UCDC Alumni – Ann Mikhaela Punzalan

Portrait of a person

Internship: Flip the West, FOIA/Privacy Act Division at U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Term of Participation: Fall 2020

What did you learn about your field of interest or the professional workspace?

My internship at Flip the West involved mainly public policy work, so conducting a lot of civic engagement outreach like phone banking and educating voters through social media about the voting process as well as the significance of certain policies. My position at HHS was quite different since I was tasked with litigation research (reading through legal documents and interpreting them according to the FOIA statute). I found both experiences super rewarding in their own unique ways. With Flip the West, I shared some great conversations with our very diverse electorate and it was there that I truly learned the democratic value of communicating across boundaries. As for my time with HHS, the environment was fast-paced. I was surrounded by lots of experts who are very knowledgeable in my field of interest and I was able to gain insight into a prospective career in law.

How did your internship influence your career goals?

My internships offered me a preview of two very different career paths. I’m really glad to have experienced a bit of both because now I’m more informed of what kind of working environment I can see myself being successful in. I honestly enjoyed both, but now it’s become clear to me that I’m more drawn to a career that is more so based on research.

What is an exciting memory from your time in D.C.?

Although I can see myself in a fast-paced, professional environment, I really cherish the time I spent with Flip the West. I worked in a large internship program, where a lot of my peers were college students as well. We often had long shifts where we called unregistered voters who were out of state. The task was quite intimidating because it was very common to go through bad calls, but I had great support from my peers. We would call voters while on Zoom sharing our funny experiences with each other. It was a super humorous way to go about an otherwise scary task.

How was the remote internship a valuable experience? 

Although my internships were remote, I believe the experiences I gained were nonetheless very valuable. Offline or online, I learned that effective communication is very crucial to instill in your work ethic. In any type of office, you are working with a team, and tasks are delegated in a certain fashion to ensure that the overarching goal is accomplished efficiently. I feel like this is not something you really learn in an academic environment where you are able to do work individually.

What kind of opportunities did the internship lead to?

I am still currently working with HHS! They have offered to extend my stay at the department and now I have the opportunity to explore other internship programs.

What advice do you have for future students?

Do not be afraid to make mistakes. What seems like a major error does not mean that you have failed. Learn from those experiences in order to do better and succeed next time.

Last modified: Jun 14, 2024