When Ivy Tech Valparaiso student Emily Mueller first saw an email about the fall 2017 White House internship program, she was intrigued, especially since she had never had an internship before.
Then the thoughts began to roll in.
“Surely I’m not the only one filling this out…”
“I’m not qualified to do this…”
Mueller reached out to Ivy Tech Community College’s Career Development right away, as they noted in the email they would assist interested students through the application process. They gave her tips for submitting the application and she even had a conference call with Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College.
With the due date quickly approaching, Mueller knew she had to make a decision, but was still feeling unsure. However, three days before the deadline, while on vacation with her family in Tennessee, she made her final decision. She knew she had to apply.
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” she thought.
One month later, Mueller was ecstatic when she received notification she was chosen for the internship. Little did she know this would become a life changing experience—all while she was gearing up for her second semester at Ivy Tech.
Not only would this be Mueller’s first time traveling to Washington D.C., but it would be her first time living away from her family, too. She knew there would be quite an adjustment having to step away from her part-time job, taking classes in an actual classroom and helping her parents with her younger brother. Regardless, she was beyond excited for this new adventure.
Mueller eagerly packed her bags and moved to Washington D.C. in August, giving herself a week to get acclimated to the new city. She began her role as a White House intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in September, and hit the ground running.
“I read incoming mail from constituents from all over the country, and mail from other countries too,” Mueller said. “My job was to read through and see what it was about.”
Prior to receiving mail, each letter is carefully inspected for safety precautions. From there, she and the other correspondence department interns read and categorized them.
“It’s probably one of the best places to be an intern because you can see the opinions and viewpoints of the American people,” Mueller explained. “You see a lot of interesting things, sometimes even shed a tear. Every piece of mail and email is different. You never know what you’re going to get. It could be an 80-year-old lady or a four-year-old kid learning how to write.”
In addition to her internship, Mueller took three online classes to be one step closer to her Business Administration degree from Ivy Tech. It kept her busy as she worked Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or sometimes later, for her internship.
“I set aside time over the weekend, after work or even during my lunchbreak to make it a priority,” she said. “It takes having time management skills, for sure.”
This internship was an eye-opening experience for Mueller in more ways than one. It allowed her to experience being on her own where made new friends, networked and volunteered. She is extremely complimentary of her supervisor, who ensured interns had plenty of opportunities to be active and learn during their time in Washington D.C.
“They made sure we gave back to the community and volunteered,” Mueller explained. “I was in correspondence, but there are 19 different departments and 100 other interns that you don’t see.”
To further assist them during their journey, Mueller and the other interns were able to receive letters of recommendation from supervisors, as well as assistance with their resumes.
In the small amount of free time she had between her internship and classes, Mueller enjoyed her time in Washington D.C. Even though it is a large city, she explained it has a small town feel in many ways, which she loves.
Mueller concluded her internship on December 8, then came back to her home in Valparaiso. She will continue her studies at Ivy Tech in the spring and pick up where she left off as secretary of the Student Government Association on her campus. She also plans to join the Kappa Beta Delta International Honor Society.
Mueller anticipates to finish classes for her associate degree in the summer of 2018, then would like to transfer to Valparaiso University for her bachelor’s degree.
After her bachelor’s, she would love to go back and work in Washington D.C.
“I love it! I love the people and the connections I’ve made. There are so many opportunities here.”
Until then, Mueller will enjoy being a student and getting back to her day-to-day, especially at Ivy Tech. She looks forward to being in a physical classroom again.
Since coming to Ivy Tech, Mueller loves how convenient and flexible the College is. She had previously attended a four-year university and felt it was not a great fit for her, so she decided to try Ivy Tech. She was glad she did and hopes others consider it too.
“The teachers care and want you to succeed,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my professors, I wouldn’t have even known about this opportunity.”
Mueller advises all students to have at least one internship while in school.
“It will help you in more ways than one,” she said. “Not just about your internship, but about yourself. You will network and connect, make lifelong friends and it is experience you’re gaining that you can’t get any other way.”
When it comes to overall advice, Mueller said to never second guess things, as she once did when trying to decide to apply for the White House internship program.
“If you want something, then go for it. Don’t even think about it. If you see something and are drawn to it, do everything you can to make it yours. I almost didn’t apply because I didn’t think I had what it took—but I realize that thought was ridiculous and the worst thing is they say no. You can’t think what if, you just have to do it.”