A Close Look at Internships

Bao Nhia, MSC Student Life Intern

Throughout my college career, I have participated in a number of internships that have helped prepare me for my future career, learn about social issues impacting the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and engage with people who are active and driven to create change in their communities. These internships have shaped who I am and allowed me to grow intellectually and professionally. I spent my summer as an intern for CAUSE (Center for Asian American’s United for Self Empowerment) as a Leadership Academy intern. The goal of this internship program is to create young AAPI leaders who are civically engaged and politically aware to become the next generation of leaders at the forefront of California’s public arena.


As a CAUSE Leadership Academy intern, the following three take-aways have resonated with me the most:

1. Internships allow you to prepare for the working world.

At the beginning of my internship at the State Controllers Office, I was hesitant to pick up the phone because I felt I was unaware of the resources. However, I realized that if I never picked up the phone, I’d never learn. It took several tries to help the constituent right away, but I learned that it’s okay to ask for help if I am confused. After all, it’s better than giving someone false information. After accepting that, I researched about the types of resources my office offered and became more comfortable speaking with constituents. I learned that it is better to make a mistake as an intern now, than make a large mistake as a working professional. Also, I learned that failure is the best way to grow, not only as an intern, but as an individual.

Photo Courtesy of: Albert Liu Photography

Albert Liu Photography

2. Internships allow you to explore a different city.

I would encourage others to find internships away from home. Los Angeles is such an amazing city that really allowed me to explore who I am. During my time off as an intern, I explored the fascinating culture of LA. The authenticity and variety of ethnic cuisine at food trucks and restaurants were satisfying and reflective of such a diverse city. From $1 taco trucks to Korean BBQ and ramen houses, the list was endless and kept me hungry for more. There are so many beautiful locations that I enjoyed visiting, especially the Griffith Observatory, which provides a breathtaking view of LA in the evening. I also enjoyed a movie screening in LA’s festive outdoors. But most of all, I enjoyed meeting the people of LA who made my summer. These individuals encourage me and support me in my goals. Most of all, they believe in me. The CAUSE staff is family to me and the interns and I have created long-lasting friendships. I took more initiative to learn about myself when I was able to fully separate from my comfortable setting at home in the Midwest.

Albert Liu Photography

Albert Liu Photography

3. Internships allow you to challenge yourself. 

Some people have asked me why I wanted to do an internship all the way out in LA rather than the Midwest. I explain to them that as a Hmong woman, I want to challenge gender roles and traditional cultural norms. No one ever asks a Hmong girl who she wants to be when she grows up. No one ever asks her about her goals and dreams. Packing my bags and moving to LA for the summer was a big step for me, but also one that I wanted to prove to myself and the Hmong community. I want to illustrate that, as a Hmong woman, it’s okay to be ambitious and have dreams. It’s okay to travel and move away from home. And it’s definitely okay to be who you are for yourself and no one else.

            Participating in internships has challenged me and allowed me to grow. I would encourage anyone to apply for internships, especially out-of-state, but the response I often receive is, “But it’s so expensive.” Luckily, there are campus resources that financially support students while they are participating in internships. The International Internship Program (IIP) and L&S Internship Scholarship are the two resources that helped assist me financially during my summer internship in LA. Many students think that IIP is only for international internships, but IIP also funds domestic internships as well. I received a $200 travel grant from IIP and in return I am helping them with outreach this semester by tabling for events and sharing photos of my experience on social media. I received a $5,000 scholarship from the L&S Internship Scholarship and had to complete an online 1-credit summer course during my internship. The course was more of an online journal that became very beneficial for self-reflection on my experience. I am so grateful to have received financial assistance from both of these programs and would not have been able to enjoy my summer in LA without their support.

Interested in learning more about internships? The MSC is hosting a series of internship and professional development events this semester:

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