Noelle Johnson Foreign Policy

October 9, 2017 | As a senior in the final stretch of my undergraduate studies, the pressure to start the job hunt has begun. Yet, while many of my friends back at home are stressing about their future careers, I have yet to feel an ounce of stress. Undoubtedly, this feeling of ease comes from the resources provided by American University as well as my internship.

Right now I'm on the first step of my job search, which is research and discovery. My internship with the Coast Guard is one avenue of experiential research. I love my day-to-day tasks, the environment, and my colleagues. I could have felt the opposite way about my internship, which would have been a great learning experience as well. I think many people may get frustrated in an internship because they don't see themselves doing this kind of work for the rest of their lives. But that's okay, because you're an intern and not a full time employee-just because you are working there now doesn't mean you have to stay there forever. The most important thing, for all internships, is that you test it out to see if you'd be happy working in that environment for a post-grad career.

A second way I'm doing career research is talking to current professionals in the fields that I'm considering post-grad. I chose the Foreign Policy seminar because I'm drawn to international affairs, Foreign Service, and defense issues. This turned out to be a great choice, because the Washington Semester Program (WSP) provides students with the opportunity to meet with individuals with extensive and intriguing backgrounds. My class has met in-person with people who work or have worked at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Library of Congress, just to name a few. While their job titles are incredibly impressive, the best stories these guest speakers provide are those that relate to their own career development. And, even better, these individuals are very willing to meet with WSP students outside of their visit to help us with career and internship opportunities.

The last type of research I'm taking part in is attending grad school fairs around D.C. and going on grad school tours. Luckily for me, I'm in the hub of Foreign Service programs, so scheduling tours and meetings to gather further information is pretty easy and convenient. I recently attended the Idealist Grad School Fair and left with a bag full of pamphlets and business cards. It was a lot of information to take in, but it was exciting to see what kinds of opportunities exist for me once I leave WSP and graduate in the spring.

I'm so happy I'm participating in this program as a senior. With all the first-hand resources and mentoring available here in Washington, I'm excited to proactively work towards a fulfilling career.

Blog History

Coast Guard emblem

Noelle Johnson Foreign Policy

October 2, 2017 | I've been living in D.C. for nearly a month now, and each passing day strengthens my conviction that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. I have no regrets about lugging three jumbo suitcases and traveling across the country, leaving behind my friends, school, and lifestyle behind.

From my first moments in the Washington Semester Program, I could sense that I was in a different environment than I'd ever experienced before. My professor told my seminar group on the first day of meeting that we as WSP students are not simply "exchange" students but representatives in a high intensity professional development program. I'm being held to a certain standard of excellence, and frankly, this is exciting. I signed up for a program that would mold me into a strong candidate within the field of foreign policy, and I definitely found it.

Noelle at the Delegation of the European UnionWhile in WSP, I have the great privilege of interning at the United States Coast Guard Headquarters within the Civil Rights Directorate. The night after I applied for this position, I could barely sleep. I knew it would be such an incredible experience. However, I did not anticipate how lucky I am to be able to work in HQ. I get to intern for the entire department, which is full of veterans, civilians, and current CG officers with long backgrounds of service in the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and civil rights. My first day, the staff took the time out of their busy day to take me to lunch to learn about my aspirations and provide me with advice on how to succeed. My supervisors want me to succeed, which pushes me to do everything I can to contribute positively to this fantastic and kind group of professionals.

There has been a definite adjustment period here in D.C. The first thing I noticed on arrival was the change in pace. Sure, in California we work hard, but there seems to be a different energy about this city. Everyone is always writing, reading, or corresponding! I find myself not having lots of down time, which I honestly prefer, despite it being an adjustment.

Another big change in my lifestyle is the length and intensity of my day. I leave for work around 6:30 AM and commute for 1.5 hours to my internship. HQ is only 7 miles away, so it blows my mind that it takes so long to get there! I get home around 5:15 PM and am already pretty tired. Seminar days are similar, with lectures and briefings all around the city taking up the majority of my Wednesdays and Fridays. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I'm giving a full effort to my studies and career.

Noelle with new-found friendsI have had the fortune of coming upon strong friendships already, most of which are in my seminar class. It's great to have a support system of individuals like myself who want to succeed but dually see the benefit in looking out for others. In the past few weeks, I've gone with friends to brunch, watched the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, and attended a concert by the National Philharmonic on the West Lawn at the Capitol. There is so much to discover in D.C., so having a group of friends to share this journey with is something I couldn't be more thankful for.

Lots of more exciting developments are sure to come, and I know within the next few months decisions will be made about my entry into the workforce. As these changes occur, I'll be experiencing one of (maybe THE) best periods of my life.