Student summer spotlight: Department of State internship

July 23, 2019

Rising senior Alexandra Zalewski, a member of the latest cohort of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI), is spending her summer as an intern at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), Department of State. In this Q&A, Zalewski discusses her internship and the skills she developed at Princeton that are most useful in her position. 

Why did you choose this particular fellowship?

I was always interested in a career in public service. I became very interested in security sector stabilization this fall in my School of Public and International Affairs Policy Task Force. CSO is heavily involved in stabilization efforts in places like Venezuela and Ukraine and I knew this was my right avenue to explore my interests this summer.

What are some of your responsibilities?

Every day, I attend meetings with implementation partners and people from the conflict zones. I make sure that CSO's missions are being implemented in these meetings and I bring back key takeaways to my team. I also attend think tank events relevant to security sector stabilization and conflict analysis. I am currently working on a Venezuela story map to create a public product that presents the timeline and facts of the crisis. 

What has been your favorite moment so far?

CSO hosted a security conference on Venezuela which paired key Venezuela stakeholders with international experts to discuss the conflict and help advise how to create stable institutions once the regime transitions. It was very interesting to see these discussions unfold and learn first hand what are the challenges of rebuilding an entire state.

What from your Princeton experience (i.e. classes, activities, skills you developed, extracurriculars, etc.) do you find yourself drawing on most during your experience?

I have had to use my research skills a lot this summer to find and synthesize information for my team. I felt confident on how to find these sources on my own due to my experience with my independent work as a junior.

What recommendations do you have for other students considering this opportunity?

When looking at opportunities in the State Department, make sure to explore all the different bureaus since there are a lot of different avenues you can pursue. Try looking at each bureau's website to see what projects they are working on and what is their mission since that will change the nature of your work over the summer.