Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Last Day and Some things to leave you with...

Monday was my last day at the think-tank I have come to know and love these past three months. Even though I was only there 2 days a week, I really felt like I learned so much from everyone there and have grown in a professional way.

My last day was somewhat of a conglomeration of what I have been doing all semester. For the first few hours of the day I attempted to transcript the meeting that we held on the 16th and that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I ended up devising a strategy to make the listening and writing more efficient, having them both take up halves of the screen. This made it a lot easier to go between the two screens and listen and write. Even though I worked on the transcription for several hours, I only managed to get about 20 minutes of the recording into a transcript. The rest of the day I did some last minute organization of all the files that were on my computer so that they could be accessed after I left. I also did some research and I was the last person to review the draft version of the assessment before it went out to more people. It needed to go out before Obama's speech on Tuesday. Luckily we got it in to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's office before the end of the day! I also found out that my name would be mentioned at the end of the assessment! Yay! I can't wait to see the final version of Remobilizing NATO in Afghanistan: Ensuring the Alliance's Future! To know that I was a part in creating it makes me very excited!

This internship made me realize quite a few things and I believe that it was one of the best choices of my college education. Working in a professional atmosphere taught me in in's and out's of working at a real job and what my life might be like after college. This internship was not what I expected, it was much more and I can't believe that I got to do so much as only a sophomore! To be involved is such huge political movements such as this makes me proud and excited to see what might come of my labor. This practical experience in the job force was extremely important to my future career and now I know what my career path might be after school. It has helped me figure out things that I don't want to do and things that I do want to do. It also greatly increased my understanding of NATO, the war in Afghanistan, international politics, international relations and the role of think-tanks all over the world. This internship has taught me much more than any class has and I know that everything I learned there will be extremely useful in the future. I am so grateful to have had this experience and look forward to doing one again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11/16 Remobilizing NATO Meeting at the CSPC

Last Monday we finally had our Remobilizing NATO meeting with some of the experts on our expert and leadership teams. Getting to be in this meeting and listening to the thoughts and suggestions of all these extremely knowledgeable people was an amazing experience and I am sure I will remember it (along with my humble beginnings as an intern) for the rest of my career. This meeting was a vital portion to completing our assessment as well.

The meeting was very successful and we had about 25 of the over forty attend or call-in. The main focus of this meeting was the dilemma of the entire region, mainly the Af-Pak problem and how it should be dealt with. Many of the experts discussed implications of a more aggressive relationship with Pakistan and how this would affect relationships with India and create political unstability throughout the reason. They also discussed how communications between the United States and other NATO countries need to be increased for true and effective measures can be taken to provide a successful front in Afghanistan. The information and opinions that they provided will be invaluable to our final assessment.

Something that was very noticeable at this meeting was the absence of women experts in this field. Out of the 35 people in the room and on the phone I was one of three women and only two of the experts were women. Even on our experts list there are only four or five female experts. This showed me the lack of the female perspective there is in international relations and the importance of making an impact and being knowledgable to provide an example for future generations of women. I am even more determined now than ever to become an important figurehead in the realm of international relations.

Preparation for the meeting was long and arduous. Helping Ryan prepare for prepared me immensely for what I may try to do in the future. Even though at times the process of creating invitations, finding experts to invite and who were commited and reflected the ideals of the project, calling experts to confirm, creating an agenda for the meeting, and moderating and explaining the project.

I am currently assigned the task of transcribing the majority of this meeting, so this will be a very consuming task for my last few days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reporting on Not Too Much to Report

This blog is coming a little late, but the week's been hectic...

Monday the 16th is our big meeting and the past week was all in preparation for that very purpose. To that end, pretty much all I did was make calls and send e-mails and review the assessment....again. Therefore this is a commentary on the lulls of work.

There haven't been many, especially with the Remobilizing NATO project, but this past week there was a lull, a big one that pervaded the entirety of the week. I did not really expect this to happen and I was caught off guard when it did. About them: they happen and you have to adapt to them whether that's finding something else to do or just taking a break. Finding something else to do is very important to the other programs in your company. If any of them need help you could be very important to a project that they are working on. I know that most people were I work could usually use help, whether its doing massive amounts of research or reviewing a letter. Anything that you can do will make them more productive and their projects more successful. The other thing that you can do it just relax and take it easy, especially if other people also have lulls. Conversations I have had with my co-workers during down time have been some of the most entertaining and this keeps the atmospere light and I was able to form better bonds with the people who I am with 16 hours a week. It helped put me at ease and learn things about the people I work with.

Down-time is pretty important to the relationships that you build at work and they should not be tossed aside as nothing. Forming a connection with the people you work with can be helpful for your performance at work and your overall experience. Making connections with others is also important after you leave a job to go to a new one. In Intro to IR Research we are learning about social networks right now, and this internship has opened up mine quite a bit.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's on the Hill!

