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The IWP Internship Experience: Viktor Kiss

In a recent interview, Viktor Kiss spoke about his IWP internship, during which he conducted research with Dr. Sara Vakhshouri and traveled to Saudi Arabia for an executive training course on Energy Security and Energy Diplomacy organized by IWP and KAPSARC.

Viktor Kiss in front of KAPSARC's central research facility
Viktor in front of KAPSARC’s central research facility

Please tell us a little about your background.

I come from an international background where I’ve had the chance to live and study in three countries so far, namely Hungary, Austria, and the United States. As a soon-to-be graduate of The Ohio State University in International Relations and Diplomacy with a focus on African affairs, I am also an experienced speaker of 5 languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, German, and English) with additional Turkish in progress. My professional engagements in the past include doing research as a Hungary Foundation intern and the same currently at the Hudson Institute. As an athlete in Olympic rifle shooting, I also represent Hungary in international competitions across the world as well as OSU on the NCAA stage.

What led you to choose the IWP internship?

I chose IWP because it promised to pass on its faculty’s expertise and experience in the areas of study that I wanted to learn more about. As a school of intelligence, I found it fascinating to learn about what makes this institution stand out.

Viktor and Dr. Sara Vakhshouri in front of the Masmak Fort
Viktor and Dr. Sara Vakhshouri in front of the Masmak Fort

What was it like to work with Dr. Sara Vakhshouri? What projects did you work on with her?

Working with Dr. Vakhshouri was rewarding, eye-opening, and intense. She is an incredibly experienced expert in her field who sees and interprets the world strategically. Seeing her negotiate and present her ideas during some of the meetings with different ambassadors that I had the privilege to attend taught me a lot about those valuable traits.

Our work primarily focused on Russian nuclear energy strategy, especially as it pertains to Russia’s engagements in Africa. I composed reports and presentations on how Russia’s nuclear strategy shapes its relations with African nations, thus impacting great power competition on the continent.

Did you take any classes at IWP or attend any extracurricular events for interns?

I actively participated in Dr. Vakhshouri’s Energy Security and the New Geopolitics of Energy course, as well as observed Paul M. Davis’ course on Cyber Intelligence (IWPO 699).

Dr. Vakhshouri teaching about Energy Security and Energy Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia
Dr. Sara Vakhshouri teaching about Energy Security and Energy Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia

Please tell us about your trip to Saudi Arabia to participate in the executive course on Energy Security and Energy Diplomacy.

The trip to Riyadh was incredible and massively enhanced my grasp on not only the themes of energy security and energy diplomacy but also exposed me to interactions with an array of industry professionals who shared their experience and expertise with me. As a guest lecturer on Russian nuclear energy policy, I had the pleasure of presenting my research to a room of 40 Saudi energy experts on the topic while also being part of the cohort during other lectures of the KAPSARC executive course.

Living and learning at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, I managed to gain insights into what it is like to work for such a significant institution.

In our free time, we enjoyed evenings in the desert, watched a football match with Ronaldo on the roster, visited local markets and historic sights, and drank a lot of Arabic coffee with dates.

Viktor at an Al Nassr vs. El Ettifaq football match in Saudi Arabia
Viktor at an Al Nassr vs. El Ettifaq football match in Saudi Arabia

What are your future plans?

I hope to continue my education in Europe after graduating from Ohio State as well as getting more involved with development projects sponsored by the EU and the U.S. in Africa.

This coming summer, I plan to present a paper at the 2024 Cambridge Gulf Research Meeting, along with two other IWP interns and one IWP student. The title is “Evaluating Strategic Security Initiatives for the Future of Regional Gulf and MENA Stability.” Co-authored with Henry Leverett, the research evaluates the Gulf Cooperation Council’s role in mitigating widespread illegal smuggling through North Africa.  The paper has been accepted into the “Conflict Resolution Initiatives in the Gulf and Beyond” category for the meeting at Cambridge.

What would you tell another undergraduate student who is considering the IWP internship?

The IWP internship will expose you to a very niche and important set of projects that will not only allow you to improve your analytical and delivery skills but also make you a prime candidate in any related field. With the faculty’s reputation and the school resources and partnerships, this internship can easily turn into something more than what you expect.

At the beginning of my internship, I had no idea that I would be presenting in front of 40 Saudi energy experts at a prestigious research facility in Riyadh. Yet my brilliant mentor and my work during the internship made it happen.

Fellow intern Thea Porter, Dr. Sara Vakhshouri, and Viktor at the Salwa Palace
Fellow intern Thea Porter, Dr. Sara Vakhshouri, and Viktor at the Salwa Palace
Viktor in front of KAPSARC's local Mosque
Viktor in front of KAPSARC’s local Mosque