From resolving passport problems to learning about the Florida Agricultural Museum, my summer internship in U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Jacksonville office has given me exactly the educational experience I wanted.
We are observing National Intern Day on July 29, a good time for me to share my story.
I am just one of hundreds of students from the University of Florida engaged in the win-win opportunity that comes with an internship through the Bob Graham Center for Public Service. It’s a win for students like me who get the chance to closely learn about the operations of non-profits, businesses and government entities, and it’s a win for those we serve, who benefit from students’ work, fresh perspectives and up-to-date knowledge.
Internships complement classroom learning. I have a strong understanding of American government and its organization. But I am learning so much more about the inner workings of the political process and professional behavior and courtesy each time I go to work.
One of my assignments is to answer telephone calls from constituents. I listen to their concerns and log the calls for the senator and other staff to see. Recently, passport renewal applications have been flooding in, likely due to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted since vaccinations became readily available. Some people have had their travel plans interrupted and even canceled due to delays from an influx of passport renewal requests. Our office has worked to streamline the process and many passports have been successfully provided.
That’s just one example of an issue we have been able to act on. It has been fascinating to observe how the regional offices are able to assist constituents locally, and it’s very rewarding to help calm the worries of callers. It is part of my job to make the people calling the Jacksonville office feel heard, and I take that very seriously. All of what we do at Sen. Rubio’s Jacksonville office aims to help people for the greater good of North Florida.
Another standout experience was touring the Florida Agricultural Museum with other staff and learning about the museum’s educational offerings and plans for expansion. I was born and raised in North Florida but never knew this museum existed until this trip.
In addition to working with the senator’s regional staff, I’ve had the opportunity to meet other student interns from UF as well as other Florida universities, creating connections I would not otherwise have made.
Many internships lead to careers as they help develop the workforce of the future. But there is always something to be learned as an intern even if it may not be exactly related to your career goals. Honestly, I don’t see myself working in politics or government in the future. I want to be a doctor!
But I took this internship as a chance to learn aspects of professionalism that are present in every job setting and in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the political process and how it works on behalf of constituents. When this internship ends, I’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the work of policymakers and their staff and with the satisfaction of knowing that I gave back to the region where I have happily spent all my life. And this internship, along with my work as an ambassador for the Florida Health Leadership Academy, has sparked my interest in health policy — so there may be a career angle after all!
All internships provide great opportunities for personal and professional growth and instill a sense of confidence and accomplishment within you. I have felt fully supported, encouraged and challenged in the best way possible. I am grateful Sen. Rubio’s office provides these internship opportunities for students to stay in Florida and see firsthand how important national policies and services are to our local community.
Samantha Zima is from Fleming Island and is a senior at the University of Florida, where she is pre-med student majoring in Health Science.