Anna Volin using Russian language skills in State Department internship
University of Delaware senior Anna Volin was supposed to be doing an internship in Kyiv, Ukraine during the spring semester of 2022. In January, she learned that the U.S. State Department internship would become virtual. On Feb. 24, the day after her 22nd birthday, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Volin lost touch with her internship supervisor in Ukraine and she worried about her safety. She also worried about good friends and family, both in Ukraine and over the border in Russia.
With her internship no longer feasible, Volin reached out to a former supervisor from a previous State Department internship. This individual helped her learn about other opportunities and she was soon accepted as an intern in the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Volin speaks fluent Russian and her language skills are being put to good use in supporting communication projects that engage with Russian-speaking populations.
As she was securing this new internship, Volin, along with several other students, worked to plan a rally and fundraiser on The Green to show support for Ukraine, just days after the invasion had occurred.
On a recent afternoon, Volin met virtually to discuss her internship. Even over Zoom, one could sense Volin’s fierce commitment to her work. Her days are long and intense. “I work from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. but I’m often up earlier, on Eastern European time, to connect with people I know back in Ukraine,” said Volin. With a catch in her voice, she added, “I have a good friend in Kyiv, separated from his wife and newborn daughter, and it gives him a lift when I send him photos of Ukrainian flags flying here in Newark.”
Her internship responsibilities include everything from transcribing meeting notes — “typical intern duties,” she said with a laugh — to crafting remarks for senior-level officials for speaking events. “I love writing remarks; I consider it an honor that I have been tapped for that,” she said.
Volin’s internship is being funded by the Experiential Learning Fund. This award is given annually by the UD Department of Political Science and International Relations to a high-achieving undergraduate whose experience/project is anticipated to make the greatest contribution to their future success.
“Anna represents the best qualities of our political science and international relations students,” said David Redlawsk, department chair. “Rather than let the very real challenges that occurred with her internship and the broader circumstances in Ukraine sideline her, she showed resilience in finding another way to continue making a difference.”
And while Volin doesn’t have the travel expenses she had originally expected, she said that the award is still critically important.
“The fund is helping me pay my living expenses while I work this full-time, unpaid internship at the State Department. It allowed me to cut my schedule at my evening job to about 20 hours a week,” she said. “It has given me a cushion of stability that I otherwise would not have had.”
Volin’s grandparents were Russian diplomats stationed in France and she grew up hearing her father talk about life in Paris when he was a boy. Volin hopes to work in the U.S. Foreign Service someday. It’s clear she is making a good impression in her current role. State Department spokesperson Nancy VanHorn said, “Anna represents the very best of the State Department’s internship program. We are grateful to have her on our team and appreciate her dedication during this very important time for U.S. diplomacy.”
With UD Commencement right around the corner, Volin is exploring the possibility of joining the Peace Corps and also is preparing to take the Foreign Service Officer exam. Whichever direction she goes, she will continue to fundraise to support the 11 million-plus people who, according to the U.N., have fled their homes in Ukraine since the conflict began.
“Seeing Americans’ response to this crisis has really been heart-warming,” said Volin. “And I know my friend back in Kyiv feels the same way. I am glad to help in any way I can.”