Elizabeth Manriquez is a first-year intern with the DME program and is part of the Born to Battle podcast transcription team. For Elizabeth, transcription is very “relaxing” and “meditative” compared to her college classes. In high school, Elizabeth was the Salutatorian for her graduating class during the pandemic and remembers the strange graduation she had online with her class. Elizabeth currently studies biochemistry at Texas University at Austin. Elizabeth wants to research medicine when she graduates and go to medical school.

Elizabeth is one of our youngest interns at DME and says that waking up to morning Slack messages makes her happy to be with this internship. Her advice for people who are unsure what a virtual internship is like is to not be worried about the worst possible outcomes but focus on the positive things, like the community of other interns who have also been through the uncertainty of joining a new internship. 

Use the audio player to listen to Elizabeth’s full interview, or read the transcript below:


Shannon Moran: The Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse or officially sanction any entities that may be discussed in this podcast, nor any media products or services they may provide. Hello and welcome to the intern podcast here with the Department of Digital Media Engagement. My name is Shannon Moran, and I am an intern and Executive Team Leader here with DME. I help run multiple podcasts within our platform, and host this one as well. We work really hard to make sure that you, the listener, get to learn more about what we do here within our DME program, tour fellow interns, and hopefully you can learn more about the other departments that we have within our program, and maybe compel you to apply if you are not an intern with us. That being said, I hope you enjoy!

Today we are talking to Elizabeth. This is her first year being a DME intern with us. She is a part of the Borne the Battle podcast transcription team. In high school she was the salutatorian as well as winning a state competition on National History Day. She has incredibly critical thinking and communication skills, and now she attends the University of Texas at Austin and is a major of biochemistry. She grew up in Texas, she is inspired by her family, and she has a great motto which is “Win or lose, it won’t be because I didn’t try.” She is currently the process of transitioning from coffee to tea, but coffee does the job when she needs it to! Today we are so excited to talk to Elizabeth. How are you today?

Elizabeth Manriquez: I’m good. Thank you for having me

SM: No problem, I’m very excited! I am not good at the transition from coffee to tea. I think I need a perpetual coffee IV into my arm. How did you find the internship?

EM: I found the internship through VSFS. I didn’t know of that beforehand but it came in an email through my college so because I read that email I’m here now!

SM: How do you like being a transcriptionist?

EM: I really like being a transcriptionist. I find that it’s very meditative because I can just transcribe what I am hearing. I don’t have to think, and I am listening to someone’s story that makes me feel very relaxed. I have to use a lot of thinking when I am doing other things in college, but when I transcribe I can just relax, listen to the person’s story, learn something. I actually, it relieves a lot of stress. I cried like 3 times listening to the podcast I was transcribing

SM: That’s fantastic. Yeah it’s, the transcriptionist, as far as on the hosting side, is so so important to what we do and making sure that episodes occur the way they need to. So you’re a biochemistry major. How did you decide on that field?

EM: I decided on biochem because it’s the branch between biology and chemistry. When I looked into what biochemists learn about it was mostly around proteins, and it’s something that a biochemistry degree could branch into many different fields. LIke forensic science, or medicine, just being the groundwork for going into medical school, or doing research. So I thought that was a good starting point for me to figure out more in depth where I want to take my future.

SM: That’s fantastic! I really, that’s fantastic that you found that and that you enjoy it so much. So what are you most excited about with being a part of this internship?

EM: Being a part of this internship, I think it’s a very good opportunity for, first of all, applying to this was a very big step for me. I was finally being a grown up and trying to seek opportunities instead of letting them come to me. Being a part of this internship I’m learning, I’m developing my skills in responsibility, time management. I was pleasantly surprised when I first entered the slack channel to find such a welcoming community. I’m definitely trying to make more connections and… it relaxed me a little with my nerves. The environment, even though it’s virtual, it’s very welcoming.

SM: You’re one of our younger interns, not that that means anything. But you just graduated this past spring, correct? From high school? How was it graduating high school in the middle of a global pandemic?

EM: Graduating high school in the middle of a pandemic felt like you weren’t graduating high school. Because everything kind of stopped, it wasn’t anything you had pictured your graduation would be. The end of the year didn’t happen so you had to paint a new picture of what graduation was and… yes… virtual learning… I’m working on it.

SM: Aren’t we all! So you were the salutatorian. Did you have to give a speech virtually?

EM: It was virtually, yes, but for the recording I had to go to the same location as the graduation would take place so I could say my speech and it would be recorded. But yes, our graduation took place virtually and they compiled our videos together to make a presentation.

SM: Wow. That’s crazy. So what has been your favorite project that you’ve gotten to work on so far?

EM: My favorite project so far is definitely my transcribing the podcast episode 174 because, I would like to clarify, I said I cried earlier from listening to the podcast. That’s not because I was stressed or anything, but when I was listening to their story it got very emotional at one point. The chairman of the board of directors from wreaths across america, an organization that puts wreaths in honor of veterans who have passed away. The main ceremony takes place at Arlington. I felt like this podcast was made for me to be my first project to work on because I actually have gotten the chance to visit Arlington. I was in 8th grade, and connected back to my National History Fair Competition. Because I was able to compete past states and at a national level I had to travel to Washington DC. While I was there I visited Arlington and, yes, veteran Wayne Hanson mentioned that if you haven;t been to Arlington you wouldn’t get it. While you are there… there’s so many feelings while you are there amongst the sea of markers with the names of our veterans who have passed. So, yes. Transcribing episode 174 of Borne the Battle — You should listen to it! This is a plug! It’s been my favorite project at this internship.

