At the mid-point of my internship, I feel that I am making considerable progress on my learning goals. At FDD, I have had the opportunity to draft analytical pieces and conduct granular research on a daily basis. I am also able to collaborate with senior research fellows who help to shape and focus my analysis. My internship has sharpened my writing skills because I am forced to write concisely and expediently to meet the deadlines and expectations established by my supervisors. Moreover, I am constantly shifting projects and topics, which has improved my ability to quickly synthesize information and provide analysis based on the limited information available. Finally, I am sometimes tasked to do research on certain obscure issues that have not been sufficiently covered in the Western media. As a result, I must rely on foreign language sources and build off of incomplete information, two facets of my work environment that have greatly enhanced my research skills. Although there is no established or institutionalized mechanism that allows me to track my growth during the internship, I receive constant feedback and constructive criticism from my supervisors. This feedback loop has greatly improved my writing and analytical skills and forced me to engage at a deeper level with the research material I handle.
I have also had the opportunity to write for a general audience at FDD. I am most proud of the three pieces that I have coauthored that have been published online in various locations. I am currently monitoring conflict and tracking the evolution of violent non-state actors in North Africa and I have collaborated on two research products pertaining to the current conflict between two militia coalitions in Benghazi, Libya. I have compiled resources and produced written reports on the nascent violent struggle in Benghazi and have also designed two graphics that map out kinetic activities (i.e. violent attacks) in the city. In addition, I helped to produce briefing material for war games concerning the potential spillover of violence in Iraq into neighboring countries. The latter assignment was particularly engaging for me because it allowed me to anticipate events and consider contingency plans should violence escalate in neighboring countries. This thought exercise also provided me with an insight into the war planning process that occurs within the government as policymakers seek to predict events and suggest possible policies to help manage crises.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this internship has had a fundamental impact on my analytical skills and research abilities. The skills that I am cultivating at FDD will serve me tremendously in both my academic career and in my professional life. I feel much more comfortable as a writer because I am frequently writing reports and memos and have little time to agonize over a future project. Perhaps the most important skill learned at FDD that I will be able to transfer back to an academic setting is my ability to assess research and identify gaps within the analysis of my peers. This skill will be highly useful in helping me to identify flaws within my work as I continue to write papers at Brandeis. This internship has been a very valuable learning experience thus far and I look forward to continuing the work and applying the skills that I have learned in an academic environment.