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Name: Kimberly Barboza ‘19
Major: Political Science
Minors: French, Sociology
Hometown: East Wareham, MA
Campus Involvement: Admissions Ambassadors (President), Florence Luscomb Women’s Center (President), Commonwealth Honors Program
What internship did you hold and where in the world did it take you?
I was an intern for the Office of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington D.C.
How long was your internship?
My internship was only six weeks long, but I learned so much!
What was the day-to-day like?
I worked alongside eight other interns to support the Senator’s staff and the operations of her D.C. office. Often, especially at the beginning of the internship, the interns and I would complete a lot of tasks together, especially when we were first learning the layout of the Capitol Building and Senate office buildings. The interns on the Hill are also tasked with giving tours of the Capitol Building, so I interacted with visitors coming in on their family vacations.
My duties included a mix of constituent services tasks; these include answering calls, voicemails, and sorting mail that the people of Massachusetts send to the Senator expressing policy concerns, personal stories and issues they may be having with a federal agency. I also wrote memos and conducted research for the Senator’s legislative staff on various projects related to health, the environment, hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, and reproductive rights.
Each day held different tasks and opportunities, though; the internship was structured in a way that allowed me to do things for my own edification, like attending press conferences and speeches on the Senate floor. There were many information sessions for interns on post-college programs (like the Peace Corps) or events merely to network and meet other professionals during and after the workday.
What personal growth did you get out of this internship?
Before going into this internship, I feel as though I was very anxious about my role as a leader. I'd often second-guess myself and my decisions and overly critique the work I was doing. But, when you’re working in a fast-paced environment like Senator Warren’s office that demands high-quality work, you can’t waffle. I learned how to trust myself and my capability, and to ask for help when I need it!
I was also able to meet and hear from some truly amazing advocates and activists, including women who have fought for their rights in Ireland and Guatemala. Seeing on an international level that there are still people fighting for a better and more just world was gratifying to see, and it made me feel excited to work with the Women’s Center on campus this year!
Going into your internship, what were some of your goals?
Coming into this internship from a background in grassroots organizing, I wanted to learn more about the ways in which grassroots groups can influence a Senate office, as well as the ways those groups can improve their tactics and messaging to achieve the policy changes they seek. Personally, I wanted to see if I would feel comfortable and capable of working for an elected official, possibly as a future career.
What professional skills did you gain from your internship?
I am much better at self-discipline and working towards a deadline, and also being adaptable in the face of a new task or problem that I didn’t expect to encounter. I think I’ve also learned how to speak to people with views diametrically opposed to my own.
In a Senate office, it’s important to really listen to people’s concerns and treat every constituent with respect, even if you personally disagree with their views. I became better at listening to and empathizing with people.
What was the best part?
I scored a ticket to a lecture and Q&A with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which was held at the Supreme Court! It was a highlight of my time in D.C. and such a surreal, wonderful experience to hear her speak.
How did you hear about this internship?
The reason I was able to complete this internship was the Congressional Internship Stipend program that is run by the Political Science department (with the help of some very generous donors!). Every year the department holds a session with former recipients of the stipend to talk about their experiences.
After listening to my fellow students talk about how much they learned and how exciting being in D.C. was, I decided to apply! After securing the stipend, I researched different Congressional offices and committees in order to check out their application requirements and applied to several internship programs in Congressional offices.
Is there a specific faculty or staff member who helped you get there?
Professor Jackman in the Political Science department has been my advisor and mentor for a few years now. She was instrumental in helping me clarify my vision of what I wanted to get out of the internship experience; she helped me workshop my résumé and cover letters, and wrote a personal recommendation for me that was enormously thoughtful! I’ve learned so much from her classes and she is one of my strongest supporters at SSU. Cynthia Lynch, the Director for the Center for Civic Engagement has also been a huge cheerleader of mine and gives some great pep talks.
Why were you so passionate about pursuing this specific internship?
It’s hard to study U.S. politics and not be aware of Senator Warren. She has a personality that’s larger than life and is, in my opinion, one of the most important voices speaking out against economic injustice, corruption, and a whole host of other issues. She’s so different from many other members of Congress because while she deeply cares about and advocates for her Massachusetts constituents, her reach is nationwide.
There’s also the allure of working on Capitol Hill; it’s “where all the action happens.” Doing an internship in D.C. gave me an opportunity to see political processes up close and personal, and it’s so much more exciting than watching it on TV or reading about it.
As a Salem State student, why do you think doing an internship is important?
I think internships are much more than a career stepping stone. They can teach you a lot about the practical application of what you learn in the classroom and can also be a great way to figure out your passions and core values. Salem State is comprised of so many talented, driven, and smart people, but there’s only so much you can do on one college campus. My advice to fellow students would be to get off campus, into a community or a professional environment, and try something new!
What piece of advice would you give to a fellow Viking trying to decide whether or not they should do an internship?
I know that for a lot of students, an internship means taking time away from an existing job and can be a lot of work on top of classes. Finances are a really important thing to consider. I strongly believe that everyone should be compensated fairly for their work, and I really don’t think that any professional experience is worth it if you can’t eat while completing it. I’d advise my fellow Vikings to seek an internship that pays an hourly wage or gives a stipend, like Senator Warren’s office, which also provides stipends to students who don’t receive outside funding. If the internship itself is unpaid, look for resources in your department or even outside of school; people are willing and thrilled to sponsor your experience, it may just take a little extra time and more applications.
Second, do not think of an internship as just a “résumé builder.” If you’re only considering one because you think it will make you look good, you will have a miserable time, because the only goal you will have is to have completed it! If you think it will be experience that can help you learn about your field, have fun in some way, or do some good for others, these are much more substantial reasons to pursue an internship.