I first heard about Voice of America not through my coursework at American University, but through my friends and classmates who had fantastic experiences interning at VOA. They talked about this mysterious federal agency that was also a news network, and I was perpetually a little confused. Everyone said it was such a dynamic place to work and how they were able to experience and learn about so many different issues in both the government and the media. In hindsight, what I heard about their time at VOA was an understatement.
VOA is a federal government agency. It is also a place filled with journalists from all over the globe. This creates a fascinating, diverse culture that allowed me to experience in a professional context much of what I had learned about in my course work and, in turn, gave me a great foundation for a career in the international sector. I learned about federal procedures and regulations, as well as journalistic best practices. VOA broadcasts in 47 different languages, which means there is a whole world under one roof. Working across all the language services really allowed me to use the skills I learned in my cross-cultural communications coursework and gain valuable cultural competency skills.
Much of my time at VOA Public Relations has been dedicated to developing external communication materials, but I was able to discover my passion for internal communications as well. I helped to schedule and was able to attend some informal meetings between language services and VOA Director Amanda Bennett. I also helped prepare and facilitate two VOA workforce town halls. It is amazing to see how much small actions and listening by leadership can impact the culture of a workplace.
Most days I conducted the daily 40-minute public tour of VOA, which allowed me to meet people from all walks of life. Sometimes they were American citizens visiting Washington who had never heard of VOA before and came out amazed by the agency’s work. Other times they were regular VOA listeners visiting from other countries. Most amazing were the frequent stories from people who listened to Voice of America in their youth under oppressive regimes and related how VOA’s programs affected their choices to either escape or rebel in some way. It was so moving to hear these stories and to know that more stories like theirs are being created every day as a result of the work being done in the Cohen building.
There have been many other projects that I tackled while interning at VOA PR, from researching upcoming elections VOA will cover and outlining outreach targets for events and media pitches to assisting in developing a new factsheet about all of our music programs. I was able to author original content for multiple social media platforms, as well as create a plan to redo the display case in our tour area.
I have loved my time at Voice of America Public Relations, and, above all I loved the people I worked with. I am so grateful for their time and patience to teach and explain so many aspects of such a complex workplace. Being able to experience a smaller department has been truly invaluable. I know the mentorship I received at VOA PR will follow me where ever I go from here professionally.
Future Plans: I have been offered a Project Coordinator position at the International Development Group LLC. I hope to someday work abroad and get a master’s degree in International Development with a focus on monitoring and evaluation.
About Michaela Becconsall: Michaela is a graduate of American University with a degree in International Studies and Economics. During her time at AU, she was the president of She’s the First, a girl’s education fundraising and advocacy club on campus. She served on the executive board of her sorority Phi Sigma Sigma twice. Her past professional experience includes an internship while studying abroad in Nairobi, Kenya. She is originally from Long Island, New York.