Guest Opinion: On internships and preparing for the real world

Riley Leonard/Special to the Sun Star
Sept. 23, 2013

University of Alaska students have the unique opportunity to participate in the state and federal governments while pursuing their education. Our small student population and education-focused government representatives combine to allow students an inside glimpse into the world of policy, government and public service.

Over the past seven months, I had the phenomenal opportunity to see the inner-workings of two levels of government through university internships. First, I worked in the Juneau office of Representative Scott Kawasaki during the 2013 Legislative Session. While there were days I felt swamped and overwhelmed, Rep. Kawasaki and the University of Alaska Legislative Internship Coordinator Glenn Wright were incredibly supportive and helpful. Slowly, I gained my footing and eventually researched, wrote and carried legislation as well as attended meetings, staffed for committees and helped with constituent outreach. This internship is a unique opportunity that is a must-do for any UA student with an interest in political sciences, Alaskan issues or who is simply looking for a challenge.

My second internship was in the Fairbanks’ office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich. Our office was responsible for constituent relations and correspondence between Alaskans and the federal government. I gained valuable insight into how the United States’ Government functions and the bureaucratic hurdles that are sometimes necessary to solve a constituent issue. This type of experience aids not only those with a passion for politics, but also every American citizen, for at one point, each and every one of us will have to interact with the IRS, Medicare, VA, Social Security or one of the other federal agencies. Knowing how these groups function is essential to understanding the relationship between citizens and their government.

These two internships were monumental in advancing my education, networking with other students and professionals and great experiences in the “real-world.” I highly suggest other UA students to look into these opportunities, as well as other internships in Fairbanks and Alaska as a whole, to learn more about our community and meet some of the people who mold our lives as Alaskans. I believe that the more a community member knows about how things operate around them, the better suited they are to finding their way and achieving their goals. Therefore, explore the opportunities around you and see how you can get involved.

Leonard is a 21-year-old Criminal Justice student at UAA. He has earned a degree in Anthropology and this year is his fourth year as a student at the University of Alaska.

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