With the help of WTAMU Career Services, Madeline Kleinschmidt was accepted into the United States Foreign Service Internship Program – a nationally competitive two-year program to help students prepare for a career in the Foreign Service. In June 2019, she moved to Washington, D.C. for the summer to work at the United States Department of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). The first part of the internship focused on helping the interns develop an understanding of the inner workings of the State Department, the chain of command, and writing styles. Being in the Foreign Service requires that you move to a different country every couple of years, adapt to the surroundings, study the language, and work in the Embassy. Therefore, the second part of the internship prepares interns by sending them abroad to test their ability to adapt to living in a new country, while also allowing them the see which career track of the Foreign Service they enjoy most. Maddie was set to travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka to work in the Public Affairs Section in the U.S. Embassy. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Maddie was not able to travel this summer and instead, completed her internship virtually.
Q&A with Maddie Kleinschmidt
How did you learn about this internship?
Being accepted into the United States Foreign Service Internship Program felt like a dream come true. Having gone from feeling uncertain of what career would allow me to fulfill my goals and aspirations, to being accepted into a nationally competitive State Department program, I felt incredibly grateful to the people and processes that helped me gain this unique opportunity. I found my internship through the help of Steve Sellars in Career Services. After attending an internship workshop and telling Mr. Sellars about my post-grad aspirations, he emailed me with the link to an internship due later that same week that he noted fit many of the things I had told him. I immediately took the opportunity to apply and am now sure of which path I would like to pursue.
Although I did not undergo an in-person interview to join, a lot of the essays and questions attached to the application asked a lot about my background, experience, and goals. However, to receive the Secret Security clearance I did undergo an intensive background check and met with an investigator in-person for an interview.
I was given my conditional offer a few months later in December, granted that I maintained my good grades and passed a Secret Security clearance check. The paperwork process and security check were both lengthy processes. I did not receive news that I was approved for my Secret Security clearance until a few weeks before the internship itself was about to begin, but the program advisors were helpful every step of the way.
Describe your experience during the first part of your internship in Washington, D.C.
The real life experience I received while working in my bureau was a very influential aspect of my internship. I worked alongside seasoned Foreign Service Officers in the PRM Bureau in the office of Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas on the Western Hemisphere team. I was tasked specifically to work on Colombian and Venezuelan affairs in my bureau. I was touched by the opportunity to work on proposals that would have a major effect on the amount and quality of humanitarian aid distributed to the place of my father’s birth, as well as the current home of several uncles, grandparents, and cousins faraway. With more than 4 million refugees having fled Venezuela since July 2019, my office was faced with a task of significant proportions.
Thrilled to be trusted with such critical issues as the refugee and migration crisis the South American region had ever seen, I took great initiative in my work, consistently asking how I could assist in exceeding goals. During this time, our goals consisted of how best to provide refugees basic necessities such as food, adequate shelter, and protection from gender based violence. Being present from the very start of the proposal review process, I was honored to have the opportunity to conclude my internship by drafting a policy paper outlining funding recommendations to the PRM Acting Assistant Secretary. Ultimately my work in the State Department supported the distribution of over $29 million in humanitarian assistance funds to a region of critical need.
Describe how you completed your internship this summer.
Although my travel was cancelled due to the global pandemic, I still learned much about the specific career track of Public Diplomacy which I had chosen to focus on. Through the assignments, projects, and many video calls with Foreign Service Officers in Colombo and Civil Service members in D.C., I gained a very good understanding of the type of work I would be doing abroad and how to uphold the U.S. Mission through programs and policies, while impacting those in the communities in which I worked. It was incredible to feel that the work I produced had a real impact on the people of Sri Lanka and it is the aspect of the Foreign Service which has drawn me the most.
Some highlights included creating and producing videos showcasing U.S. culture for the U.S. Embassy’s social media platforms, drafting tweets for the U.S. Embassy, drafting language for the Ambassador, writing Press Releases, conducting an interview with the first Sri Lankan museum owner in the U.S., and creating content showcasing many projects and programs conducted through U.S. Government funding in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Maddie’s Experience at WT
The past couple of years at living, studying, and working at WT have been outstanding. I am so grateful for the support, encouragement, and advice the staff, faculty, and students have all granted me. I truly have felt supported in my endeavors to pursue different goals, whether that was internships, certificates, scholarships, employment, or study abroad opportunities. There was always someone I could go to for advice and support; I never felt alone.
I am involved in Rogers Lead WT and Enactus on-campus, which have both given me great opportunities to learn and practice effective leadership, presentation skills, networking, and teamwork. My involvement on-campus has not only helped me feel a part of something larger than myself, but has also brought me some of my closest friends.
I am also fortunate to have an on-campus job working as a Peer Financial Coach for Buff $mart. Not only has this opportunity taught me so much about personal finance, but it has allowed me to meet and connect with students from all areas of life while supporting them in their financial goals. I firmly believe my college experience would not be the same without this job and I am grateful for all it has brought me.
All the professors I have had at WT thus far really care about their students. I cannot name a professor who I did not feel supported and encouraged by. A few highlights have been my Spanish II class with Susan Amos, Principles of Management with Jackie Marr, and Business Statistics with Dr. Crisostomo. All of these professors used real-life, applicable examples to teach their concepts, allowed room for questions and mistakes, and are some of the most genuinely caring professors I have ever met. I highly recommended any of their classes, especially if you are in the College of Business. I look forward to taking more of my major specific courses this year and meeting different professors as I begin my Junior year and beyond.
If you are interested in more information about the WT Internship Program, visit the Career Services website or contact Steve Sellars at (806) 651-2345.