Say what you will about internships – they’re really a sure-fire method for finding what your passions are, what your unique talents are, the path you want your life to take – alright, in all fairness, an internship isn’t guaranteed to give you an answer to all of these burning questions, but they certainly won’t hurt, especially if you’re open to trying new things and taking initiative.
I’ve been interning with Sister Cities of Wilmington for about a year now. I had wanted to intern for a sister cities organization for some time, and I stumbled upon the organization during an impassioned Google search my first semester on campus. I didn’t see any actual internship opportunities listed on their website, but I decided to reach out using their convenient “Contact Us” form to inquire whether they had any need for interns.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe I’d get a no. Maybe I’d get no answer at all. But walking out of Morris Library one night, I got a notification on my phone with an email saying that they were interested, and the rest is history!
Sister Cities of Wilmington helps maintain relations with Wilmington, Delaware’s 5 sister cities and 2 friendship cities around the world. That winter, I embarked on a marketing internship with the organization, helping them boost both their digital and community presence, and in the process I’ve also been able to learn a great deal about Wilmington and the cities it cultivates ties with. I helped design swag (read: stickers) and plant their Sister Cities Gardens in Brandywine Park. We even got to host an International Coffee Hour in Trabant that spring (which was, given the remote nature of the internship, also my first time meeting my supervisors in person!).
Although I loved being able to boost my Canva skills and come up with creative marketing strategies, I had initially only expected the internship to last that semester. I was, however, asked to stay on, and I even got to earn internship credit for the fall semester. During that time, I revamped their website, reached out to local organizations to explore collaborations, and continued my adventures in Canva.
Throughout it all, I’ve met wonderful people, expanded my skill set, learned more about the world, and have come to better understand and appreciate the intricacies of maintaining inter-city relationships on an international scale. I’ve also learned a variety of lessons about internships.
If you’re still new to the internship game, don’t assume that they’re all about doing what you’re told. I’ve realized that the best internship experiences are about bringing something new to the table that draws from your personal skills and unique perspective. The organization you intern with will presumably line up with your ideals and interests in some capacity; the fun part is putting your own spin on the work you do. For example, I came up with the idea of creating a LinkedIn page for Sister Cities of Wilmington, and I’ve also had the freedom to create social media posts and post series that bring what the organization does to new and established audiences alike.
Also, if you can get credit for your internship, I highly recommend it. Not only does this help you graduate on time, but it also lets you get a more in-depth experience. My internship capstone course towards my International Relations major required me to complete a minimum number of hours per week, keep a journal, and put together a final project, which in my case took the form of a portfolio. By having this time literally factored into my weekly schedule to do work for the organization, I could really dive into my tasks without having to worry about time constraints. The additional assignments I had to complete for the duration of the internship likewise made me really consider what I was getting out of the internship and how what I learned through it might help me with future pursuits.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for opportunities! If you don’t see any internships listed for an organization you’re interested in, find an email address and ask. The worst answer you can get is no, and it will probably be a professional no at that! At the very least, you may end up on an organization’s radar, or they can refer you to someone else.
My internship with Sister Cities of Wilmington still continues. I’m keeping up my social media, website, and community engagement work, and we’re hosting another International Coffee Hour in early March (mark your calendars). My time with the organization has truly helped me understand the “You get out what you put in” maxim – by dedicating your time and energy to an internship, you’re bound to gain insight into what you can give to the world.