Alexys Santiago is a second-year student at Gallaudet University, a private university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C. Santiago is currently majoring in public health and is considering becoming an audiologist or researcher when she enrolls in graduate school. Santiago is part of the research team at the DME internship. Her responsibility as a research intern entails finding articles about veterans, verifying them with other sources to determine whether the articles are plagiarized or not. She says that communication on Slack is important for fostering a better community with fellow interns. 

Use the audio player to listen to Alexys’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!

Mercedes Hesselroth: Hi Alexys! Can you start by introducing yourself, and your role within the Digital Media Engagement Team?

Alexys Santiago: I’m Alexys Santiago. I’m a second year at Gallaudet University for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. My major is public health. I want to become an audiologist for hearing aids, and I’m in the Veterans Affairs department as an intern for research.

MH: Is your university in person, or online this semester

AS: It’s online this semester.

MH: So you’re both completing classes online, and doing this internship online. How has that experience been?

AS: I think it’s pretty hard and easy at the same time. So for school online it would be hard to ask questions and get your answers. The internship is really easy for me, I like it so far. I just have to pick projects, read them, and research on it. I think it’s just… it’s been going steady. I just started my semester so far it’s going steady.

MH: Can you talk a bit more about the type of projects that you would be picking up as a researcher?

AS: So I just picked a veteran article. I just research what’s the right… what’s the right… what’s that word. Plagiarized. I make sure that the article is not plagiarized. I tell the person that’s in charge of the researcher internship what I do, and I tell them this article is good, it’s not plagiarized. It doesn’t need to be fixed or anything. That’s kinda what I do for every project. 

MH: So how have you been balancing that workload between all the articles you need to read and your schoolwork?

AS: I just use a calendar. I know when my class is. I know when I should do the internship. You do 10 hours a week, it doesn’t matter when. So I just finish class then I do the internship.

MH: So for the kinds of projects you’re working on, how long would you say it takes per article?

AS: Per article? It depends. If it’s a short article it would take like three hours. I would have to do another article. If it’s a long one I always say like eight hours. But again, I have to do ten hours a week, so I normally do around two articles a week.

MH: So with the kinds of projects that you’ve been working on so far, can you give some examples of team communication you’ve had to do? Have you had to interact with the writing department? Have you had to correspond with the head of the research department?

AS: That really… I just… I have only done two articles so far since I started a few weeks ago. So I did two veterans. So I just had to read the article and check that everything is right. That’s really all I did so far.

MH: When you’re fact checking, what kinds of resources are you using to verify that everything in the article is true?

AS: I’m not really a “fact checker” but I’ve been using Trello. You just click on the articles and they give us a link to the articles. I just read through them and research and check google about the veterans. I go back and forth between google and trello, where the article iss at. I just make sure that the veteran, anything that he has said is true.

MH: So how, if at all, does this internship experience compare with what you want to do when you finish school?

AS: It relates to my major, public health. I’m not sure if I want to do audiology research on hearing aids, or other fields. So this is something I want to try. So far I like it, so maybe if I want to become an audiologist researcher I have this veteran affairs research on my resume and people think “Oh that’s really good.” But just for now I’m just looking around to see what I want to be in the audiologist field.

MH: It’s great that you can test the waters before you graduate. What kinds of skills have you been developing?

AS: I have to make sure every sentence is not plagiarized. If an article says something, but another article says something else then I have to report to my head researcher. That’s the skill that I have to do. That’s pretty much it, I just have to research them.

MH: So this is your first research position, and the internship is completely online. How does that compare to the past jobs and internships that you’ve had before?

AS: Well this is actually my first internship.

MH: As someone in an entry level position, what skills are you learning that you’ll be able to take on in other jobs?

AS: I learned that to be correct is really important. It goes out to the world so you have to make sure that it’s accurate.

MH: So what drew you to working for the Dept of Veteran’s Affairs specifically?

AS: There’s a lot of people in my family working for the VA. I wanted to see how researchers work. So I was looking at VSFS, and I saw the VA for researcher so I just picked that.

