This week, we get advice from Hannah Hindel, 21, a graduate of Myers Park High. Hannah now attends Williams College in Massachusetts and is majoring in Chinese and international relations. She is spending her summer as a full-time intern for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Q: What is a typical day interning for Sen. Gillibrand?
I work in the Constituent Affairs Department, which is responsible for responding to constituents requests for Sen. Gillibrands help. We help constituents access benefits and services from federal government agencies. Much of my time is spent working on issues related to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Q: What has been most rewarding?
Hearing the gratitude in peoples voices when we tell them weve resolved a problem that seemed impossible to solve.
Q: What is most surprising about the internship?
Discovering the breadth and scope of topics we can look into.
Q: What is the greatest obstacle youve ever had to overcome?
Adjusting to life in China during my first week of studying abroad last year. I took one year of Chinese at Williams. I was accepted to the best Chinese language program in Beijing ACC, which is run by Hamilton College.
Q: How did you overcome that challenge?
One of the most important parts of that program was an ironclad language pledge, which stated that as soon as we arrived in Beijing, we could only speak Chinese, lest we get sent back to the USA. I was completely overwhelmed by Beijing and I didnt know how to overcome that challenge. After a few days of solitude, I decided to throw myself in head-first and go for a walk on one of the busier streets near my school, Minzu University of China. To my surprise, I was able to keep up a basic conversation with a nearby food vendor. A few weeks later, my language skills had improved to the point that I relished a chance to go outside and interact with fellow Beijingers. I cant wait to go back to China.
Q: What is a motto you tend to live by?
I have a necklace that my mom gave me that says Think outside the box. I think its some of the best advice I have ever gotten.
Q: What character trait of yours was most responsible for your success?
Perseverance. Whether its a task at work or an assignment at Williams, my will to persevere and deal with seemingly insurmountable problems has yielded extremely positive results. I have never been one to give up, sometimes to a fault, but that spirit is one I would encourage others to find within themselves.
Q: Whats the best thing to say when you walk into a room full of people you dont know?
When I was in high school, I competed in Student Congressional Debate. It was always intimidating to be judged by a room full of strangers, so for my first speech I would always introduce myself by saying, Hey, yall! Sometimes, it doesnt hurt to let yourself stand out!
Q: What career do you hope to pursue?
Ever since I started studying political science, I have seen myself working in the State Department after graduation. My immediate plans are to attend law school and then after I graduate to take the Foreign Service Exam and (hopefully) work in Asia for a few years.
Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?
I got to pet a cheetah when I was in South Africa with the Williams Choir (in) January.