Voice of America’s integral role and generational impact within my family was the driving force behind my decision to intern with VOA this past spring. A child of two Iranian immigrants, I grew up with stories of my parents’ experiences in Iran’s 1979 revolution. In those days, when an anti-American, Islamic regime was taking over and trustworthy news sources were few and far between, my mother and grandparents would huddle around the radio and listen to VOA broadcasts about America.
Nearly 40 years later in 2018, VOA’s role in Iran and among the Iranian public is as crucial now as it ever was. I had the exciting opportunity to work VOA’s Persian Service during my full-time job with the Public Relations Department. To say the experience was rewarding would be an understatement.
Before joining VOA in late March, I had a limited understanding of VOA’s global presence and the sheer mass of its audience around the world. My first day stands out as the most memorable first day of any internship. I had the opportunity to sit in on several interviews conducted by the son of former Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, as he spoke with different individuals from VOA’s Russian Service. This continued on throughout the tenure of my internship – in the three months that I was here, I was also able to attend an interview between VOA Director Amanda Bennett and Scott MacFarlane from NBC News, as well as watch VOA Reporter Euna Lee being interviewed about her detainment in a North Korean prison.
Aside from being exposed to so many cool behind-the-scenes opportunities, I walked away from VOA with the sense that the community here truly cares about the development of its interns. By chance, I ended up being in the same Uber as Director Amanda Bennett one afternoon on the way to an event for World Press Freedom day. After speaking to her for a little bit and briefly mentioning my background as an Iranian-American college student with fluency in Farsi, I was both incredibly touched and surprised to hear that she had recommended me to intern part-time in the Persian Service.
My contribution to the Persian Service helped me expand and season my Farsi reading and writing skills. I worked alongside their bridge editor (who prepares original Persian stories for sharing with the rest of VOA) and was tasked with reading or listening to different articles or video clips in Farsi and translating them into English. Not only did this help me improve my Farsi vocabulary, I was also learning more about the daily struggles of the Iranian people and issues that are less commonly outlined in the news, such as water shortages, hiking rent prices, and worker strikes.
The growth opportunities that I’ve had here would not be possible without the encouragement and help of my fellow mentors and coworkers. I’m immensely grateful to my supervisor, Michelle, and the rest of the kind Public Relations team: Bridget, Anna, Nigel, George, and Julie – as well as Michael, with whom I worked in the Persian Service. While I’ll miss the hustle and bustle of Washington DC and my diverse, culturally vibrant workplace, I know that my internship at VOA has given me great skills to tackle the working world post-graduation.