By Michelle Sarver
For Vlad Korolov, a joint degree student pursuing a J.D./Master of International Affairs degree at Penn State's School of International Affairs (SIA) and Dickinson School of Law, internship experiences help him keep an open mind to career possibilities. Enjoying the culture of Turin, Italy was a bonus for him at his most recent internship at a counter-terrorism laboratory for the United Nations' Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in Italy.
Like many students in the School of International Affairs, Korolov seized the opportunities offered through the school's internship program. “I'm grateful to the SIA program for this. Sometimes all you need is some direction,” he said. After applying to numerous internships and receiving many offers, he chose to cross the Atlantic and spent the summer of 2011 in Italy at UNICRI, a think tank where he provided legal support for project officers.
Much of the information that Korolov dealt with was classified. He was assigned his own projects and was expected to deliver high-end products that matched the standards of his U.N. colleagues. For example, he worked on grant agreements between the U.N. and European Commission, and was often asked to look over contracts and identify and work out problems within the framework of the document.
A rewarding experience
For Korolov, the actual tasks were only a portion of the reward. “When you are doing this kind of work, like counter-terrorism, you are helping humanity. You are helping the world. You are doing it completely for unselfish purposes, and there is no profit involved, which is amazing,” he said.
Korolov enjoyed more than just meaningful work and a high level of responsibility; he enjoyed the city as well. Korolov met a large mix of people with remarkable backgrounds during his internship. He regularly enjoyed socializing and networking them over a cup of proper Italian coffee, and he maintains regular contact with his new Italian colleagues to keep his network options open.
After graduating from the University of California with a bachelor of arts in law and society with a High Honors and Academic Excellence Award, he began his legal studies TheDickinson School of Law in Carlisle as an Andrew Gregg Curtin Scholar. Soon after, he transferred to University Parkand joined SIA, as his interests sync well with the program's goals. “Once the new building opened [in University Park], I transferred here and jumped into it. I was planning to do something similar to SIA before, but I didn't know it was going to be that easy [at Penn State],” he said.
He believes that today many spheres of law have an international “edge” so even in his general legal studies, international affairs will complement his law degree. So far, he has been pleased with his experience at Penn State. “It serves as a great platform to explore lots of professional things abroad, not just in the states,” he said.
Korolov is preparing for a new internship with the U.N. this spring at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. Through the Office of the Prosecutor, he will assist in the prosecution of the war crimes that occurred during the conflict in the Balkans. Landing prestigious internships is nothing new for Korolov. He has extensive work experience ranging from the Justice System Integrity Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney Office tothe U.S. Court of Appeals.
Korolov's keys to success
Korolov continues to employ his hard work ethic in a multitude of positions and fields. While he knows what he wants to do today, he keeps himself open to change tomorrow. “I came into law school with one set of expectations. As you become a more complete individual and more mature, you realize your goals might be completely different. Unless you have these multiple internships and you try things out, you don't know what you actually enjoy doing professionally,” he said. “Today … I am interested in public service, either on the domestic or international level. I would like to do criminal prosecution or defense.” he said.
While his job aspirations may shift, Korolov's mindset about the importance of education does not, emphasizing that the most important thing is to work hard and do well in school. “Keep your GPA high and get into honors programs,” he suggested
With Korolov's good work ethic and track record, his advice seems well worth taking. In 2009, he won the Advocate Choice Award at the First Annual FINRA Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon – a first time event for Penn State Law students. Korolov also suggests never to overlook unpaid internships nor be afraid to initiate new academic projects and undertakings because the University offers a wealth of opportunities to be explored.