Globally Focused Internships

Make your résumé global.

Working in global markets, with global consumers, on global issues and for global consumers can be a powerful distinction for your résumé  and your personal brand. A globally focused internship can expand your professional options and enrich your network. These experiences can happen in the United States, with employers and organizations that have global missions, or they can occur abroad. Either path will take you to new places, refine your skills and expand your global perspective.

Why does a globally focused internship matter? Check out the experiences of these CCI students:


Daniel Henderson
Senior, public relations major
Washington External Affairs Intern, Council on Foreign Relations

Daniel Henderson

What is the Council of Foreign Relations, and what is its mission?

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is a nonpartisan think tank, membership organization and publisher that operates in Washington D.C., and New York City. CFR is a resource to its members, and it leverages the expertise of its fellows and members to help inform the conversation on matters of foreign policy. In my experience working with the external affairs program, I've come to see CFR's mission as "to inform, not to influence." By this I mean that CFR does not take institutional positions on issues; instead, it strives to make sure policymakers have the best information possible and are considering the world from multiple perspectives.

How does CFR inform policymakers?

CFR's work is primarily focused on the realm of international relations and foreign policy. Its members all have experience and expertise on global affairs and its fellows come from educational and career backgrounds in international relations. This combined expertise makes CFR the most respected and most relied-upon organization by policy makers when they need information regarding global events. The members and fellows at CFR are constantly on Capitol Hill briefing Members of Congress, Senators and their staffs, and they are constantly interacting with the State Department and Executive Branch. What this means, and what I've seen, is that he work of the fellows at CFR has a direct impact on the foreign policy of the United States, which affects the entire world. 

The Washington External Affairs Program, where I worked this summer, connects policymakers and experts. We do this in a number of ways. For example, I've helped plan weekly roundtables for senior Congressional staffs with a CFR expert/fellow; we also host individual breakfasts for Members of Congress to talk about a foreign policy matter of their choosing with CFR members who have expertise in that field. To help Congressional delegations prepare for official travel outside the U.S., we create briefing books that contain region-or country-specific research, analysis and writings from CFR fellows and experts. Maintaining a close relationship with policymakers is how the external affairs team ensures that the expert opinions of our fellows and members are a significant part of the foreign policy discussions happening in the halls of Congress, the West Wing, Foggy Bottom and throughout the world.

You worked for CFR in Washington, D.C.  In what ways is D.C. a global city?

There will be those who disagree about what constitutes a "global city," but for me it is about a lot more than being a hub for global economic power. To follow the classic metaphor, if nations are like great ships of state, then a global city is where they find port. They are crossroads of global affairs. Washington D.C., can certainly be considered a global city by this standard given the magnitude of foreign missions to the U.S. that are based in D.C. and the far-reaching consequences of the decisions made in the Capitol on other nations. However, the interconnected nature of this city goes significantly deeper than just global politics. Its status as a global city, to me, is derived from the people who call this place home. The microcosm of cultural exchanges that happen daily starts to feel like a given after a while. The diversity of cultures is not only present in Washington, but it is genuinely celebrated by D.C. residents. They see the other people here as enhancing their lives through their own unique cultural contributions to the city. You'd be hard pressed to go a day here without hearing at least three different languages spoken and eating food from two different continents.

How did your internship transform your perspectives on the world?

Through my internship I have had the amazing opportunity to meet with real movers and shakers in the foreign policy arena, such as retired General Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and NSA and former principal deputy director of National Intelligence; Ambassador John Campbell, a retired foreign service officer and ambassador to Nigeria; and Zaid Zaid, former special assistant to the President and a former foreign service officers who served in Iraq, Egypt and Tunisia. I have met passionate and dedicated individuals from foreign service officers and ambassadors, to national security experts and policy makers. Meeting these people, and seeing the impact CFR has on the world, has strengthened my conviction that there is great work to be done beyond the borders of our country, and we need great people willing to do it. In terms of a transformation in my perspective of the world, CFR has taught me that there isn't one set path in making a difference. Foreign service officers brokering peace deals and helping the helpless is incredibly noble and important work; but so is working for international NGOs that combat disease, hunger, abuse, human rights violations, and war; and so is working in government and think tanks here in the U.S. to change our policies to be more conscious of our role in affecting global affairs. One constant I have seen is the need for those who want to make a difference to go out and educate themselves both here and abroad on matters of global affairs because those in power don't automatically have the answers, and more often than not they need to rely on those who do. So we need people who do.

