George Mason University students have countless opportunities to get involved in research projects, build connections with people, and intern at key agencies and firms, ranging from the federal government to Fortune 500 companies. One student who has spent her undergraduate experience building life-long connections and gaining meaningful experiences is Fyzah Islam.
Islam is a senior pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in Government and International Politics and a master’s degree in International Commerce Policy through the Schar School’s Accelerated Master’s Program. But in addition, she has experienced three internships over the past three years.
“I had a let’s-apply-and-see-what-happens attitude for each internship,” she said of her motivation. Here is a brief recap of her internships and her takeaways.
First up, during the fall 2020 semester, Islam was a finance intern for the Democratic Attorney General’s Association (DAGA) “For DAGA, I was looking for something to get a foot into the professional world,” she said. “Working on election night was so hectic and entertaining, and it was a welcome distraction from all the presidential election drama. I have a newfound appreciation for poll counters and election reports. The stress of their job is enough to last all year.”
In the spring 2021semester, Islam was a political and communications intern for America Votes, where she helped double the social media presence of the national nonprofit organization. In the summer of 2021, she became a global corporate affairs intern for financial software giant Intuit.
“Intuit was my first internship where I was doing exactly what I wanted,” she said, acknowledging the benefits of the previous internships. “Researching existing policy and applying those implications to the future. Internships show you what you can have in your career future, and I hope my career mimics this internship.”
Islam learned about each of these internships through the University Career Services information portal, Handshake, a comprehensive listing of regional and local internships and job opportunities available to students.
Islam said each of her internships cumulatively helped her realize what career path she wanted. She hopes to complete her master’s degree while securing yet another internship with National Public Radio or a private company and eventually find herself working in international policy or data policy analysis. She’s even thinking about getting a second master’s degree in secondary education to begin teaching and motivating others to pursue their interests in international policy.
“Internships are so worth it,” she said of the effort to secure them and then stay in them. “If there is a company that interests you, check their website and apply. Never feel that you, especially if you are a person of color or as a woman, are underqualified for the job.
“Even if you only have one of the qualifications, you might fit. During my internship at Intuit, I was the only 19-year-old undergraduate in all my meetings. The rest of the interns in the policy department were in law school. You are qualified.”
When asked about how she manages to balance all her classes, work, and internships into her schedule Islam was candid: “In all honestly, it comes down to the fact that I don't know anything else than juggling 50 things at the same time. I've been doing this since first grade when I started Girl Scouts. It comes down to being best friends with your planner, having your phone glued to your hand, and having a support system that gets your brand on crazy—while encouraging you to have a break every so often.”