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U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Protective Detail for the Secretary of State
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Nicole Solano

Major: Criminology
Minor: Sociology
Hometown: State College, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned of internships with the Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security at Penn State's Fall Career Days. While the recruiters would not take resumes at the fair, they informed me that I should apply online. They told me that these were incredibly competitive positions and advised me that my personal statement would need to be very strong in order to land the internship. They recommended to me that as a Criminology major, I should apply for the protective offices, so I took their advice. I applied in October for their summer internship. Candidates are required to apply so far in advance because the security clearance can take months to obtain if you are accepted. I applied on the Bureau’s website and I also applied on USAjobs.gov. The day before New Year ’s Eve I got an email telling me I had been conditionally selected in the primary round for the internship, and the rest was history!

"As a liberal arts major I have always been a little nervous about getting a job after graduation, but I learned that the special agents come from a wide variety of backgrounds- from English majors to Biology majors!"

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The office I worked in was called OPSCO- Operations and Coordination. OPSCO is responsible for preparing all the passports, visas, travel vouchers, weapons organization, budgeting, and scheduling for the special agents who work on the Secretary of State’s Protective Detail. I had the opportunity to work directly with the special agents and the staff that supports the protective detail and the secretary of state. I produced reports, statistics, and maintained schedules, handled weapons, and organized countless products in the office. I had the chance to tour the 7th and 8th floors of the Department of State. I got to go into the Secretary of State’s personal office and see many historical artifacts on the upper floors of the Department of State. There were a few days that I was even within 10 feet of the Secretary of State himself! I got to observe the protective detail firsthand, and even got to shadow when the Cuban prime minister arrived at the Department of State for the first time. It was an amazing experience and there are many things I learned and observed that I will never forget.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, this internship demonstrated to me that my education at Penn State has been extremely beneficial to my professional career. Although I was not extremely familiar with statistics and excel before this internship, the skills I had learned at Penn State allowed me to work through these hurdles. I am now extremely proficient with Microsoft excel and would feel comfortable doing any projects with it in the future. Another aspect of this internship that impacted me academically was meeting all the special agents and learning their backgrounds and career paths. As a liberal arts major I have always been a little nervous about getting a job after graduation, but I learned that the special agents come from a wide variety of backgrounds- from English majors to Biology majors! This has given me a newfound confidence to finish out my senior year and feel sure that I will find a career path myself.

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

My current career goals are to go into federal law enforcement and protection after I graduate. I have always known that I wanted to take on a federal career, and this internship has confirmed for me that the federal career path is the right choice for me. This fall, I will be applying for all the federal law enforcement agencies that have openings and hoping that I can get my foot in the door with one of them. If the Diplomatic Security Special Agent position has vacancies I will also apply - but it is very difficult to get into straight out of college. Because of this, I will try to get other federal law enforcement experience and continue to apply to the special agent position in the years to come. After landing a federal job, I hope to continue my education in the next few years by attending grad school and getting my masters in a field relevant to my career.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes, but I would only recommend it to students who are flexible and willing to work hard. I had to do a variety of different tasks and many of those tasks were out of my comfort zone. This pushed me to work in new avenues and explore my own capabilities. I would highly recommend this internship experience, especially to Criminology majors (given the nature of the work).

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