Internship and Research Experiences as an Undergraduate

by Andrey Sazonov (2016 BA International Relations)

Internships and research are central components of the college experience. Such opportunities allow students to gain vital skills while engaging in work related to a specific sphere of interest. In my case, internships and research helped me determine what career I would like to pursue in the future and allowed me to expand my expertise on topics I am passionate about. Most importantly, however, these experiences allowed me to meet incredible people who have made a significant impact on my professional and academic performance.

In the fall of 2014 I started working as an intern in the office of Congressman Dave Loebsack. During this semester-long internship I worked side by side with the office staff and was responsible for interacting with vising constituents and agencies, writing letters on behalf of the congressman, and completing various day-to-day tasks. This experience turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It allowed to me make a small difference in lives of quite a few constituents and exposed me to the inner workings of a political office. It also gave me a chance to work on projects with the senior staff members and attend a number of political and fundraising events.

The next opportunity I decided to take advantage of was an internship with the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC). In this capacity, I was responsible for developing program announcements and attendance lists in addition to assisting with correspondence, membership, and fundraising materials. Furthermore, I helped organize weekly luncheon lectures that involved expert speakers from various professional fields. One of the major advantages of ICFRC is that it gives its interns the valuable opportunity to interact with speakers prior to the event. It also fosters the development of skills any employer would deem essential.


After serving as an intern at ICFRC for two semesters I was able to apply my honed skills and knowledge to my newly obtained positon as a programming intern at the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC). This particular opportunity was unique in the sense that it allowed me to contribute to the promotion of citizen diplomacy in Iowa. I helped draft a number of proposals, organized visits of numerous international delegations, and escorted international visitors to meetings throughout Johnson County. As a consequence, I gained experience that further prepared me to take a more senior role at the Kennan Institute.

During the summer of 2016 I worked as a Staff Assistant at the Kennan Institute—a division of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. This internship proved to be one of the most rewarding professional and academic experiences in my college career. I worked side-by-side with some of the most well-known Russia experts and was provided with numerous opportunities to engage in research, write briefings for senior staff members, and assist with administrative tasks. One of the most important parts of this internship was the opportunity to experience the working culture of a think tank and witness its day-to-day operations and activities. Overall, this experience reinforced my desire to pursue a career in which I would contribute to the debate regarding the future of the US-Russia relations.

While internships certainly provide benefits to undergraduate students, research opportunities are incredibly valuable as well. Over the years of my college experience I learned that research work proved to be integral to my academic development. During the Summer of 2015 I was serving as a research assistant to Professor Brian Lai and to Professor Kelly Kadera. As a consequence, I engaged in research that contributed to long-term projects being developed by the department faculty. Over the summer of 2016 I also started serving as an ICRU fellow and I have continued to work with Professor Brian Lai and Professor Nicholas Martini on the project that focuses on analysis of public opinion regarding foreign policy in Russia. Over the past few months I discovered and analyzed a number of fascinating trends in Russian public opinion and I’m certainly looking forward to contributing to this project further.

While Iowa City may not be a center of international and political activity – it certainly offers amazing opportunities for students who are interested in such areas. There are numerous ways to get involved in political and campaign work, in addition to several internationally-oriented organizations and groups. Engage in research with professors who share your area of interest, look for internships and opportunities to attend conferences, get involved with a student organization and the Honors Program – all these activities will allow you to expand your network and obtain experience that will be invaluable in the future.