Madeline Scalzi
Junior, public relations major
Communication Advisor, Centers for Disease Control (CDC)/Zika Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force (Student Worksite Experience Program)

What interested you in this internship?

When presented with the opportunity to intern at the CDC for the summer I jumped at the chance. I wanted to learn more about government PR in a public health atmosphere. Until this opportunity arose, I had not known much about government PR, and especially had not known that communications is a vital part of the everyday functions of organizations like the CDC. I thought that spending the summer at CDC could expand my horizons and my resume.

What is the mission of the CDC’s Zika Task Force, and why does it matter?

The CDC's Zika Task Force has been working since January, 2016, to respond to outbreaks of Zika virus infection (Zika) occurring in the Americas and to increase reporting of birth defects in areas affected by Zika. In February 2016, CDC elevated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation to a Level 1, the highest level of response. Most people who contract Zika virus may not display any symptoms and thus not even know they are sick. However, the infection of a woman who is pregnant or looking to become pregnant could be tragic. Infection of a pregnant woman can cause damage to the fetal brain, or microcephaly, damage to the back of the eye and congenital Zika syndrome. Additionally, Zika virus infection has been linked to miscarriages and stillbirths

The Zika response is unlike any other emergency response of its kind due to the lack of a vaccine and the ability to spread the mosquito-borne virus via sexual contact with an infected person. For these reasons the response largely focuses on preventing mosquito bites, as well as encouraging family planning and contraception education for women in local transmission areas, such as Puerto Rico, Columbia, Guam, The Marshall Islands, and Mexico. 

What sort of work did you do as part of the Task Force? 

At CDC, as in most other government organizations, you can honestly say that there is no "typical day." Day-to-day I could do anything from proofreading and editing a slide presentation for one of the task force leads to designing a social media graphic or factsheet. Additionally, because Zika is an ongoing crisis, the task force is continuously updating and changing guidance; for me that meant continuously searching for fact sheets, web links and infographics that needed updating. My large project, which spanned all eight week of my time at CDC, was creating a materials resource guide for distribution to local health departments across the country. This resource guide became a combination of nearly all the Zika materials which have been created to assist local health officials, clinicians, and even pregnant women and their partners. After making the list and creating summaries of each document, I worked with creative services to make the document user friendly and appealing. 

What was the most interesting thing you learned about yourself while working on a public health issue of global importance?

Early on in my eight weeks at CDC, my supervisor and I discovered that I have a talent for graphic design on Canva and Adobe Illustrator—I can thank the PR Publications course for that! This skill—which allowed my team to avoid time-intensive creative services interactions—was one thing that made me a valuable part of the communications team for my short time there. It also gave me the opportunity to seriously consider what I am most interested in within the public relations field. This lead me to narrow my eventual "dream job" search, and I now better understand the mission, values and atmosphere of the CDC and government organizations as a whole, which I believe will be incredibly helpful in my future endeavors.

How did your internship transform your perspectives on the world?

Before receiving the SWEP student position offer, I had never seriously considered using my public relations degree in a public health setting. I also had not considered pursing a graduate degree directly out of college, nor did I understand the value of a graduate degree to a PR major. Additionally, I had not thought about traveling with a government volunteer program such as the Peace Corps and the importance of non-profit organizations such as March of Dimes in the effort to protect pregnancies and prevent birth defects. 

Through my work at CDC and interactions with numerous public health professionals both on the communications, policy, and operations teams, all this information and future possibilities came to light. This opportunity allowed me to reassess my career and personal goals and understand the importance of public health organizations like the CDC, on a global scale. 

What was your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part was being behind the scenes on days when we released important updates about Zika to the public, via a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and a teleconference. On those days I was often able to proofread the script for the teleconference and review the 'work back' schedule before we released the information to the public. Following the information release I would scan international news sources such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, looking for the use of our information in their Zika-related articles, and then compile a list of the articles including the publication, article title and a summary. This task gave me an appreciation of the process behind information releases and a greater understanding of the reach of the CDC.

Madeline Scalzi

Photo by: Mark Fletcher