Reflecting back on my internship at the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights, there are many things that I have taken away from this experience that will enrich my life here at Brandeis and beyond. As a student, this internship opened my eyes to range of armed conflicts and human rights abuses taking place around the world today. I am so much better versed in geography, in international and comparative politics, and in current issues. I have learned an entire new language almost — that of gender analysis as a lens through which to more comprehensively research situations and conflicts. As a senior-year student, with an imminent post-grad job search always in the back of my mind, this internship also helped me to see what working in NGOs and research or advocacy groups might be like, and put me in contact with a whole range of interesting organizations from all around the world.
Now that I have completed this internship, there is even more I want to learn than when I began. At the Consortium, we read and spoke a lot about peacebuilding processes post-conflict, as well as peace negotiations during conflict. Being a “peace-nik” used to get me called “naive” or “idealistic.” Now, I know that there is a whole body of research out there on these kinds of peace-building processes and methods of post-conflict reconstruction, that show this kind of work to be valuable, practical, and tangible. Moving forward, I want to conduct targeted case study research on what kinds of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction strategies actually work, and why (from an individual level, incorporating my psychology major). I want to look at the effect of sustained and chronic stress in conflict on the psyche, and its implications for post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding work.
As a Social Justice recipient, this ties directly into both challenging and reinforcing my ideas of social justice. I feel relieved and gratified to have read and immersed myself in research devoted to the practical application of peaceful solutions to violent conflict. Cycles of violence are endlessly complex and self-reinforcing, and it takes incredibly careful and thoughtful research to look at why these cycles of violence are perpetuated, and what kinds of interventions or support can help them to find new paths to peace. At this internship, I learned how to better ask the important questions, how to analyze conflict from a gender perspective— and ultimately, learned that this type of research does exist and, armed with this knowledge and experience I have gained, I feel I can become a more effective, informed, careful and practical peacebuilder in my future work.
My advice for any student interested in working at the Consortium? Read up on current events! You will get so much more out of the discussions and research if you already have a foundational base of knowledge about current world conflicts. When I began my internship, I didn’t even know where some of the countries were that we were studying.
Another thing I would advise, after a more personal reflection, for anyone looking to work in this field– would be to really know yourself and respect your limits. There are endless amounts of work to be done at this kind of small NGO, and often there is not enough staff or funding to get it all done. At one point in the summer, I found myself being added to more projects than I could possibly keep up with. I requested a meeting with my supervisor– and it was the first time I have ever had to tell a boss or teacher that I simply could not finish the work, that it was too much. She was incredibly understanding, and immediately shifted one of the projects to another intern who was looking for more work. It was such a simple thing for her, but such a huuuuuuge weight off my shoulders for me. I learned a lot about respecting my self-limits at work, and about leaving work at the door once I came home.
Finally, I am incredibly that this WOW Fellowship gave me the opportunity to have this experience at the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. I have learned so so much and my life has been so incredibly enriched, and I genuinely could not have done this without the WOW!