Salima Omwenga, Investigative Intern, Public Defender Service for District of Columbia
Class Year: 2021
What was a typical week like in your internship position?
Every week varies as the team of interns are responsible for assisting in the investigative process for cases. Our tasks include conducting phone interviews, drafting memos for the attorney, collecting medical records and school records, and conducting online searches including articles, social media, and video media (YouTube, Podcast, etc.)
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
I enjoy being able to analyze a case and assist in the actual investigation. I appreciate that my fellow interns and I are entrusted with real responsibilities that greatly impact our client’s cases. I appreciate the team-work and the great communication especially since there was a strong likelihood of a communication strain as we are operating virtually.
How did your coursework help you in your internship?
My coursework helped provide a strong foundation in writing which is very helpful when writing memos. In addition, my coursework has also helped me increase my critical thinking skills which are vital to excel in the investigative intern position as oftentimes you must be creative and strategic to find the information you need.
How did you locate your internship position?
A former professor of mine is an attorney at PDS and through him I found out about the internship program and I decided to apply.
Advice for students:
Interning has been one of my favorite components to my college education. I will say if you are considering it and are unsure of how you will fit it into your degree program, if there is a will there is a way. Don’t be afraid of taking an extra semester to gain this experience because there is so much one could learn as opposed to simply just sitting in a classroom. I would ensure that the internships you apply for provide you with as much hands on experience as possible. Make sure that the job description allows you to dive into the core activities of the company/organization rather than just making copies or making a coffee run. During your internship, maximize your opportunities by asking questions, learning about how individuals at the organization or company started their careers, make connections outside of your department or direct colleagues. Collect the names and contact information from those you worked with as well as individuals you believe you see yourself connected with after the internship and create a spreadsheet (using Airtable, Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, etc.). That way, you aren’t solely relying on your brain to remember their names and you have all the information stored in an easily accessible place, instead of just storing the information in your phone where it could easily be lost. It’s amazing how many opportunities can come from leveraging your already existing network so don’t be afraid to build one by keeping in touch after your internship is complete!
Interning is a great experience and I know oftentimes people are reluctant especially if the internship is unpaid. There are plenty of grants available for students who would like to intern but are unable to accept an unpaid position. Do not be afraid to ask for a stipend or additional financial assistance if the internship you desire is an unpaid one. I believe unpaid internships are becoming more of a thing of the past, however, there are probably still many opportunities out there that are currently unpaid and that shouldn’t mean they are unattainable.