Maggie is a sophomore majoring in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Mississippi. She’s interested in government and politics, specifically within Latin America and has plans to study abroad there next year. Currently, she works as a writing intern with the Borne the Battle Podcast, America250 and the Intern Blog. Outside of class, she participates in her school’s orchestra, Model UN and writes for the yearbook.
Maggie talks about her main responsibility of writing Veteran of the Day features and America250 articles, which are a Congressionally funded project that highlight veterans every week from now until the 250th anniversary of America. She gives insight into how she balances school, her extracurriculars and her internship, especially by carving out time for specific tasks and making lists each day. Maggie also talks a bit about the specific skills she has gained from her time in the internship, especially in virtual collaboration, time management and prioritizing certain tasks over others.
Lastly, Maggie mentions her favorite projects she has worked on so far, one of which being the opportunity to interview a classmate at her school for Veteran of the Day. Her future career goals include working for the government in a way that incorporates her passion for and skill in writing. Most recently, she has cultivated interests in nonproliferation, arms control agreements and international cooperation, and she hopes that these topics will be present in her future career.
Use the audio player to listen to Maggie’s full interview, or read the transcript below:
(Serena Aguilar): Hello, and welcome to the DME Interns podcast. I’m your host, Serena Aguilar. And I hope you will join me in learning about the DME interns, what they do and what they hope to do in the future.
(Serena Aguilar): Hello, everyone. Today, we have Maggie Thomas with us. Maggie Thomas is a sophomore in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Mississippi. She’s interested in government and politics specifically in Latin America and plans to study abroad there next year. Currently she is with us as a writing intern with the Borne the Battle podcast and America 250, as well as the Intern Blog. Outside of class, she likes to participate in the school’s orchestra, model UN team, and write for the yearbook. Maggie, how are you doing today?
(Maggie Thomas): I’m doing great. How are you?
(Serena Aguilar): I’m doing all right. I’m not sure about you, but over the Northeast has been very, very rainy.
(Maggie Thomas): Yeah. I’m in Mississippi, it’s been cold for the first time this year. Which is pretty great.
(Serena Aguilar): I hate the cold, so I’m a little jealous. So, Maggie, can you tell me a little bit about your role here in the DME Interns team?
(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. So, I am a writing intern. My main role is to write up Veteran of the Day features, which are kind of our main blog posts that go up every single day on the VAntage Point blog. And I also work on some other projects like America 250 which is our congressionally funded research, sorry, a congressionally funded project that is highlighting 250 Veterans every Thursday from now until the 250th anniversary of America. Which is going to be at 2026. So that’s pretty exciting. And I also work for the DME Interns blog, as well. And I write for the Borne the Battle podcast. So, for the podcast, I do social media captions and a blog summary of podcast episodes.
(Serena Aguilar): Wow, you definitely got to handle a lot of things.
(Maggie Thomas): Yeah.
(Serena Aguilar): So, how do you kind of, that is a lot of work and like this sort of podcasts, the sort, sorry, the sort of internship is supposed to be like a minimum of 10 hours a week. And it definitely sounds like you are meeting, if not exceeding that, pretty much weekly. How do you kind of like balance school, your extracurriculars and the internship?
(Maggie Thomas): Something that I kind of make sure to do is like separate my time between school and the internship. Like, if I’m working on the internship, I kind of carve out time where I’m like, okay, the next hour and a half, I’m just going to create like…. I’m really big on list. So at the beginning of every day, I make a list of things that I have to do for both the internship and for school. And so in between my classes, it’s easier for me to work on the internship, but then after all my classes are done, I pretty much dedicate all of my time to schoolwork. And I just make sure that I’m completing like my little to-do lists every day, for both the internship and classes. Lists and working with my calendar, have been really helpful in keeping organized and making sure I’m not missing deadlines for either school or internship.
(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea. I may have to try that. So how did you find the internship?
(Maggie Thomas): So, with my school, my major is like a kind of a separate Institute, like it’s a specialized program and so they send us out like, a lot of information all the time. There’s someone on the staff who, like, their kind of role is to connect us with things like internships and career opportunities. So she sent, she sends out internship information all the time. And over the Summer she sent out an email about the VSFs, the Virtual Federal Service, which is how I heard about this internship. And it seemed like, it seemed pretty interesting. I honestly did not expect to get one. I kind of just applied to just practice applying and like writing application essays, but I heard back about this internship, like really quickly. I’ve heard back like a week after I applied.
