Listening to a lecture or watching a video to learn a course subject is important, but an immersive work study program packs the one-two punch of knowledge and practical experience by allowing students to put those learned skills to work.
July 27 is National Intern Day, and Georgia State strives to give its students valuable work experience as part of the broader college experience. Graduate student Sara Ekhlas is one student making the most of her internship experience this summer at the Georgia State Capitol.
Before Ekhlas started her first course in a master’s degree in political science with a concentration in political science, she learned about possible internships in her degree program – like an experiential learning course that gives students 3-9 hours of credit for internships with public or private firms – during her orientation and was immediately drawn to it.
“I really loved the idea of an internship while studying,” Ekhlas said. “I believe it is kind of like killing two birds with one stone – you can earn credit hours while experiencing a real, professional environment where you can use and practice what you gain during courses.”
Ekhlas applied to a number of internships in the spring, seeking work with private companies and governmental organizations. She heard back from a few, receiving interviews and acceptances before deciding to intern in downtown Atlanta.
Through the summer, Ekhlas has worked a project-based internship with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB), serving in the Health and Human Services Division. These projects have spanned topics such as community service work, needs modernization in Georgia, special needs shelters and more.
Part of the OPB’s role is to analyze the finances of state agencies to ensure they are maintaining a budgetary balance. Ekhlas attended meetings with relevant authorities at state agencies including the Department of Public Health and Department of Behavioral Health to gather and store data for OPB oversight, in addition to collecting data for budgetary compliance reports and state committee bills.
While Ekhlas completes these tasks – and others like reviewing grant applications – she is able to rely on her coursework at GSU for support. Her majority-online, synchronous coursework allowed her to learn data collection and research writing through assignments like policy briefs and research papers, a skill set necessary for her internship.
“Completing these assignments honed my skills in several aspects, such as finding reliable data sources, analyzing data and information, writing skills and comparing other study units,” Ekhlas said. “In addition, some general knowledge I acquired by taking some of my courses – namely state politics and American politics – was also beneficial for me in terms of understanding how the state government works.”
In addition to the content of her coursework, Ekhlas built a trusted community of Georgia State colleagues who wanted her to succeed. She noted the connections she made with faculty and staff led to countless conversations and ultimately, an internship.
“Pursuing a degree at GSU, especially in political science, not only has broadened my knowledge in politics but also provided me with a valuable network and opportunity that helped me to find this internship now and hopefully assist me in finding a related career in the future,” said Ekhlas. “I was fortunate enough to gain the support of many professors and program directors (which allowed me to) learn about internship opportunities and be recommended for some of those positions.”
Ekhlas was born in Iran, where she earned two degrees and spent 12 years as an aid to the Korean Embassy, and she wants to bring that experience, along with what she has learned during the internship, to the U.S. Department of State. She dreams of becoming a foreign affairs officer specializing in Middle Eastern affairs, a goal that can become a reality after two more courses. While her degree is almost complete, Ekhlan encourages students to get involved and have conversations with academic advisors, professors and program directors to find an internship that will set them up for success.
“GSU is an excellent resource for finding an internship,” Ekhlas said. “From the first semester, we were receiving emails from our program director or other professors regarding internship opportunities. I would say it is a golden opportunity.”
Looking to land the perfect internship or work study? Enrolling in one of our certificate or degree programs gives you access to the Panther community, a growing connection of people and organizations that can help you land the perfect internship. Learn more about our degree programs today.