Interning is a great opportunity to obtain work experience, increase marketability after graduation, and clarify future career plans. Interning in Washington, DC is especially important for students wanting to build a career in the nation’s capital.
A great number of Nunn School students and alums have interned in Washington, D.C. at think tanks, nonprofits, and federal government agencies. Being in the capitol means endless opportunities to engage in networking and discussions. Many returned to DC for jobs and have worked at places such as the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Andrew Coco, an alumnus from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, interned in Washington, D.C. in the spring 2020. Coco was a research intern in the Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. During his time in D.C., Weston shared her thoughts below.
What are you doing and how have you been able to apply the skills you've developed through our program?
I'm working with the program director (Michael Elleman), and am primarily conducting research on the strategic drivers (or occasionally lack thereof) of Hypersonic Weapons development in Russia, China, and the US. The eventual goal is to publish this work in a series of smaller pieces under our Missile Dialogue Initiative, and maybe in long form as a journal article. I also may be contributing to a section on the Space Force and other space-based military activities in the 2021 Military Balance. Day-to-day I'm researching and writing for the most part. However, I also help with events we host as needed and have been sent to a handful of talks held by other think tanks and government agencies. I wouldn't have been able to do this kind of work had it not been for Dr. Jordan's Pathgaming class based on Hypersonics or my experience writing research papers on security topics at Tech. Exposure to hard sciences (Dr. Hertel's Safeguards course, Dr. Kosal's WMD course), as well as the chances to talk with the visiting US Military personnel at the Nunn School have also been invaluable. These especially are areas that have set me apart from some of the other interns here from the D.C. schools. I strongly recommend others at the Nunn School take advantage of those opportunities, and lean into them hard on applications, resumes, and cover letters.
How do you see this internship helping with your future career goals?
Getting experience in D.C. is critical for eventually finding a job in this field, and this was my first opportunity to do that. Professional networks are in a lot of ways the key to getting opportunities in D.C. -- I can't overstate their value. Working at a place like IISS in the future is something I'm very much interested in, and this is probably one of the best ways to work towards that. You're far more likely to get offers at places you've interned at than places you haven't. The national security space can be a bit tough to break into, and an internship here can be one of the best ways to do that as a student, if you make the most of it.
What have you learned so far?
I've learned an incredible amount of technical information about this field in just a few weeks. Reading about something for 40 hours a week can teach you a lot. I'm also getting better at networking and putting myself out there to professionals, which I haven't been good at historically. I've also learned that I made the right choice on this field, and that I like the work in addition to the subject matter.
What do you like to do for fun?
D.C. is a great city. NY will always be my favorite city anywhere, but I really like D.C. and can definitely see myself living here in the future if it works out. I thought I would like it, but I was still pleasantly surprised at how much I do. Amazing food options and plenty of people here that have very similar interests. Also, D.C. has the best museums in the country and they're all free. I hadn't been here before I came up for this internship, so I've been spending a lot of time at the museums. For obvious reasons, Air & Space is easily my favorite.