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Classrooms Off Campus: Four AU Students Talk About the Internship Experience

By Gregg Sangillo

With so many internship opportunities in the D.C. area, an AU education extends beyond the classroom. Image: People walking on the National Mall. Credit: iStock.

With so many internship opportunities in the D.C. area, an AU education extends beyond the classroom. Credit: iStock.

For many American University students, internships are an integral part of their education. According to We Know Success numbers, 89 percent of recent undergraduates participated in an internship during their time here.

With so many students getting real-world job experience every week, this is just a snapshot. Here are four AU students with four exciting internships this semester.

Andrea Bellorin, the ONE Campaign

Andrea Bellorin is now a policy intern in the ONE Campaign's Washington D.C. office. Since she is ultimately planning to attend medical school, working in the policy realm seems like an unlikely decision. Yet she's cared about the global anti-poverty organization's mission for many years.

The Venezuelan-born Bellorin grew up in Miami, Fla., and she was even in a small ONE Campaign club in high school. And now she's seeing, up close, the all-encompassing nature of the group's work. "They put their hands in everything-from debt recovery to HIV/AIDS treatment plans for third world countries," she says.

Bellorin-a junior public health major with a minor in biology-also believes this work can benefit her as a doctor. "You learn how government funding is affecting health, and how many people are living in poverty. Things like that are all health determinants," she says.

She notes that the ONE Campaign has given her real responsibilities, and she's impressed by the enthusiasm of her colleagues. "Everyone is so passionate about what they are doing. Everyone genuinely seems so happy to come into work every day," she says. "It's really become like a dream internship."

Camille Viollet, the Motion Picture Association of America

Set to graduate this May, senior Camille Viollet is getting a valuable education in and out of the classroom. She's currently working as a press intern for the Motion Picture Association of America. She's doing a variety of tasks, including writing for the MPAA's online magazine, The Credits. The latter role even afforded her the opportunity to write about the Oscars.

MPAA has exposed her to so many different facets of the film world. "It has helped teach me a lot of skills," she says. "This just really helps give you a full view of the industry."

Throughout her undergraduate years, Viollet has made the most of her AU education. In addition to earning her film and media arts degree ( School of Communication), she's minoring in cinema studies (literature, College of Arts and Sciences) and business and entertainment ( Kogod School of Business).

"I've met some amazing student filmmakers, and I've had some great professors. So I definitely have been able to dip my toes in a lot of different areas of film during my time here," she says.

Viollet grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and she plans to return to New York after this summer. Long term, she'd like to work for a film production company.

"I think it's important, as a young person, to really just intern and work in a variety of sectors in whatever field you're interested in," she says. "You can get a feel for what you do like and what you don't like. And you can be surprised about the things that interest you along the way."

Danny O'Rourke, the Metropolitan Police Department

With Baltimore roots and a focus on law enforcement, Danny O'Rourke gets this kind of question a lot: "Is police work really like what you see on The Wire?" O'Rourke only recently started watching the show, and from his previous time working in the Baltimore criminal justice system, he thinks The Wire is realistic. Other TV shows? Not so much.

Right now, O'Rourke is interning with the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. And he says nothing quite prepares you for the hands-on experience you'll get there. "There's also just a lot of jargon, and when you walk into one of those offices, it's a whole other language," he explains.

O'Rourke is part of a sexual assault unit in the criminal investigation division. He helps with smaller tasks and administrative work, while shadowing detectives during investigations of sexual assault crimes against adults.

"Not only are you learning about the law, but you spend a lot of time with the detectives. So you can kind of grill them about whatever you want," he says. "Generally, they're pretty friendly and open to questions."

O'Rourke grew up in Baltimore County, Md. He previously worked in both the Baltimore County state's attorney's office and the Baltimore City public defender's office. "The more I did the criminal side of it, the more I wanted to be closer and closer to the people involved," he says. "I realized that I wanted to be the person putting those facts together and conducting the investigations."

As a sophomore justice and law major in the School of Public Affairs, he appreciates getting a strong academic foundation in his field. "The program is very, very good, and I certainly love the opportunities it's given me to explore different careers in D.C."

Ama Ansah, the National Archives

Life, like college, can be utterly unpredictable. A couple summers ago, Ama Ansah was with a friend visiting Washington. She'd been to plenty of museums-her mom is an artist, her dad a history professor-but she'd never been to the National Archives. When her friend sheepishly mentioned an interest, Ansah said, "Let's go!"

Now, as an AU student earning her master's-public history concentration, she's interning at the National Archives. "It's kind of crazy to me to think, 'Oh yeah, that thing you saw two years ago? You're going to be working on something like that, in that same place,'" says Ansah.

And the experience at the National Archives has completely lived up to her expectations. She is a social media and online engagement intern, and she's working on the National Archives' upcoming exhibit on the Vietnam War.

Ansah grew up in Harrisonburg, Va., and she always had the inclination to study history. Even as a kid, she would research the French Revolution and read first-person accounts of the Holocaust. She earned her bachelor's degree at University of Richmond, and AU's public history program seemed like a natural place to pursue her chosen field.

"I was comparing what I saw at other institutions in the area, up and down the East Coast," she recalls. "Honestly, the location, the opportunities that we get to do internships like this, made [AU] really stand out to me."