the virtual platform makes the idea of doing a less familiar job less intimidating and more achievable.

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Interested in applying for a VSFS internship? Here are some details.

How it works:

Each year, federal employees submit project requests between May 1 and June 10. U.S. students apply to their top three VSFS projects from July 1-31 on USAJOBS.gov. VSFS supervisors review applications between August 1-31 and may contact VSFS candidates for a virtual interview. As part of the interview, candidates may be asked to show examples of their expertise and work. All candidates will hear by early September if they have been offered a position.

For more information go to https://vsfs.state.gov/.