Meet UD student and State Department intern Megan Fuglestad
Megan Fuglestad is a University of Delaware senior majoring in international relations, Chinese studies and Asian studies with a minor in history. On campus, she is involved in numerous student-run organizations including the International Relations Club, the College Democrats and the Wesley Foundation, and she participates in the Department of Political Science and International Relations’ Ambassadors program. Outside UD, Fuglestad has built a resume that showcases her language and cultural skills. She’s held four internships at the U.S. Department of State and hopes to gain a position there after graduation.
She described why she was attracted to international relations and what she has learned from her internships.
Q: What drew your attention to foreign languages and majoring in international relations?
Fuglestad: I've always been interested in learning other languages — I think it's really fun. In middle school, I had to take a foreign language and I took Chinese. I ended up absolutely loving it and I've taken it ever since. As I got into high school and I started learning more about politics and foreign policy, I discovered international relations and decided that that's what I wanted to do.
Q: Tell us about your internships.
Fuglestad: I first applied for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs because I speak Chinese and China is my main interest. I was placed in the Office of Public Diplomacy. I didn't know much about public diplomacy or about communications; I was just happy to be there. But later, I figured out that I loved public diplomacy. I love working at the State Department. I like the government's mission, through public diplomacy, of promoting and making people more knowledgeable about U.S. foreign policy. And that has grown to be my focus area. Since then, I've held three other internships at the State Department, all of which focused, in one way or another, on communications and public diplomacy.
Q: What were some of your most rewarding experiences at your internships and what did you learn from them?
Fuglestad: During my first internship, I was able to help with a lot of the State Department's efforts in promoting our values and U.S. foreign policy in East Asia and the Pacific. I learned a lot more about East Asia beyond just China, which was really exciting. This past summer, I interned in what's called the Global Engagement Center at the State Department, which is the State Department’s center for countering foreign propaganda and disinformation. It was a new side of communications and public diplomacy that I had not seen before. I was in the China Division and I spent the summer analyzing Chinese propaganda and disinformation. One of the reports I got to help with analyzed, in detail, China's attempts to cover up genocide in Xinjiang. The report included very specific information about Chinese efforts to do a widespread disinformation campaign to deny culpability. That was really exciting because you could immediately see the real-world impacts of our work. Then I was an intern in the Office of China Coordination with the Strategic Communications Unit, so I got to continue my previous work and help to make sure the State Department, well, really the whole U.S. government, has a united voice on what our policy is on China. I also help track actions taken by the Chinese government in the United States. So over time, I’ve gotten to narrow my focus at the State Department, which has been really rewarding. I’ve also benefited from meeting many people who have helped me understand the different career opportunities in international relations.
Q: What advice about internships would you share with other students?
Fuglestad: Don’t be afraid to apply for opportunities, even if you think you are underqualified. I was definitely underqualified for my first State Department internship, but on my application I showed that I was really passionate and that I was able to apply skills that I had learned, either in class or in volunteer opportunities, and be able to excel.
Q: What do you see yourself doing next?
Fuglestad: I am hoping to work for the State Department. My ultimate goal is to join the Foreign Service and work abroad. I'm thankful that through my internships I've made a lot of contacts with people at the State Department who are so nice and so willing to give me advice and help me along the way. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.