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Interning in DC: Touring History, Learning Government

July 31, 2013

A smiling woman in a dark jacketEmily Robson hails from Portland, Oregon. She is a rising sophomore at Case Western Reserve University majoring in Nursing. In the summer of 2010, Emily gained experience in community development with the AMIGOS de las Americas program while living in a rural Panamanian community.  She then spent three months in Eastern Africa in 2011. While volunteering with a health clinic in Uganda, Emily realized she wanted to pursue a career in International Health. Once she has completed her education, Emily hopes to live abroad and work on healthcare issues in Third World countries. Her goal is to treat those who go untreated. She wants people living in impoverished areas to receive the health education and care they deserve.   Emily recently completed her Youth in Development (YiD) internship at the International Affairs Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which manages engagement with international emergency management partners and coordinates foreign visit requests at FEMA facilities.  The YiD program, launched this year by the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD) with funding support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Fund (MEAF), brought its first cohort of seven students with disabilities from across the US to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area this summer. In this blog post, Emily shares the exposure she has gained to the historic importance of Washington, DC, and looks back at her experiences at FEMA.

Connect with Emily Robson via her LinkedIn profile at

My internship in DC has been an incredible experience. I have enjoyed living in a city with a wealth of historical importance. Growing up on the West Coast the only historical area of true importance was Fort Clatsop.  I remember the difference it made to physically see the historical site compared to reading about the place or event in a text book. This summer I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore our Nation’s Capital.  This past week the interns at FEMA were able to receive a staff guided tour at the Capitol. The tour began on the House side. There we were informed about FEMA’s work on the Defense production Act. Once the overview was finished we made our way to the Capital.  Being in the capital was slightly surreal once I thought about all of the history that has and continues to take place there. Nothing solidified that feeling quite like the opportunity to see the first cornerstone placed of the building. The cornerstone is hidden away in the building where the general public is unable to find it. Luckily our guide knew its whereabouts and allowed us to see the stone that was laid by George Washington. After that excitement, we continued the rest of our tour. Our guide left most the exciting thing for last, we ended our tour by going on to the house floor. We sat down in the chairs typically left for Congress, and listened to an explanation of what can go on there, specifically the State of the Union Address.  Being able to go on a tour like that is just one example of the opportunities my internship at FEMA has provided me with.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at FEMA in their International Affairs Division.  Before my internship I spent time abroad working with different Non-governmental Organizations, but I never had any experience with the government. Through my internship I have now seen and began to understand the world in which the government works. I have spent time in our office working on logistics for meetings with International visitors, attended those meetings and many others at FEMA and other locations. From this I now know having limited work staff, limited funding and an abundance of work makes working for the government very difficult. There are channels workers must go through, tasks they must complete before a job can be accomplished. Something the general public and myself included neglect to realize or accept. My experiences in the developing world have taught me that tasks might take longer than anticipated. Unforeseen issues arise that must be dealt with or managed before the task can be completed and the project to move forward. In the world of the government these unforeseen issues use the term bureaucracy.  There is a lot of bureaucracy one must go through for a job to be accomplished. Once I made the realization of the similarities between working in the developing world versus the government I better understood what it meant to work for the government.  FEMA taught me a lot, not just what working for the government meant, but also working with other international agencies, other offices, and other people in general. I had a great time learning about what emergency preparedness means in our own country and others. From my experiences at FEMA I am now interested in the idea of working for the government.

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