MH: What advice would you give a potential intern who is looking on that same website wondering if this is the internship for them?

AS: I would say that they should do it. It’s worth it and really fun. You’ll learn a lot. I’m in my second week and I really like it. It’s really easy on me. They let me do things on my own, they just tell me to pick an article and research it. For the future intern I would just tell them it’s worth it. It’s fun, it’s not hard, and it’s something they really wnat you to enjoy.

MH: So you mentioned having fun on the job.

AS: Yeah

MH: Is there still a sense of community you feel with the research team even though everything is virtual?

AS: Yeah! We communicate through Slack. Even when I have questions or when I need help I go through Slack. It’s a really nice community we’re in there.

MH: Can you talk us through the process of applying for this internship.

AS: So I went to Virtual Student Federal Service. I went in there and they had different kinds of jobs. I picked three jobs and explained to them why I wanted to be in it, and why I wanted the internship for my future. I submitted three to those three groups, and the one that I’m in now replied to me saying that I got in. So I just continued.

MH: You mentioned earlier that you have a lot of family that works in the VA. Can you talk more about what they do?

AS: It’s my cousins. I’m not super close with them but I know they work in the VA. They did medical. My uncle, he helped the VA get their money. I’m not sure what department that is. Then my other cousin, she is a VA audiologist. She has to travel sometimes. That’s about it.

MH: What would you say is the most significant problem that veterans face once they return home?

AS: There’s two articles that I read. They said that they came home and they had to go to therapy a lot because they were thinking about the war. They had to take a lot of alone time just to get back on life.

MH: Can you talk a bit more about how you chose your major, and how that field of study is related to the audiologist position that you might want in the future?

AS: I chose my major because it was the only major I can get into the college I’m into. Also it can help me get into graduate school. I was supposed to be in Communication Studies but at my school they had Public Health so I went with that. So far I like it.

MH: How did you choose Public Health over Communication Studies?

AS: Well I knew audiologists had to be communications or public health to get the degree.

MH: What interests you about public health, especially now during a pandemic?

AS: There’s a lot. I like how… I’m in public health class right now. We talk about everything going on around the world and I’m really interested in that. It’s a really cool thing where other people’s opinion about everything that’s going on and talking about it.

MH: So how did you choose Gallaudet as the university you wanted to attend?

AS: Since I am hard of hearing, Gallaudet is the best school for me. It’s smaller classes which makes me focus more. I heard it from… I went to a camp for deaf and hard of hearing and that’s where I heard it from.

MH: What kinds of graduate programs are you looking at right now, since you want to become an audiologist?

AS: I am not sure. But I do know that I want to get my IUD.

MH: Can you talk more about that degree program?

AS: I think when I go to graduate school I will learn more about the audiologist field. Like what do you do as an audiologist and what is in the field. There’s a lot of different fields so that’s what I know so far.

MH: How has it been different doing classes online this semester instead of in person like you normally would be?

AS: So in person is really more about getting together and we are in a signing community. So we always have to get together in class. On zoom it’s a little hard. Sometimes we will miss what the teacher is signing. It’s a lot of questions that students are asking so I can never ask mine. I just prefer it in person, but for health online is better.

MH: Given your background in public health, what would you say the impact of the pandemic has been on your university community?

AS: My college is in DC so I would say that it’s better to be online than in person for now. And my college is closed until further notice.

MH: Are you still talking to your classmates and friends or has the community been dispersed?

AS: Yes, we do breakout rooms in zoom so that way we can talk. And I have snapchat. I still talk to my friends from college but we miss each other very much.

MH: Alright, thanks so much for talking to me today Alexys. Is there anything else we haven’t covered so far that you wanted to say something about.

AS: Not that I can think of, but you’re welcome.

MH: I was just wondering, once you finish this internship do you think you’ll still be in contact with the veterans community?

AS: Yes.

MH: Thanks for talking to me today.

SM: Thank you for tuning in to the DME intern 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!