Melissa Reif ’13
Major(s): International Studies
Internship Site: Trust for the Americas/Organization of American States - Washington, DC
I first heard about the Organization of American States (OAS) through my experience in Model UN and as I was looking for looking for internships with multilateral organizations or local NGOs, I saw that the OAS had an internship program. Through my internship, I have been able to learn more about the OAS, its role in the region, and how it functions as a large multilateral organization, but I also learned about what it’s like to work for a small non-profit.
My projects with the Trust included a wide range of tasks from administrative support, translating documents, and coordinating with workers in the field. Of these projects, my favorite was translating a Memorandum of Understanding from Spanish to Portuguese. The Trust is currently working to expand its project centers in Brazil and I was able to use my language skills to help with this expansion. The MOU I translated will serve as the “key” when the Trust partners with new local partners and I’m happy that I was able to help!
Through the OAS Internship program, we had weekly intern meetings including visits to other international organizations in DC, leadership seminars, and a Model OAS-Permanent Council. I was elected as one of the two committee chairs for our MOAS Simulation and it was a blast! Through this role, I was able to work on my own leadership skills while effectively moderating debate, facilitating the writing of a resolution the combats drug abuse in the hemisphere, and working with other “MOAS Authorities,” including the Director of the Department of International Affairs to run a successful simulation for all of the interns.
My language classes and time spent abroad were the most useful in preparing me for this internship. Spanish is spoken almost exclusively in the office (many of our intern meetings were just in Spanish), and although I used my Portuguese for various projects, a strong knowledge of Spanish was critical.
Every day, I need listened to meetings and conference calls, sent emails to field coordinators, and translated documents in Spanish. Although the OAS only requires that you speak two of the four official languages to apply (the languages are English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French) and never specifies which two are required, I do not think this would have been a successful internship experience without having a high level of Spanish.
The entire staff of the Trust, especially the members my team (“Economic Opportunities and Citizen Security”) have been really helpful throughout my internship. Through them, I’ve learned more about how the Trust works, as well as what qualities the Trust looks for when hiring new employees.
I had also expressed to the one Brazilian member of the Trust that I was interested in returning to Brazil after graduating. He has been really helpful by giving me online resources and tips on how to search for jobs in Brazil!
Before I came to Dickinson and through my freshman year, I thought I wanted to graduate, take the Foreign Service Exam, and serve as an FSO in the State Department for the rest of my life; however, in the past two years I have become more interested in working with development, either through the government or with non-profits.
Tips from Missy:
Don’t get discouraged! Internships, especially in the DC area, are very competitive and organizations often have hundreds of candidates for very few slots. It’s important to apply for internships at a variety of different sites, and to not be discouraged if you don’t hear back.
*To find out more about how to get an internship, make an appointment with a career counselor. Just call the Career Center at 717-245-1740 or stop by Biddle House.