Working in Spain, meeting first lady Michelle Obama and touring France and Italy all made for an eventful summer internship experience for a 2014 Columbus East High School graduate.

Andrea Hendrickson, 20, who just started her junior year at Indiana University, spent 10 weeks in Spain for an internship with the U.S. Department of State and worked at the U.S. embassy in Madrid.

When Hendrickson stumbled upon an internship opportunity that could help her learn more about her majors — international studies and Spanish — and provide valuable experience, she said she jumped at the chance to apply.

The U.S. Department of State Student Internship Program provides interns with the unpaid opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign affairs environment by working with U.S. embassies or consulates worldwide, or with bureaus in the United States, according to their website. The program is open to students who are U.S. citizens in good academic standing with at least 60 credit hours completed. Students must also pass the background check and gain security clearance.

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Hendrickson learned about the program at an IU career fair. After changing one of her majors from pre-occupational therapy to international studies, with a focus in global health, she wanted to learn as much as she could quickly.

“I was new to the international studies major, and since I started a bit later, I wanted to have as much experience as I could,” Hendrickson said.

She sent in her application answers, résumé and an essay and was offered the internship in January — provided that she could pass the security clearance stage. It was the end of March before she actually learned she had passed the lengthy security clearance process — which included taking fingerprints and completing a security interview. This left her with about a month-and-a-half to save money and prepare.

“I applied for a grant through IU and ended up getting that, so that helped a lot,” Hendrickson said.

The rest of the money she needed came from her own savings and from family members who wanted to help, she added.

But, the expense was definitely worth it, Hendrickson said.

She arrived in Madrid in May to begin her adventure. After the first place she lived unexpectedly wanted an extra 300 euros — about the equivalent of $339 in the U.S. — per month to use the kitchen, she spent her first week with a coworker as she searched for a new home. Luckily, her next spot was in a nice location with a roommate who was familiar with the city and could help Hendrickson as she learned her way around.

Working in the consular section of the embassy, she had the opportunity to learn and participate in the visa process for people wanting to come to the United States, and with services for American citizens in Spain who were in need of help.

“I learned a lot about the process of people coming to America and what they have to go through and why it’s so important that there’s such strict rules on who can come to America,” Hendrickson said.

Her favorite visas were the immigration visas, she said, because they were usually “cute love stories” about a spouse whose partner was in America.

The experience wasn’t all work and no play. Other than Madrid and parts of Spain, she traveled to France, Italy and Portugal, hitting popular spots such as Barcelona, Paris and Venice with her sister, Allie Hendrickson, when she visited.

The highlights of the summer abroad didn’t come from tourist spots, Andrea Hendrickson said. Instead, they came at work when she met Shakira, a famous Colombian pop singer — even though she didn’t get an autograph.

“I had to be professional because I was at work,” Hendrickson joked.

The other highlight, she said, was when the President Barack Obama and first lady visited, and she got to meet and speak with Michelle Obama.

Hendrickson said the experience in Madrid helped her to gain a better idea of what she may want to do after college, and she plans to seek further experiences to keep narrowing the field. With an international studies focus in global health, Hendrickson said she thinks working for an international nonprofit in the health field would be an ideal fit, but she hasn’t quite decided. She was also intrigued by international jobs through the government.

“I think the more experience I get in different job opportunities, the more I can narrow down kind of what I want to do in the future,” she said.

Hendrickson said she would like to experience more trips abroad, and is considering visiting Santiago, Chile, and exploring South America next fall.

Andrea Hendrickson

Age: 20

High School: Columbus East (Class of 2014)

College: Junior, Indiana University

Major: Double major in international studies and Spanish, minor in psychology

Parents: Tom and Stephany Hendrickson

Siblings: Allie Hendrickson and Dave and Justin Steinkoenig

Hobbies: Running and working out

Interests: Helping others and volunteering

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5645.