The Catholic University of America

Nora Conley

Internship Affords an Inside Look at the Vatican


Junior Daniel Cooley knows the benefit of going outside his comfort zone. When he decided to enroll at Catholic University three years ago, it meant moving across the country to a place he had visited only once.

Cooley, who grew up in Benicia, Calif., knew about Catholic University because his mother was an alumna. Eager to explore the East Coast, he visited and found that he loved the community.

“I didn’t know anybody at all,” he said. “I flew out here myself when I moved in and couldn’t take a lot of things with me so I only had two suitcases. I didn’t have any pillows or blankets for a week or so, but it worked out great.”

During his time at CUA, Cooley has grown to love Washington, D.C., and all the city has to offer. What started as an unknown adventure has led to a flourishing academic career — Cooley is a history major with a double minor in math and Islamic studies.

This past summer, Cooley had another chance for adventure when he was offered a last-minute position as a Department of State intern at the Embassy to the Vatican in Rome.

Cooley first learned about the position during a University-sponsored Career Fair last fall. After a long process, which included a thorough background check, he was named an alternate for the internship.
It wasn’t until mid-June, after Cooley had already begun a summer job at the Office of Pryzbyla Management, when he heard from the State Department that another intern had dropped out.

“We talked on the phone the next day, and four days later, I was on the plane to Rome,” Cooley said. “I quit my job here and my boss was super supportive, but those four days were nuts. I booked my plane ticket and had to figure out where I was going to live that summer. And since I was living on campus, I had to move all my stuff into an apartment.”

For the next nine weeks, Cooley worked in the political section of the Vatican embassy. He spent his time doing research, writing, and analysis, and writing cables to foreign officers. While helping the embassy move to a new building, he helped transport secure documents from one building to another with a police escort.

While in Rome, Cooley lived with members of a religious order called the Crosiers, whose center was only five minutes from the embassy.

“It was fantastic,” Cooley said. “The rent was cheap and they had a cook and a really friendly community. I almost forgot they were priests because they were friends.”

For Cooley, the best part of the internship was assisting with an international conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The conference was attended by mayors from around the world. The State Department hosted a reception for those from the United States.

“I was the point of contact and I was messaging all the chiefs of staff and helping to put the whole thing together and then I got to attend and meet all the mayors,” Cooley said. “With internships, I think you kind of take a risk sometimes that you might be stuck in the back somewhere filing things, but I really got to feel like I was part of the team and actively contributing.”

Cooley also enjoyed sitting in on a few high-level meetings.
“Being able to go to the Apostolic Palace is so cool,” he said. “You walk through the gates and the Swiss Guards salute you. That was just a really cool experience.”

Now in his junior year, Cooley just finished his second year as an orientation advisor. He also is active in the Esto Vir men’s group and serves on the School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Advisory Council. Next semester, he plans on interning at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

He still considers California his home, but Cooley said he is happy to experience life on both the coasts. In the future, Cooley said he hopes to continue working in the Foreign Service. He said he would also love to travel back to Rome to visit his friends and coworkers.

“I think most people would benefit from going a little farther from home and experiencing something kind of new,” he said. “I definitely have enjoyed my time here.”


CUA Success Stories

> Success Stories Home

> Suggest a Success Story

> More CUA News







Daniel Cooley

Hometown: Benicia, Ca.

Major: History, with a double minor in math and Islamic Studies

Favorite classes: Arabic, Calculus 3, or Empires of Islam

Favorite places on campus: John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library or Centennial Village

Dream destination: Istanbul, Turkey

Favorite thing about D.C.:

“It’s a big city with a lot going on all the time, but it doesn’t always feel like that. It’s the center of politics in the country but you can still escape and go to a lot of parks and cultural events and stuff. You almost get the best of both worlds.”