(Serena Aguilar): That is pretty good. I think, I think mine was about two weeks-ish. Just cause of the ones I applied for, but yeah, no, I really love the VSFs just because it there’s so many different projects. It is amazing. And it’s not just poly PSI or like international relations people. There are projects about like conservation and people looking for coding and I’m like, oh, that’s pretty, that’s pretty cool.
(Maggie Thomas): It was honestly overwhelming looking at projects. It took me like, several days to even figure out which ones I was going to apply to. But this one sounded the most like interesting to me and like applicable to my skills. So.
(Serena Aguilar): Oh, yeah. And the fact that you can only apply to three VSFs internships, like it’s so stressful. So, what’s been kind of a favorite assignment or project of yours since starting the internship? This can be like an overarching one, or maybe a very specific task that you were assigned to do.
(Maggie Thomas): I think honestly, like, two come to mind. Most recently, so the Veteran of the Day yesterday was Timothy Vitale. And this was a Veteran that actually attends my University. He retired from the service, served in the Navy for 20 years and he, I was able to like connect with him and do an interview with him on zoom. And that’s the only Veteran of the Day so far that I’ve been able to actually interview myself. Most of the other Veteran of the Day that I do are either public submissions, where I basically get a pretty extensive bio and kind of timeline of their military service. And sometimes their LinkedIn, which is really helpful, or I write from the Veterans History Project, which is like a database of a bunch of video interviews and photos from, like Veterans just throughout history, but this, this Veteran of the Day, I got to actually think of like the questions and information that I included in the feature as well as meet him and then kind of talk to him. And so yesterday I got to send him the link to the Veteran of the Day feature and he was really excited about it, which was really, really special to kind of see that the work that I do actually does make people happy and help people because… It’s with a virtual internship, it’s kind of hard to feel connected to the work you do, I feel like. And so it was really nice to feel like a deeper connection sort of to the work. And then the other one for the America 250 and this one hasn’t been posted yet or even finished. But, so I’m from Georgia. I’m from Atlanta. And I got assigned to do an America 250 feature on Jimmy Carter. Who not many people know is like a Navy Veteran. And so, I got to write like a pretty extensive feature about his military history and his, just his career as someone serving our country. And so that was really important cause I’ve learned about Jimmy Carter a lot throughout my life since I’m from Georgia.
(Serena Aguilar): So do you have any like career goals that you’re looking at? Whether that’s like a really, I know that’s a terrifying question, whether that’s like a general sort of scope or a very like specific, like, yes, I want to do this.
(Maggie Thomas): I definitely don’t have a specific career goal in mind. But, as for like my interests, I’m really interested in working for the government. I’m really interested in writing. I think writing is probably like the biggest, like skill that I have to contribute. I definitely want to have a career that incorporates, like writing and working for the government.
One of my interests recently has become, like, international treaties regarding like arms control. I’m taking a class right now called international politics of nuclear weapons, where we learn a lot about nonproliferation efforts and kind of like how America and just the UN security council contributes to those efforts. So, if I could work in a space relating to like arms control or international cooperation, that would be probably ideal.
(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. And there’s definitely room for that. Like, for writing interns, I always feel like if you’re going into something politics, having good writing skills is the basis for everything.
(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. I totally agree. And that’s one of the reasons why I decided to apply for this internship was because, you know, I’ve liked writing my whole life. And I just thought, like, this is a great way to kind of like improve my writing skills. And like, like I’ve talked about, I’m doing a lot of different projects that require a lot of different, like writing styles, not styles, but a lot of different writing skills and certain projects go more in depth about like specific military experiences more than others. Where like, like a Veteran of the Day posts is going to be 300 to 400 words, a very short picture of someone’s, military service and life experiences. Whereas an America 250 is going to be between 400 and 700 words. So, like the scope of writing something that long versus a Veteran of the Day posts versus a Twitter caption for the Borne the Battle podcast, which is, you know, limited to 250 characters. I’ve definitely had to challenge myself a lot and learn a lot of different writing, kind of tricks very quickly. So, it’s been good.
(Serena Aguilar): No, that is very good. I, once one of my favorite professors, she was the first professor I ever had that said, if you give me a paper that is more than four pages, I will deduct points. And that was terrifying.
(Maggie Thomas): We think the writing is so, it’s such a crazy constraint. Like, you just don’t even think about how much you want to write. Like, with some of these Veterans, I get descriptions that are very, very short. And so I have to turn it into something that is a lot longer than what I have, without like editorializing their experiences, of course. Sometimes, I have the opposite. I have an extremely long, like hour and a half interview. Like, oral interview with someone that I have to turn it into something that’s 300 to 400 words. So definitely length is a big constraint within my job. Isn’t it?
