It is hard to believe that time is passing so quickly and that I am more than halfway done with my internship at Global Trade Watch! It has been an action-packed couple of weeks, full of research projects, phone banking, and attending protests. Washington D.C. really is the place to be in the midst of all this political turnover. I have settled into the day-to-day life and working environment of a political advocacy non-profit. Every day I work from 9am to 6pm in an open cubicle next to another intern, working on whatever projects we have in store for the day. We get our projects mainly from the senior researchers, but also from the field director or from anybody else who needs help with a project. We usually have a few days to complete the task, but almost all of our work does end up being circulated or used in some larger component within the organization, so all of our work is high priority and often on a deadline. It is very exciting to be able to contribute to the actual workload of the organization. It feels like we are truly able to participate and that our jobs mean something. Our projects can range from anything like sending off information packets and making phone calls to researching export and import data and the corporate contributions that have been made to a congressman’s campaign. A few weeks ago we spent days calling congressional offices to update our contact lists with the names and emails of current staffers, a tedious but very necessary task. Luckily, our supervisor also gave us cookies to keep us happy! I also got the chance to attending a NAFTA 101 Briefing at the House of Representatives! It was in a small conference room and the panel was mostly talking to a room of interns sent by various higher-ups, but it was still very exciting to be a part of! I took notes and later sent out a write-up to my team.
Working in an office is definitely a different experience than attending classes in a university setting. Because it is a longer stretch of working hours, 9 hours with a one hour lunch break, it requires a more long-term form of concentration than focusing on a 50 minute lecture. It is sometimes a challenge to stay focused on a single, perhaps tedious task for hours on end. Conversely, sometimes there are gaps in projects where there is nothing to work on and we have to be able to use our time productively on our own while waiting for an assignment. Both of these skills take focus and practice, and I am glad I am getting a taste of what that can be like before I head out into the workforce permanently. On the other hand, I really appreciate the lack of homework and being able to truly be done with work for the day once I return home. I don’t have to worry about completing an assignment late at night, and I never have to sacrifice sleep for work.
I truly feel like I am getting a lot out of my internship this summer. I am
learning a lot of valuable skills, such as streamlining research, becoming more comfortable talking on the telephone, and learning more about how to use excel spreadsheets. I am also learning a lot about politics and legislation, even though I am not working directly with the government. I look forward to being able to bring these skills back to Brandeis with me when I return in the fall. I plan to use my more advanced research skills, honed over this summer, to my advantage in my classes when I have to do research projects. I plan on using my acquired skills in excel and data processing particularly in my Econ classes in addition to being a marketable skill for my resume. Since I will be applying to jobs before I know it, I think getting more comfortable on the telephone will really help me in the interview process. Most importantly, I believe I will take away a better sense of my interests and what I might like to do as a career. I am especially enjoying the research aspect of my internship, and I think that is a good thing to know about myself. On the other side, I know I will not want to pursue a career in field organizing, it is just not for me! This already has been such a rich summer and I look forward to what else is in store.
Watch this video of Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, talking about our work!