UCF Student Gains Unique Experience as an Intern for the US Consulate in Erbil

Mohammed Al Awwad, a Junior at the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs majoring in Political Science, has been selected for a highly competitive internship with the U.S. State Department in fall 2020. He is currently serving as Human Rights Research Intern at the United States Consulate of Erbil, Iraq, as part of the Virtual Student Federal Service that allows students to take internships in a remote mode.  We have interviewed Mohammed about his unique experience.


Mohammed, you have started your internship as part of the VSFS therefore COVID-19 did not change your plans. How has been your experience with the remote internship? Did you face any challenges?

I did not. VSFS has a solid structure that allows students to take an internship remotely. Other interns from around the United States are also doing the internship as myself, and each one of us has a supervisor/mentor that is helpful at every step of the way. This structure allows for the smooth performance of tasks and the supervisor/mentor is very helpful.


Why did you choose to apply for this Internship?

I applied to this internship because I am interested in a career in foreign service and diplomacy. I am interested in seeing how entities and organizations in this fieldwork. Even within academia, I am interested in Middle East politics, therefore, this internship is a perfect combination of both academic and professional interests.


What are you learning that is making this experience helpful for both or either your academic and/or future professional career? What are the tasks that are helping the improvement of your skills?

As a human rights research intern, I conduct several pieces of research about local communities in the Kurdistan area of Iraq and whether they were subject to human rights violations and persecutions. My research involves the writing of reports thanks to which I am significantly improving my research skills. This experience is proving to be very helpful as I get a taste of how the background in policymaking works. It is allowing me to understand how the federal service and diplomacy work and inform policymaking.


Would you suggest other students embark on an internship experience and why?

I strongly do. Such an internship will especially appeal to students of political science and international and global studies interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy and international affairs. Also, the VSFS allows you to take your internship from everywhere. All you need is an internet connection. This makes the internship more flexible and doesn’t interfere with your academic progress. It is also a way to allow anyone to take the internship since there are no costs related to traveling and relocating abroad. Therefore, it is widely accessible and allows to still have a full and valuable internship experience. I want to thank Dr. Güneş Murat Tezcür for suggesting applying to this internship and the support he gave me which made the whole process of internship selection and application easier.


Mohammed will be serving as an intern until May 2021 while continuing his undergraduate degree at UCF.



Written by Sara Belligoni, Ph.D. Candidate in Security Studies at the School of Politics Security and International Affairs and Graduate Research Assistant at the Kurdish Political Studies Program

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