(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. And even just having like a portfolio to go into different jobs and different internships with and saying, yes, I wrote these.
These is, this is what I did. This is what I contributed. And you can see it. So, past the kind of writing skills, because we’ve talked about that a little bit. What other skills from the internship do you feel like either you’ve gotten new skills or you’ve kind of refined some old ones that you think are going to help you in the future?
(Maggie Thomas): That’s a pretty good question. I feel like, virtual collaboration is like, like, I know that’s what it says on LinkedIn. That’s a very like, vague term, but I really think that that is a skill that is so difficult to learn, like just becoming literate with Slack and Trello and all of the different websites that we use in this internship. And also, just learning how to communicate with other people, that are in different time zones, that are in different states, different departments, like, doing things like this. Where I’m on like a podcast, I’ve never done this before and I’m much better at setting up meetings, making like small connections with other people that end up being beneficial, in like just work and just kind of like school and all the different types of spaces. There… So virtual collaboration is a big one. Time management organization is also a very vague phrase, but it’s super important. Like, we were talking about managing school versus the 10 hours of this internship has definitely been a challenge. And another thing is kind of like being able to say “no” sort of, like being able to dedicate myself to just like the four projects that I’m involved with and not continuing taking on more and more things. Because as a writing intern, there are so many different teams and opportunities that you can get involved in. And so it has been difficult to kind of hold myself back from stretching myself too thin across multiple different projects. So, I think that’s definitely a skill that’s going to help me personally in life, is just kind of focusing on the things that I’m doing now and getting better at them rather than doing more and more different projects. And that’s been one of the most difficult things to kind of learn.
(Serena Aguilar): Oh yeah. Setting boundaries is so difficult to learn. Because you’ve got to, you’ve got to realize how valuable your time is as well as learning how much time you can devote to something, before you’re stretching yourself too thin. And then you’re not putting through good work.
(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. Yeah.
(Serena Aguilar): So, if you could give advice to people who are either looking into applying for the DME Interns project, or they’re looking just to apply for VSFs in general, what kind of advice would you give future applicants?
(Maggie Thomas): I think that’s something that I thought about while I was applying to different VSFs projects was, what’s a skill that I have that I am good at, but I could improve on and also a skill that is I’m not going to get sick of doing. Like writing for me, that’s my whole job with this internship is writing lots of different things. I considered myself to be a good writer before this internship. So, I’ve had like kind of a reckoning with my writing ability has improved a lot over the last, gosh, I’ve been in it for two months already. So just pick a skill that you’re comfortable with stretching and improving upon, and maybe like pushing your limits with a little bit. Like, if you think that you’re a really good writer and you go into an intern, a writing internship, and you maybe learn that you’re not as great of a writer as you thought originally, if that’s gonna like crush you then probably don’t pick that one. Like, if you’re not willing to work at this scale and grow this scale, then maybe don’t pick an internship that’s focused around that skill. So, like with writing, you want to make sure that you’re open to learning new writing styles and new writing, like techniques. Like with, if you’re working on a podcast, you need to make sure you’re willing to learn different ways to talk to people. And you know, all the skills that are involved in like podcast production that I am not smart enough to understand. Just be really open to developing the skills that you already have and learning new ones is the biggest thing.
(Serena Aguilar): Oh yeah. I mean, listen, I was not like an official podcast host before taking on this internship. I get severe phone anxiety when I’m calling the doctor’s office. So, for me, this was about, I know I can handle sharpening this skill. So, yeah, that’s really important. All right. This has been an awesome conversation, Maggie. Is there any like, last words that you want to leave anybody with?
(Maggie Thomas): No, I guess I would just say, make sure you’re picking something that you really enjoy when you’re trying out for an, or trying to apply for an internship because that’s the most important thing. I really love being a writing intern and I just hope that everybody can find internships that they love as much as I love this one. And thank you so much for having me on.
(Serena Aguilar): Thank you so much for joining us and thank you everybody for listening, and we will see you next time.
(Serena Aguilar): Thank you so much for listening. Please, don’t forget to subscribe. And if you could give us a five star rating, we’d really appreciate it. For more information about joining the DME Interns team, please visit https://www.dmeinterns.org/. You can also follow us on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Once again, my name is Serena and I hope to see you all next time. Bye.