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Success Stories

Isabel Otero

Isabel Otero

SPIA: December 2010

Language Assistant at the United States Department of Justice

I was not the type of student who was involved in many activities on campus because I always needed a part time job in order to pay for school. I also have a very close family and couldn't be away from my support system for too long. I went home most weekends, and I worked most afternoons; very quickly I started to feel like an enormous underachiever. I realized that a patchwork of part time jobs may not be enough to get my career started after graduation in 2010. During the Spring Semester of 2009, I decided to make a choice between two great options at UGA.

I wanted to have something substantive on my resume that really allowed me to demonstrate my abilities and knowledge of big policy issues. My first option seemed to be to study abroad. However, I decided to attend one of those "this-is-your-last-chance" sessions for the Washington Semester Program (WSP), and I decided that even though it was short notice that it sounded worth my while to apply. I decided the investment to study and work in D.C. was the best option for my young career, so I was delighted when I was accepted into this great program.

In order to prepare for my internship search, I went straight to the Career Center. I received plenty of help from Shaistha Begum, the SPIA Career Consultant. My resume and cover letter greatly improved before I applied to some internship positions, and my interviews went really well.

Later that summer, I became the first WSP student to land an internship with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) where I would be working in the Civil Rights Division on immigration issues. The internship proved to be a perfect fit. I was excited to work in an office that dealt with a policy issue I was very interested in, and the experience was just what I needed to show off my skills.

I went back to UGA to finish out my last full semester and I started looking for jobs. I only had six credits to take in the summer, and after a brief email exchange with one of the attorneys at my DOJ internship office, I was offered a position as a Language Assistant. So I took my last six credits online, and started my new job in June of 2010. By October of 2010, I was done with my online courses and my degree was in my hands by the New Year.

After about 18 months at that position the federal government’s budget issues began to make me uneasy about my future job prospects. Though I loved the Civil Rights Division, I decided to look for other opportunities. I reached out to my alumni and WSP network, and soon after I was offered a position as a Legal Assistant at Entergy Services Inc., where a fellow WSP alumna also works. Throughout my time at Entergy, I have received more specific training about another policy issue; federal energy regulations and procedures. I have also been lucky enough to experience a great corporate culture.

Recently, I was accepted into The George Washington University, and I will be earning a graduate level certification in paralegal studies. I was also recruited back to the Department of Justice for a federal contractor position as a senior paralegal working in the Civil Rights Division once more. I am excited to return to the office that sparked my young career with a great deal more experience and awareness than before. I made the right choice back in the Spring of 2009, and I would encourage my fellow students to think about their future and follow their passions.