A Way Within the Law
This is a guest post by Emily Kong for InternMatch’s Student Stories. If you’re interested in getting involved with Student Stories, learn more here.
Internships are believed to be the key to your future, your first foot into the door, and the foundation which you build upon. You are meant to intern somewhere you can see yourself working at in the future, or someplace relevant to your desired career path. If your internship isn’t any of that, why should you waste a second of you summer there?
My first huge internship was with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., a government organization that is responsible for enforcing federal laws of discrimination against a job applicant or an employee. Yes, it was a complex issue that most were not willing to put themselves in, but it was an issue that needed to be addressed. While my career path is nowhere near the path of law, this is one of the most beneficial experiences I have ever had.
Law is a field that scares people, some of the strongest people I know. Law scared me, and yet I interned at a government organization that dealt with legal investigations. This wasn’t even the scariest part.
I began this internship right after graduating high school, so as a freshman in college. Most of the interns were college juniors or seniors or current law students. I was the youngest intern in the entire office. I worked directly for the supervisory judge of the hearings department, where I answered case status requests from parties, and drafted orders (such as orders to produce records, Acknowledgement Orders, orders closing cases, and orders dismissing for lack of jurisdiction). On top of work for my supervisor, I gained the trust of other administrative judges. I replied to status requests and faxed mail orders for cases assigned from the judges.
I know what you’re thinking right now, how boring, but it really wasn’t. I won’t go into specifics, but it felt incredible doing something that counted. I didn’t get to see many of the outcomes of the cases because they were eventually distributed and law interns took over from there.
This experience was nothing I pictured it would be. I imagined an office full of stiff suits that were not willing to give me the time of day. Instead I was given a summer of new experiences, an appreciation for the law, and an internship before college under my belt.
Although I felt underestimated at times, I had to prove myself, so I did so through my work ethic. It’s difficult to be that little person in such a huge pond, but you’re supposed to make the most out of every situation. It’s hard to keep pushing yourself somewhere you aren’t sure if you fit in, but all you need to do is find your place. The law scared me before this internship, it still does, but one of my passions is helping people. To me, interning for the EEOC was getting justice for people who were discriminated against, even if I was only doing so in a mindless way. I was a law clerk intern, but I hoped to make a difference with all of my past experiences. I was able to pick things up easily and do any tasks that were asked of me. An internship is only as great as you make it.
Through this internship, I gained so many skills that have helped me in school and in future endeavors. At the EEOC, I was able to create a contact sheet that they not only built on, but also continue to use to this day and a lack of jurisdiction letter that is still in use. I went into this internship fearful of being the lowest on the totem pole, which I probably was, but it didn’t feel that way after spending a few weeks getting my feet wet and making an experience out of this job.
Internships still worry me, but I gained confidence through this experience that helped me survive my freshman year of college and also future jobs and interviews. They say that it takes one internship or job to change your entire life; interning at the EEOC is something that I will never forget. So many doors were opened and my passion for helping people grew.
If journalism doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll find myself in another EEOC office. But that’s a story for another day.
Emily Kong is currently a journalism student with a passion for writing, art, fashion, and cooking. She aspires to be a magazine writer someday and has the city life in her sights. In between city hopping, Kong writes for other publications, her WordPress, and little 140 character quirks on Twitter.