New internship opportunity was the cure for the COVID-19 summertime blues

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September 17, 2020

By Kathryn Sohm ’21

Kathryn Sohm

Kathryn Sohm

Editor’s note: Like many students, Kathryn Sohm had her summer plans changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sohm was part of the virtual Washington, D.C. Summer Study Program. Fortunately, she was able to secure an internship with the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington. The College of Saint Benedict senior English major – who is a student employee for the Enrollment Management and Marketing team – was asked to share her summer experience. 

The summer of 2020 was unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of stay at home orders and social distancing practices, many plans were tossed to the wayside and no longer feasible. For college students, one of the biggest challenges was securing an internship or employment for the summer.

I had many last-minute changes to make regarding the summer, as I was originally part of the Washington, D.C. Summer Study Program and planning to move to the nation’s capital for three months. Instead of experiencing a new city and taking the Metro to work each day, I found myself living at home again and interning virtually from my bedroom.

Finding an internship was the most stressful aspect, because many D.C.-based internships were canceled because of the pandemic. However, the program’s director, Dr. Christi Siver (associate professor of political science at CSB and SJU), and program coordinator Sheila Hellermann worked tirelessly to make sure we found the right opportunities for us.

NTI logoI was lucky to intern with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nonprofit based in D.C., which works to prevent catastrophic attacks and disruptions by nuclear, biological, radiological and cyber means.

Though my days were full of Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams messages and countless emails, NTI made sure I still felt like I was part of the team and a valued addition. I got to know my coworkers through virtual coffee dates and trivia nights over Zoom, and my fellow interns and I had the chance to chat with senior NTI employees.

Out of the many projects I completed throughout my internship, one of my favorites was an article I wrote about nuclear-related pop culture. I reviewed "Radioactive," Amazon Prime’s recent film about Marie Curie and her complicated relationship with science. The movie follows her life through her discovery of the elements radium and plutonium; the death of her husband and lab partner, Pierre Curie; and her realization that there are consequences that accompany the power of science. Along with a film overview, I provided a list of more entertainment relating to nuclear issues, including NTI’s new mobile game Hair Trigger.

I gained valuable professional experience through publishing articles, monitoring social media and learning new technological skills. I became more self-sufficient this summer, and I know that post-graduation, I will possess the expertise to work independently and hold myself accountable in my professional career.

Although I didn’t get to spend my weekends exploring the Smithsonian or lounging on the National Mall, I was still able to learn a lot and develop relationships with my coworkers. My summer internship experience wasn’t quite what I expected, but thanks to NTI, Siver and Hellermann, I was able to make the most of it.

Students interested in applying for the 2021 Washington, D.C. Summer Study Program should contact program director Dr. Christi Siver or program coordinator Sheila Hellermann.