After spending some time reflecting on my experiences at American Jewish World Service (AJWS), it is clear that I not only got what I was looking for in my internship, but even more than I anticipated. Although it was not entirely unexpected, I am humbled by the realization that I took more than I gave and am looking forward to building off my summer experience during my final year at Brandeis.
I knew from my first day that I would need to learn how to work in an office environment. At the beginning, this was the most challenging component of my experience. I found the idea of sitting behind a computer at a desk from 9 am – 5 pm to be very intimidating, and was unsure if I could perform at my best under these circumstances. However, after a few weeks, I developed skills and strategies to help me work effectively in a new environment. I also learned how to better be a team player, growing to feel a part of the communications department and understand the intricacies of a large organization. It was important for me to learn that I am able to adapt and be flexible.
In addition to adjusting to an office environment, I left AJWS with many new professional skills and important experiences. My job consisted mostly of working with social media and the press. I was responsible for managing and updating AJWS’s twitter and facebook as well as research new social media platforms. I monitored the press for related coverage and developed lists of journalists and publications for AJWS to pitch its stories and campaigns. I also made two videos profiling AJWS grantees. I now know how to edit videos, adapt my writing tone to fit an organization’s specific style guide, work with the media, and use social media strategically. I’ve also had exposure to branding initiatives, strategic plans and organizational changes. I will benefit immensely from all of these skills and experiences when I enter the workforce next year.
Although these concrete skills are important, I would not say that they were the most important take aways from my summer experience. I am most pleased that I learned how I can contribute to the global struggle to realize human rights, even from an office in midtown, New York City.
One of my main goals for my internship was to connect my academic interests and passion for human rights with professional skills. I’ve often struggled to determine how I can best use my skills, background, and place of privilege to make a difference on causes I believe in. Through my internship, I learned how even the smallest details and actions, from a twitter update to crafting the perfect language for a press release has a role to play in crating a more just world. Although I am not doing grass roots human rights work currently, by being a partner in the global struggle for justice and using my skills to amplify the voices of those on the front lines, I am make a positive contribution. Although compared to the magnitude of the issues AJWS works to address through all of its work, my contributions are minimal, I take comfort in a saying from the Talmud, which is sort of a mantra at AJWS: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”
Like any good experience, my internship at AJWS left me with more questions than answers:
– Is communications the right field for me to work in to pursue my passion for global human rights?
– What are the ethical lines of telling other peoples’ stories through media?
– How can well-intended people from the West help the Global South while respecting culture, dignity and sustainability?
– How can I most effectively “sell” causes I care about?
– How can we integrate a human-rights approach to international development not only into actions, but how these actions are shared with others?
– What is the most effective way for me to make a difference? Grass-roots community organizing? Or working to sustain the powerful efforts of others through writing and communications?
Although I do not have the answers to these questions now, I am confident that I will continue to think about them and contextualize them during my last year at Brandeis and as I enter the “world of work” permanently. I am thankful that my WOW fellowship gave the support and financial means to have this experience and am looking forward to seeing how it connects to my future endeavors. I’m excited to continue working with AJWS, whether through organizing a Global Hunger Shabbat at Brandeis, or participating in one of its service programs in the future.