Florida State’s Hunter Johnson never considered an internship prior to learning about The Washington Center. Yet TWC offered her the legal experience she was seeking before graduating and transitioning to law school. Her internship was the perfect way to explore what the legal field looked like in real life.
Where are you going to school and what is your major?
I’m a sophomore at Florida State University, majoring in international affairs. I am also pre-law.
Where are you interning?
I intern this semester, Spring 2019, with the nonprofit National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). We help provide legal aid to underserved communities.
What prompted you to start looking for an internship?
I had been attending classes, but I wanted to supplement that with some real world experience. I wanted to see the things I was learning in the classroom out in real life and how to apply them. I wanted to have an internship before I entered the workforce to have a better idea of what I hoped to get out of a career, which is something difficult to get in a classroom experience alone.
I had not been thinking about an internship until I read about TWC’s program in a brochure. The fact that my university was willing to partner with TWC told me that it is a trusted organization. I looked at a few other programs in D.C. Ultimately, it came down to my university’s partnership and promotion of the TWC program.
What has been the most impactful experience or memorable encounter during your time in Washington, D.C.?
My site supervisor at NLADA put me in contact with a Supreme Court attorney who invited me and another TWC intern to hear a case and take a tour of the Supreme Court. She knew that both of us were interested in going to law school and set it up. Ms. Powell was amazing when we met her. Then, watching the case, I was just blown away. You see things reported on TV, but to be there and hear it, you don’t realize how impactful it can be.
I wanted to see the things I was learning in the classroom out in real life and how to apply them. I wanted to have an internship before I entered the workforce to have a better idea of what I hoped to get out of a career, which is something difficult to get in a classroom experience alone.Hunter Johnson, Spring 2019 intern, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA).
Describe briefly what it has been like to intern at your organization. How has it affected your professional development?
My organization is a mid-sized nonprofit. We’re a tight-knit community. Everybody works together, eats lunch together, talks together even if we don’t work in the same department. My prior work experience was a restaurant job when I was 15. This has been very different. I struggled at the beginning because you don’t learn how to do these things in classes. You have to be thrown in and learn how to swim. I’ve learned a lot about accountability. At school, if you don’t do your homework, no one is impacted by that except you. But if you don’t finish a task at work, that can put off a lot of people’s schedules. It could impact a client. When you’re dealing with actual people that are impacted by the work you do, there’s more urgency to your work. It is fast-paced sometimes, which makes communication really important.
How would you describe TWC and its impact to someone else?
TWC has been, even beyond the working experience, amazing. I feel like a completely different person than I did when I got here. It has taught me what I want in a career, what I don’t want in a career. What kind of relationships I want with the people I work with and what I don’t want. Also, networking is a buzzword here. I realize that a lot of regular interactions would be considered networking. It’s interesting that I network not only with professionals, but other interns in the program. At the RAF we meet, we talk, we exchange. Professional development has been huge and not something that you get in the classroom. Overall, I feel like a much more mature, worldly person even without having left the country. In D.C., there are people from different states and different countries. But I think, even more so than that, it’s just been the vast knowledge that I’ve gained. I feel like it is universal and will always apply.
I feel like a completely different person than I did when I got here. It has taught me what I want in a career, what I don’t want in a career. What kind of relationships I want with the people I work with and what I don’t want.Hunter Johnson, Spring 2019 intern, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA).
When you have encountered a challenge or struggle, how have you dealt with it? What resources did you rely on?
I think adapting to a new environment, was an initial challenge. People in D.C. have been really nice; they really want to help you here. I’ve met people in coffee shops that find out I’m from somewhere else and start laying everything out. Like, here’s where you need to go but don’t go there, you don’t want to do that. Also, I’ve been really lucky to have supervisors that I consider friends. They always look out for me and give me good advice if I need it. Also the TWC staff have been great and super supportive to all of the interns. It’s good to know, even if you don’t need the help right at that moment, that’s a resource you have available. It starts to feel a lot less overwhelming when you have those resources.
What is the single greatest benefit TWC provides to students such as yourself?
For me, it’s the invaluable real world experience. I had to do this for myself. I feel so much more prepared to graduate and to have a job, to navigate a workplace and handle my relationships with other people. There are many things that I struggled with at work, moving and finding my way that I would never known that were potential problems until I lived them. My parents couldn’t have told me about it. My teachers couldn’t have taught me about it. My parents were a little bit concerned. They asked why I would want to leave school and go somewhere else since I was already in school. They didn’t quite understand why you’d want to supplement your studies with this experience. They see now the positive impact that it has. My brother is a junior in high school and for him as well, seeing me come and do this, has grown his world view. He is more open to exploring experiences like this.
When I came to D.C. I was worried about being lonely, not being able to figure it out, not making friends. But almost immediately, TWC had sessions for our first week to help us acclimate. There are always events, opportunities to meet fellow interns and make long-lasting connections. If someone is questioning doing TWC because they don’t want to be alone, leave their friends or family, they shouldn’t. I have made friends with people from Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, all over the place. And thanks to my TWC experience, I think I have a better idea about my future and would like to be more involved in international affairs.