2 Hands-On Internships Wildcats Completed This Spring

What does an internship look like at Johnson & Wales University? Well, anything, really. Here, two Wildcats share the very different ways they spent their Spring 2024 semesters, from gaining federal law enforcement knowledge to helping an insurance carrier reach new customers.

Learning Federal Law Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security

Criminal Justice major Sofia Tamayo, who plans to graduate JWU in December 2024, learned about a Department of Homeland Security internship through the Criminal and Community Justice group on jwuLink. “They post internship and job opportunities, and I think it is a great resource from Criminal Justice majors,” she notes.

When she began her internship at a DHS office located in Rhode Island, she quickly learned that no day is the same at the government organization.

“We shadow special agents through their days and learn firsthand about their roles and responsibilities,” she explains. “I have been able to observe search and arrest warrant; attend U.S. District Court for initial criminal defendant appearances, hearings and federal sentencings; even participate in firearms training and qualifications.”

“It has been such an amazing experience and has really solidified for me that I want to go into federal law enforcement,” she states.

Applying JWU Skills to Homeland Security

Sofia found her criminal procedure and criminal law classes to be very relevant in her internship.

“Coming into the internship already having an understanding of the court processes both locally and federally was really helpful,” she says. “I am a visual learner, so to be able to apply what I have learned in class to seeing the court process firsthand has helped me really grasp the concepts all together.”

She adds, “I would also say the Career Management course that all students must take helped me in performing well in my interview for the intern position."

Impacting Others through Her Internship

Sofia experienced a very proud moment during her internship, although for confidentiality reasons she cannot reveal details. “I assisted agents in a child exploitation case. I can’t talk much about the specifics, but it was a really rewarding experience knowing that I was able to help connect some of the dots. I think the work they do particularly with child exploitation is so important, and they take it very seriously.”

How Agents Help Interns Like Sofia Grow

“Every agent at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been so helpful throughout my internship,” Sofia notes. “On slower days, they didn’t hesitate to reach out to me and the other intern and show us the case that they’re currently working on and the investigative steps that they have taken so far. I have learned so much from them and I am so appreciative of everyone who works at the Providence office, especially my intern supervisors who have ensured that we have a great experience.”

a photo of Sofia Tamayo '24 smiling while posing in front of a Department of Homeland Security seal and flags
“It has been such an amazing experience and has really solidified for me that I want to go into federal law enforcement,” says Sofia Tamayo '24 of her internship experience at the Department of Homeland Security.

She also appreciates a unique experience in career development that her internship site provided. “We went through a ‘mock application’ where we applied to a fake job posting and they walked us through each step of the application process,” she says. “We worked on our résumés, did a mock interview, and even participated in a physical fitness test to see if we were qualified. This was so helpful, and now I feel more confident for when I do apply to a federal law enforcement agency.”

She holds deep appreciation to her internship site for their guidance. “As I have said before, this has been an amazing experience,” she reiterates. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

What’s Next for Sofia

After JWU, Sofia hopes to work somewhere within federal law enforcement. “Ideally, I would love to work with HSI, but they have job openings at specific times throughout the year. I might try and get my foot in the door in any organization that has special agent openings. I have been specifically looking at either Secret Service or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). I just plan on trying to apply to any and everything as soon as I can!”

Developing Sales Skills at Aflac

Aflac is billed (pardon the pun on their duck mascot) as America’s most recognized supplemental insurance company. Brian Miller ’24, a Business Administration major, found an Aflac internship opportunity on JWU’s Handshake platform and wanted to spend his last semester at JWU working for the well-known company.

Immersion in the Insurance World

Brian knew one thing about his internship: he didn’t want it to be 100% remote. He asked to be able to work in the office, and he was usually there four days a week while working one day remotely.

“I was selling supplemental insurance, so my job would be to prospect, which including cold calling businesses and setting up meetings,” he explains. “Every Monday, Aflac held regionwide prospecting sessions where you could learn from other people that were way more experienced. You could also function as a walk-in, so I would visit locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. I would walk in and say that I’m with Aflac and I’d ask for a meeting about supplemental insurance.”

photo of an Aflac sign in front of an Aflac company office
"Aflac is a great place for internships," concludes Brian Miller '24

In addition to prospecting and attending meetings, Brian would keep busy, including adding a bit of graphic design experience by making flyers. “I was not just sitting behind a desk,” he explains. “Getting hands-on experience and being face-to-face with people was important to me.”

Most days, he drove 70 minutes from Rhode Island to Aflac’s office in Devens, Massachusetts, and every other Monday he would double that commute, driving to an Aflac office in Nashua, New Hampshire. “It was well worth going in,” he says. “I can’t get that type of experience at home. I was able to really listen to and connect with colleagues.”

Applying JWU Skills at Aflac

Brian says that he improved his social skills at JWU, which served him well in his internship. “I was already a social person before coming to JWU, but lots of classes required presentations, so I really had to expand those skills,” he explains. “Plus, it was helpful knowing what certain things mean, like APR and ROI. I didn’t have to ask for explanations because I had learned those terms at JWU, as well as knowing the software such as Excel spreadsheets. That’s huge for onboarding, as I was already a step ahead.”

“I took different electives such as Political Science, and I really think that general knowledge of the world makes it easier to comingle with coworkers,” Brian adds. “It’s good to learn about more than your major to connect with people, especially in sales where you talk to business owners and need to relate to them. Knowledge of people and how things work — you get that at JWU.”

Achieving an Internship Goal

Brian’s goal was to set up meetings that gave his district manager an opportunity to sell insurance. “It’s a hard job to get in the door,” he explains. “On my fourth day there and first day doing walk-ins, my coworker and I were both new. At one of first businesses, I was able to make an appointment for our district manager. It was really cool to accomplish that.”

Brian’s internship also taught him about persistence. “It’s very difficult to sell insurance, especially over the phone,” he reveals. “You get denied a lot, but you learn not to get discouraged. When you do achieve getting your boss in to do a presentation, overcoming that hurdle, you have gotten new business for company, and that feels great.”

Internship Guidance at Aflac

Brian is appreciative of his boss, Kyle, who has been great throughout his internship. “He made everyone feel welcome,” Brian shares. “There were lots of new employees, and Kyle and Dave were the perfect supervisors to have for an internship. They understood that we were commuting, or that we might be working around things like soccer practice, and they were really flexible. Aflac is a great place for internships.”

What’s Next for Brian

Brian will be entering a one-year master’s program after graduating from JWU, so he won’t be seeking a full-time job until the fall of 2025. “I’m not sure I want to go directly into cold calling sales, but feel I have good experience and my skill set fits,” he notes. “Aflac invited me to come back whenever I wanted, and it’s great to have that option. Now I know for sure that something with sales and marketing is suited to my skills.”


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