At Hastings College, students are able to work toward professional goals early in their college career, something Victoria Caplinger, a sophomore from Effingham, Kansas, has made a priority during her first two years of college.
A political science major, Caplinger’s ultimate goal is to go into the Foreign Service and work as a Foreign Service Officer. To gain related experience, she spent last summer in Washington, D.C. interning for Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon. At age 18 with only one year of college under her belt, this was an opportunity she never thought possible.
“I was actually doing some googling looking for cool opportunities and found this internship. I never thought I would actually get it, but that I might want to apply again in a couple of years and it would be useful to know what the application process was like,” Caplinger said. “But then I was accepted, and I moved across the country to live on my own as an 18 year-old. It felt crazy.”
Working for Bacon, Caplinger not only got to observe day-to-day life in a political office, but she also was able to get hands-on experience by doing tasks such as taking formal meeting notes, compiling research and comparing new and previous legislation.
Working in this setting allowed her to learn valuable skills she will be able to implement moving forward in her career and navigating similar professional settings. One big takeaway was finding the confidence to actively seek opportunities for involvement.
“I learned to be proactive even though sometimes that meant feeling like I was playing out of my league,” she said. “There are some interns who just waited to be handed something to do, but that’s just not a good look professionally. Keeping track of up-coming meetings and then taking that first step to ask what kind of help or preparation is needed really goes a long way.”
She was also able to expand her people skills through observing communication in different faucets.
“Americans are very informal, yet a hierarchy is still very present when working in politics. I did a lot of learning about how to be informal yet still show respect to my superiors. We also visited several dignitaries from foreign embassies and it was interesting to observe the ways in which those above me interacted with them,” Caplinger said.
While Caplinger only finished her second year of college this spring, she plans on loading her schedule so she can graduate a year early. This means she has already started working on her Honors Program capstone, a research project related to a student’s field of study that all seniors complete as part of their required coursework.
For her capstone she plans to create a map that predicts and tracks human trafficking. This is a project she feels will translate nicely onto her professional resume as well as fitting into her own personal community service goals.
“Ideally I want to be able to tell users how much human trafficking is likely going on but also tell them the movement patterns of traffickers,” she said. “Information like when traffickers are likely to move from different parts of the country, and potential large events that could be hotspots for traffickers are what I want to bring awareness to.”
Caplinger has big aspirations for her future, with professional work and research experience to support her as she moves forward with her education. She plans to continue to take advantage of the opportunities that come her way as she begins her final year of college next fall.