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Wednesday 5 August 2020

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Amrutha Chatty - Public Relations Intern

When I first started interning at VOA, I was excited to join a team that I had heard so many great things about. Knowing many previous interns, they all spoke so highly of the internship program and the people at VOA. I soon learned that my limited knowledge of what VOA does was about to expand greatly.

I had heard of VOA first from my parents. They grew up in India and talked about how they listened to VOA's English-Language Radio Service to stay updated on current events and news. It was a huge staple in their lives and a reliable source of information for them. It wasn't until I started interning with public relations and listening to the VOA Studio Tour that I realized the wide expanse of VOA's reach in the world. Not only does VOA have news on outlets other than radios, but they broadcast in 47 languages worldwide and focus on regions that have limited news outreach.

Through my training of the VOA Studio Tour, I learned these facts and so much more about VOA's history. I was excited to share the unique formation and mission of VOA. However, just as my tour training was coming to a conclusion, the Coronavirus crisis began to escalate and the in-person portion of my internship drew to a close. I was extremely disappointed that I wouldn't be able to go into VOA for my internship anymore but was elated to be able to move my internship online for the rest of the semester. Due to the nature of the work, many interns were unfortunately unable to continue their semester. I was fortunate to be able to continue my experience and help to the team.

As I moved online and remote, most of my responsibilities stayed the same. I was helping draft and edit evergreen content for social media, collecting photos for the VOA Calendar, and helping research strategies for the new VOA LinkedIn page. These experiences helped me learn an immense amount about PR and PR Writing. I also learned how to communicate and coordinate with people in such a huge organization. I have gained so many skills from my time in VOA and I know that moving forward these tools will help me prepare for working in communications and PR.

Despite having my experience cut short and moved remote halfway through my internship, my time at VOA was full of incredible learning experiences. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to join such an amazing organization and for all of the people who were kind, encouraging, and patient throughout my internship. As I move forward through my career, I know that I will look back on this time at VOA very positively and will take the skills I learned with me.

Future Plans: After I graduate from American University, I hope to work in political communications in Washington, DC for nonprofit and lobby groups that fight for social and civil rights. I also hope to pursue a Master's degree in Political Communication.

About Amrutha: I am a third-year student at American University majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communication with a minor in Political Science. I have worked in the leadership of our on-campus speakers bureau, the Kennedy Political Union, for two years, have been an Orientation Leader, an AU Ambassador and currently serve on the leadership of my sorority Phi Sigma Sigma

Michaela Becconsall - Public Relations Intern

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.

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