SM: I really love how often trips people have in high school, or even younger, to Washington DC, New York, wherever… how that can change what they’re doing beyond. It’s really fascinating. So what has been your favorite things about this internship so far?

EM: Like I mentioned previously, I like the fact that the community, the team, even though its virtual it is still recognizably very supportive. That’s an environment that I love being in. I wake up every morning to the slack channel just notifying me of all the times. “Good morning! You can do this, we got this!”

SM: So many good morning text messages!

EM: So it’s just, it’s so nice to have people that are wishing you good morning, telling you you got this. I also enjoy the working environment. It’s very helpful to have different channels categorized. Interns, there’s chances for interns to help with other projects that aren’t necessarily the ones they are assigned to. I didn’t really know that was possible so I thought that was really cool. The fact that there’s days sectioned off for helping with resumes or making Linkedin Connections I thought was very helpful. I wouldn’t know how to do that without there being a supportive environment on the slack channel and this internship.

SM: Yeah! I imagine especially, you just started college, I imagine you’re learning a lot very quickly that most of us didn’t figure out for a little while so that’s awesome. So most internships, before the pandemic, involved going to an office, what have you, for a couple days a week for maybe 5 or 6 hours. But this internship is virtual, it’s always been virtual. So explain to me what your experience with a virtual internship was like for anybody that’s maybe listening or thinking about applying but maybe isn’t sure what it’s like to have a virtual internship or any of our fellow interns that could learn something about your process and how you time manage a virtual internship.

EM: I know that for most people that were in my shoes or that just got to college and just graduated, taking the step to apply to something like a virtual internship probably feels overwhelming and out of their reach. But even though it may feel that way it is very inmportnat to just try. Just give it a shot. I didn’t think I would get picked and now I have this amazing opportunity that I am very grateful for. Just give it some time and apply. Believe in yourself just a little bit, just enough. If youre wondering what a virtual internship feels like, it doesn’t feel as scary as i had conjured up in my head. I thought it was going to be very… I don’t know. I don’t know what I was thinking. Your mind, our mind just conjures up the worst possible outcome but as soon as I got to meeting other interns, other people on our team, communicating with them virtually, it’s… it’s great. I really appreciate this internship, it’s really helping me not be afraid of communicating, of asking questions, and being supportive of others. So virtual internships are just as great as in person ones. 

SM: So that’s why we take internships is to learn and ask questions. We do work for free but in return, we have no idea what we’re doing so it’s really great. So what are your goals for this internship? Once you have finished what do you hope to have done or learned?

EM: After this internship I hope to leave as a more confident person. I want to make more connections, which I think this internship is definitely helpful. I’m not quite at the stage of having resumes. I don’;t even know where I would be applying with a resume. So this internship is something I would be proud to put on my resume. And I want to make sure that I do enough while I am here that I can put on my resume that I was an intern at the VA, DME intern. I put in work, I was a helpful team member, so after this internship I want to be able to say that I built upon the skills that I already have, and I learned some new ones. And I made some connections.

SM: So of course there’s so many things that make this internship worthwhile outside of your resume. So what do you want to do after this internship? What do you want to do in your next three years of college, and after?

EM: Well I am…. I will start off by saying I am currently… I took advantage of this program at my college called the Freshman Research Initiative. SO basically that program allows first years, or freshman at college to get a chance to work and participate in research. Research is something that I am interested in after college and while in college, but it is usually reserved for graduate students. When I heard of that it was something I was very happy existed. It’s basically there to help others learn early on if research is something they could be interested in in the future. If not then they can find their path while they still have time in college. As of now I am interested in doing research, and also interested in medicine. I might apply to medical school afterwards, or I would go straight into research about diseases such as HIV, malaria, cancers, and other things. I also want to research about improving some of the scientific processes for some therapies and other treatments that might exist about those diseases. So those are my career goals as of now is research, medicine.

SM: Those are such incredible goals. So what is your advice to someone who either is thinking about applying to this internship, or someone who is just starting and might be nervous?

EM: My advice would be: if you’re applying just give it a shot. I know that it’s very intimidating to apply to anything since you are putting yourself out there. Sometimes putting it out there feels a little uncomfortable, but that’s… it has to be done. So just give it a shot, take some time to try your best, then you might get here. And if you are here and you’re nervous just take a deep breath, it’s going to be ok. I promise. I promise that it’s ok. You just have to reach out, introduce yourself, say hello. Nobody is going to attack you.

SM: So, to wrap this up, thank you so much this has been so much fun. Tell me a fun fact about yourself!

EM: One of them is is very out of here. I was trying to think of a fun fact before and I couldn’t really think of anything, but my fun fact is that I have held tarantulas, turtles, and snakes before. So that’s one. A second one would be that my favorite genre of music is K pop.

SM: Well thank you so much Elizabeth, this was great! I know we have some people that will learn a ton from this episode. Thank you so much!

EM: Thank you for tuning into the DME interns podcast. We hope you learned something about your fellow interns, more about our program, and that you come back and listen to us soon. Have a great rest of your day!