I turned on the camera, checked the microphone, and glanced down at my list of questions. Then I looked up with a smile at the uniformed gentleman sitting in front of me. He smiled back and gave a slight nod, and after we both took a quick breath to calm our nerves, I hit record to begin the interview.
For five weeks this summer, I was blessed to assist US Senator John Boozman’s Little Rock, AR, office to conduct interviews with veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). This project was developed to help preserve our history and honor those who have served our country in incredible ways. Anyone can take part in contributing to the Library’s online database of interviews, photographs, and memoirs.
Working in the senator’s office with Anita Deason, his military and veteran liaison, was such a valuable learning experience. Although I helped with several veteran interviews, the main part of the job was office work—answering phones, filling out paperwork for VHP, and attending meetings. At first, I was timid when answering the phones because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say. I quickly learned that most people who called just wanted to express their opinions or were calling for someone else in the office. I also learned that if I wanted to put someone on hold, I had to press the “hold” button before I hung up. I did not think answering phones would teach me as much as it did. It refreshed my listening and note taking skills. The seemingly simple task even reminded me how important it is to always be respectful. There were a few times when I was on the line with some angry people, but I stayed calm and considerate. I was polite to every caller—one even thanked me for my professionalism.
My organization skills came into play when we had to prepare each veteran’s paperwork to send to the Library of Congress. I had to burn interviews onto discs and minute mark them. This means I watched the video and made a note of a new topic and the time at which that new topic was discussed. This makes viewing the interviews easier for research purposes.
Although I learned a lot in the office, I enjoyed the fieldwork the most. It allowed me to meet many successful people and expand my network—I collected business cards and gave out some of my own. I also made numerous connections through Ouachita Baptist University. It always amazes me how one small school can link the lives of so many people.
But the most meaningful part of the internship for me was the time I spent with the veterans. My respect for them grew with each conversation. With every story of sacrifice, I yearned to encourage and comfort. I treasure the moments I had with them and was honored to share my experience in a blog post for the Library of Congress.
I am so grateful to Sigma Tau Delta for providing students with financial aid for unique opportunities such as this. My internship was not paid, so receiving a stipend lifted my financial worries and allowed me to focus on my job and enjoy it. It also let me focus on what I learned about myself. I found that although I can handle the hectic schedule of a political office, I do better at a slower, steadier pace. More importantly, I learned that whatever I do, I need to be serving others—and that lesson is priceless.
Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend
Sigma Tau Delta offers funding for current undergraduate and graduate student members accepting non- or low-paying summer internships. The Summer Internship Stipend is a competitive program providing a limited number of stipends of up to $1,500 each.
The internship must involve working for an “organization” while being directed by a supervisor/mentor within that organization, and the internship’s duties must be consistent with the applicant’s level of education, area of study, and career goals. Financial need will be taken into consideration in addition to internship length. Applicants are responsible for obtaining and providing verification of the internship. Please review the application guidelines for additional information.
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