Here at the American Jewish World Service New York Office, everybody has an exceedingly impressive positive attitude. I say “exceedingly impressive” because every day the staff members here are grappling with social justice issues around the globe that make life extremely difficult for some people. In addition, because of the nonprofit nature of the organization, the only way they are able to help these issues is with the help of donors, and so the work here is constantly appealing to peoples’ sense of morality. I would think that with all of these difficult realizations, to persevere for these causes and for peoples’ lack of immediate willingness to help sometimes, the work would get discouraging. The attitude of the staff at AJWS, however, truly reflects the opposite. The work environment is very energetic and very friendly. Everyone is inspired and hardworking, intelligent with a good story to tell of how they decided to work for this organization.
Even out of the workplace, I have noticed an effort to reach out with us as interns to get to know us as individuals and people. There are many opportunities to do activities around New York as suggested by the staff- some relevant to AJWS and some not.
The World of Work really does differ from university/academic life drastically- although this may partially be due to the fact that I grew up in a smaller suburban type of area, then went to Brandeis which is on a campus, and then was placed in the large city of New York to live on my own for the first time.
In the World of Work, as I work in an office in New York, the hours are 9am to 5pm with an hour lunch break. This is very different from university life, as my schedules of classes since I have been at Brandeis have really had many breaks throughout the day that sometimes even amounted to three hours at a time.
Also, in the office, we (my co-intern and I) have our own space to work all day, so while we are usually scheduled in meetings, we always return to our spot afterwards to complete our work, which is very different from university life, as people complete their work in all different areas. Because you are working in the same office space on a common mission with others every day, your working relationships are closer than I would say of people who simply have the same class as you.
Although, as an intern, I am not in a really high position with a heavy amount of very crucial work for the organizations with hard deadlines, I can imagine that the work in a nonprofit organization is far different from the work we experience as students. There are decisions that matter more, so meetings and planning are more important. Trying to get others involved in what you are doing is a huge component of the work world, similar to how clubs want students to get involved, but at much higher stakes so the process in trying is far more thoughtful.
I am building many skills as a result of this internship from as little as learning what is appropriate behavior and dress in a work environment to as big as learning how to conduct research in a professional setting. I have met and had the privilege and opportunity to get to know many upper-staff and learned about the way that their paths have all led them to their jobs now, and what they see as their trajectory for the future. It has helped me realize how my path in finding a career may be more of lattice than ladder route. Many of the conversations I have had with upper-staff have been about struggles I have experienced in my extracurricular leadership roles and how to proceed, and I received a lot of good advice that I intend on taking back to campus. In addition, I have been exposed to many more nonprofit organizations, programs, and issues around the globe and nation so I can take my knowledge and put it to good use in my academic career and in my life in general.
Recently, I was able, with my co-intern and supervisor, to present about AJWS to a group of high school students. I learned how to inform people of ways to get involved through the presentation- to be interactive, and provide some good programming in this informational type of presentation. We showed them exactly how to get involved on the AJWS website, and included AJWS made graphics. It was an incredible experience, with the ability to answer questions and learn from how my supervisor, Joshua, and Executive Vice President, Robert Bank, answers [sometimes very difficult] questions posed by the high school students.
-Gabi Hersch ’17