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The United States Department of Agriculture
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Emily Mcdonald

Major: Economics and International Politics
Hometown: Greensburg, Pa

How did you learn about this opportunity?

In the early fall I made the decision that I wanted to intern in Washington, DC this summer. At that time I applied for the Penn State Washington Program and got accepted. I began looking everywhere for internships. I utilized Penn State alumni, the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network, and many job sites in order to refine my interests. I applied to upwards of 12 places before I learned about the program with the USDA. I heard about it through the contacts that I developed throughout my previous involvement with 4-H and extension programs. I talked to some of the people who I was familiar in the USDA and found out that they were going to post a position for a student intern from a land grant institution. As soon as the position went live on USAJobs.gov, I applied because it was set to close as soon as 50 people applied. After a few weeks, I went through the interview process and was offered the position.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience with the USDA has been wonderful. I am an intern within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Youth and 4-H division. I have gotten the opportunity to work on many projects during my internship. One of the highlights has been working on programs that serve to benefit juvenile youth across the country. I have been able to do research and help create programs to benefit youth who find their way into the criminal justice system at a young age. I even got to personally sit in on a council meeting chaired by the new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, on this topic. Another highlight was getting to work on the creation of a common measurement for federally sponsored military youth programs on military bases across the world. These programs have existed for a while, but there has been no common way to measure their success. This summer I got to help create a way to do that. Aside from the amazing opportunities that I have had within the USDA, I have also been able to live in and explore Washington, DC. I've taken in countless Smithsonian museums, tons of memorials, and met a variety of unique people. This experience enabled me to learn in an environment that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone.

"This experience enabled me to learn in an environment that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone."

How did this experience impact you academically?

This internship experience has enabled me to take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life scenarios. I love my majors and my area of interest and I have learned so much in the classroom, but this out of class experience really helped me to think critically on another level. This experience has also broadened my horizons academically. It has peaked interests that I was not aware I had, and now I cannot wait to take classes pertaining to these interests during my last year as a student at Penn State.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I did not always know that I wanted to begin my career directly after completing my undergraduate degree. I have always been interested in seeking a masters degree, but this internship helped me to realize that I want to experience the working world before I decide on a masters program. I have always been interested in government work and had a desire to go into some form of public service. This experience really solidified that desire and I have been fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to return to the USDA when I complete my degree. So not only have I learned a ton, I also can relax a little during my senior year and do not have to stress so much about finding a permanent job to begin after graduation.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this type of experience to other students. I have gained so much from stepping out of my comfort zone and interning with the USDA in Washington, DC. I got to learn about what I like and don't like in a job which has helped me to focus my priorities academically not just for my senior year, but for my future as well.

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