What's it like to be a VSFS intern? Emma Davis, French & History FSU 2022

Emma Davis

Last summer, Emma Davis, a French & History junior, got accepted for a Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship with the National Cemetery Association (NCA). “I heard about the VSFS program through the History Department and decided to apply. I have been doing internships since I came to FSU which helped me in applying for the NCA.”  Emma is one of three interns working for that department this year. VSFS internships are by nature remote/ virtual. They are offered by a range of federal government agencies. Founded in 2009, VSFS internships run from September to May and are aimed at goth graduate and undergraduate students.

Emma singled out time management as her number one challenge during the fall semester. “The VSFS internship did not start until September 1st, so I got settled in all my classes. But staying on top of things throughout the semester was hard. My experience with previous internships helped me in staying on track with the VSFS one.” Emma works 10 hours a week on the internship, and she creates her own schedule. “But sometimes I have a test or a paper due and I put work on the project off till Thursday. Then I have to sit down and spend some time catching up.”

Besides time management, the second challenge was the online research. Emma said that it was hard finding digitized personal information on the women nurses. “There were no scrapbooks that had been digitized and only some letters.” Newspaper archives, and Ancestry.com helped Emma in her research. “I was so used to having all this personal information on the people I research from my time at the WWII Institute that it was challenging having to work without that.”

Technology was a distant third for Emma as far as challenges went. “The software I am using does not require me to know coding, and I learned about it in Dr. Koslow’s Digital History class. It is taking longer than I thought to upload material to my site though.”

For Emma, a huge benefit of the VSFS is that it is virtual. “It allows you to do an internship in the DC area without having to live there. That’s amazing. You don’t have to worry about renting an apartment, and you still get to connect with a lot of interesting people.” One thing that Emma did learn was to advocate more for herself. “I realized I had to speak up to be considered for a task, I had to be proactive. Also, when I needed help, I had to reach out too.” Emma and her supervisor meet every two weeks to discuss her progress.

The greatest surprise for Emma was that she found material to showcase the lives of ten Red Cross nurses from California and not just two or three. For the women she has identified, Emma has enough information to describe their lives before the war, during their time of service in WWI, and also how their lives unfolded after they returned home. “These young women, what they did, was really inspirational,” confided Emma. “They volunteered to work for the Red Cross in WWI, something not many people had the courage to do. Researching their lives, seeing their dedication, grounded me during the pandemic. I saw how they got on with things during crazy times. It made me realize that people have survived many hardships before, and I feel that we’ll get through the current one too.”

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/.