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The IWP Internship Experience: Basia Armstrong

Basia Armstrong July 2015 444x718As an International Relations student at King’s College London in England with no prior work experience in Washington, D.C., I began my internship at The Institute of World Politics very unsure of what to expect. Much to my delight, my uncertainty quickly turned to amazement at how valuable to my development my time here has been. The Institute of World Politics is no regular workplace, and my internship here has been no regular internship.

I was assigned to intern for the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies led by Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, a position I would highly recommend to any prospective intern interested in Poland or Eastern Europe. My tasks were engaging, such as reading and summarizing a copy of a 1925 manual on intelligence in its original Polish. I also assisted by translating articles authored by Professor Chodakiewicz, both from Polish to English and English to Polish, a task that challenged me and, more importantly, made me uncover a previously unknown personal enjoyment of translation. Everything I did for the Kosciuszko Chair helped me develop skills and grow as a professional – from employing my dual language skills to building an analytical mindset to learning how to write succinct summaries.

All interns are given the opportunity to audit a graduate class during their time at IWP, and the class I sat in on was Peace, Strategy, and Conflict Resolution with Professor Albert Santoli. Sitting in on a graduate level course at such a unique institution was an invaluable experience I would not be able to have outside of this internship. The class was very different to what I was used to, with a class size of under 20 students, as opposed to the larger lectures I usually attend. Additionally, the focus of the class was on practical rather than theoretical matters, as Professor Santoli shared his wealth of personal experience both from his work with the Asia America Institute and otherwise. Auditing this class answered many important questions I had about what it would be like to obtain a graduate degree in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the internship was the events and talks we attended. From a Capitol tour to a talk at the Armenian National Congress of America to multiple lecture lunches with distinguished practitioners, the events scheduled for the interns were engaging and helpful. Listening to various experts give us career and educational guidance helped put into perspective several of my own questions, such as whether to become a career generalist or specialist, as well as when (and whether) to attend graduate school.

The best part of my internship was that the people that work, study, and visit here are some of the kindest and most welcoming I have met. Everyone I engaged with has been a pleasure to speak to and work with individually, but together as an organization, they are warm and welcoming. All doors at IWP seem to be open, and the community feel of the place is like few I have seen before. Whether working together to successfully host an event or just running the daily duties of the Institute, the people here have always been friendly, forgiving, and accessible.

It has been my immense pleasure to intern at IWP, as my time here has been beyond gratifying and enjoyable, while opening my eyes to more than I thought possible.