It’s crazy that my first internship experience coincided with a global pandemic. I’m now in a professional, virtual world that I never thought I would be in.

In March, when the coronavirus started to spread across the country, and universities started to send students home, I couldn’t even think about the summer or the possibility of a remote internship. I remember just being worried about how I was going to complete my classes for the semester online. I thought about my loud family members and my Wi-Fi connection that never seemed to reach the corner of my room where my desk was.

When I found out that the Karel Fellowship was going to be remote, I was extremely relieved that it wasn’t canceled like some of my classmates’ internships. However, I was also nervous about how I was going to make the most of the experience. This was going to be my first real internship experience, so I knew I would have to juggle getting used to a remote work environment on top of figuring out what it meant to be an intern (and a good one at that).

Despite my nerves, I was extremely excited to be matched with Families USA, a nonprofit that works to make sure everyone in America has high quality, affordable health care. I took two health care policy related courses during my spring semester, where I learned a lot about the flaws of the American health care system. Those classes inspired me to be part of the movement to improve our health care system.

It has already been such a meaningful experience to work with the Families USA communications team. More specifically, working on their storytelling project has taught me the importance of personal experiences and stories in eliciting social change.

I was recently working on editing the stories of two women who received surprise medical bills. I had learned about surprise billing and some of its consequences in class, but I did not fully understand the gravity of the issue until reading these women’s stories. Reading the story of someone who ended up with over $100k in medical bills because the surgeons chosen to perform her emergency procedure did not accept her insurance rattled me. I felt increased anger on her behalf, especially because she had taken the time to carefully choose a hospital that would normally accept her insurance. I realized that these issues happen far more often than we realize.

Families USA uses these stories to help elevate consumer voices and shed light on the various health care problems. Communicating these stories is so important because not only can they help make the case for necessary policy reforms, they also help ordinary people (like me) learn about others’ challenges. And being informed is the first step to becoming a good advocate.