Afsana in Washington, D.C.

Afsana, a junior international studies major in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, served as an intern during summer 2011 at the White House. Afsana, who works at SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, was awarded the internship through the White House Internship Program.

Read more from Afsana in Washington, D.C.

My summer as a White House intern

At a White House event

Interning at the White House this summer was truly an amazing experience. I was there for about three months working in the Management and Administration Office. My main job was to update security access lists, file documents and schedule White House tours. I was also involved in other various activities within the White House Internship Program as a whole.

Some of these other activities included volunteering at White House events. I can’t name specific events, but they were all fun and I was able to meet a lot of cool people. In addition, going to these events gave me a lot of exposure into how the tightly secured White House makes connections with people in communities.

One of my favorite activities was the International Relations Professional Development Group. The Professional Development Group (PDG) consisted of many different fields, from domestic policy to legal and internal relations. There were about five PDGs, and each one dealt with different topics of interests voted on by our internship class. These PDGs were also led by interns who applied to play leadership roles.

With my wonderful boss at a West Wing entrance

The International PDG was a lot of fun and very informational. We went on field trips to a Congressional hearing and to the Pentagon. The PDG leaders were great at bringing in speakers, including ambassadors and individuals from the White House who brief the President on international issues. The speakers gave great insights into the field of foreign affairs, which really helped me because that is the field I’m interested in going into.

My favorite of all the activities that I was involved in at the White House was the speaker series event. We heard from speakers ranging from Assistants to the President to the First Lady and the Vice President. All of the speakers gave great advice about school, careers and life itself.

My favorite speaker was the First Lady. We got to take a picture with after she spoke, and I got lucky by getting to stand right next her because I was one of the smallest interns. I also got a hug from her for being so tiny, and she chatted with me a little bit, too! The Vice President was a great speaker as well. He actually got off his podium and the stage to walk around us interns and talk. I was sitting in the very front row when the Vice President was speaking, so he came up to me to ask for my name to use me as an example for one of his talking points. That was really cool!

The President preparing to board Marine One

I did not have such close encounters with the President – as I did with the First Lady and the Vice President – but I did get close to the President twice. The first time I came close to the President, I was walking out of the West Wing lobby after dropping off some papers and the President was coming into the West Wing. I very surprised to see him so close as he walked by me, but I managed to whisper “Hi” as he smiled back at me. The second time was when he took the time to briefly speak to us during the last week of our internships. The President made direct eye contact with some of the interns who were in the front row near him while he spoke in the Rose Garden.

Another great and truly inspirational figure I came close to was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I admire Secretary Clinton very much, so I was excited when she said “Hi” to me one day when I came out of the West Wing lobby doors after dropping off some papers in the lobby. I remember being ecstatic all day because my idol noticed me!

Looking back at the incredible summer I had this year, I remember how I did not get into the White House Internship Program the first time I applied for it. However, I am so happy that I kept on trying and was able to finally achieve my goal. I learned so much and experienced more than I could have ever imagined at such a magical place as the White House. I feel very blessed to have been a part of this amazing opportunity interning at the White House in summer 2011!

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    4 Responses to My summer as a White House intern

    1. Sandra Biggs says:

      This story makes me so proud of this young SMU woman. Hopefully she will serve as a role model and other young people will volunteer as interns and have a great experience as well.

    2. Matt Pitcher says:

      I interned at The White House as well (Clinton Administration – Fall 1995). We should create an SMU – White House Internship Alumni Group, eh?

      I went on to become a staffer and there is a White House Staff Alumni group on LinkedIn, but we need a Pony specific one!

      • Afsana says:

        Wow, very nice! Yes, I like that idea. Shall we start one on facebook? It would be wonderful to hear about your and everyone else’s experience!

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