It's official! Our assessment on the potential NATO Country Contributions to ISAF is on the Hill and ready to go to Edinburgh this week! The irony of it is that we spelled "capabilities" wrong on the front that got past the dozen or so people who reviewed the assessment, we shall never know.

Anyway this week was much more relaxed and after going "NATO-lite" for the week, I have had some time to look at the crossover between this internship and my SIS Intro to International Relations Research Course. I got a new book called Seeds of Terror, by Gretchen Peters this week for my research proposal on the effects poppy farmers have on nation-building in Afghanistan and in our final assessment we are including a section on how failure to create a stable Afghanistan will affect the amount of heroin and drug-related deaths in Europe and how the Taliban are thriving because of this industry. A stronger Taliban means a stronger al Qaeda means a greater threat for European security. So I found this really good book connecting this drug money to the Taliban and Ryan (my boss) was pretty excited because he hadn't seen it before! Yay me! Another contribution to the assessment! So I'm using this book for my paper and the assessment! Two birds with one stone!

This week I got to face one of my biggest fears again....calling! Only this time I was calling the actual experts on our list (and sometimes their assistants)! This was much more nerve-wracking than any calling I had ever done so I ended up writing a script for myself. This method worked pretty well and I would definately suggest doing it if you have this same fear. If you freeze up when someone picks up on the other end of the line all you have to do it read!

Thursday I also got to spend half of the day working at our Conference being held for the college students accepted into our Fellowship program. It was really nice to take that time away from sitting at a desk and interact with students more my age. A lot of them are writing about problems abroad for their Fellowship papers and I found many of them very interesting. It was also very good to see how the Center reaches out to the national community!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

1 More Week!

Okay, so the final assessment MUST be done by Friday...if it's not then we are going to have a problem getting it to Congress members who are a part of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO. According to our Congressional Correspondent at the Center, there are many Congressmen interested in the project, and this is also why we need the "mini-report" for them to have as talking points. The Parliamentary Assembly will meet from November 13th through November 17th in Edinburgh, Scotland. This could be the break-in point for our study and assessment and will hopefully be a moving point for many NATO countries to see exactly where each country is lacking in contributions and a rallying point for those who would like to see a change in NATO and ISAF commitment. To see this project talked about, or even just potentially make a difference in contributions, would be something amazing for me to see because I have worked so closely with those who have contributed to the assessment and have had such an involvement in reviewing and putting it together. Only time will tell however, whether or not this assessment really makes a difference.

Over the time that I have been working on this project I have seen it transform from a project aimed at changing NATO to a project aimed at changing contributions to NATO and getting countries to adjust their inputs to troop numbers in Afghanistan. I often see the same thing happeneing in my own papers, the evolution of an idea or a purpose, especially when a paper lasts throughout a semester or a year. It is comforting to know that this also happens in the professional world as well. There are always revisions that can be made, no matter how much you think that it's done.

This internship in coordination with my Intro to International Relations Research course has really taught me a lot about researching and there are some parts that intersect and there are some that don't. My paper that I am doing in my class is a miniature part of our assessment and I find myself having some slight expertise in the drug area of our assessment, being able to pull out numbers from my head and knowing what websites to look at for information and also knowing who are experts in the area. Ironically, one person, Ahmed Rashid, on our expert advisory team, wrote one of the books I am using for my paper. There is much more crossover than I thought there would be and I am surprisingly excited and very pleased with how it is turning out!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Meeting....Finally!

So this week I was left on my own a lot...we're at this very limbo point right now in writing and researching for the assessment. Most of the research and writing is done but we are waiting for feedback from our expert panel and decisions that are in the process of being made by the Obama Administration. After realizing that there wasn't much I could do to help this week besides a few phone calls, e-mailing letters, proofing and last minute research, I went to Melanie to see if she need help on her research with the Consortium for Character-Based Leadership. Her project involved looking cases of "truth-tellers" in the government, people who have told the truth about sosmething and have had negative or positive impacts on their career or life. They are putting together a book of all these people. This was actually pretty hard to research because of the specificity she wanted, and I ended up reading through many, many articles I found through Google and ProQuest.

This week I had to make a few phone calls and over the past few weeks it has gotten so much easier to do! When I first started making them I would go over in my head dozens of times what I had to say when someone picked up on the other I only say it a dozen! I know that feeling will go away eventually, but being so young has made me second guess myself a lot...I'm hoping that with age and experience it will go away, at least partially. Already I can see some of my hesitation diminishing, which has been a very rewarding experience.

The one thing that I was very excited about this week was the meeting that we had with General Bantz Craddock and Bruce Weinrod. Ryan asked me to take notes. They were there after attending the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on NATO. Everyone talked so quitely and it was sometimes hard to keep track or hear what they were saying, but all in all I was very proud of myself for understanding quite a bit of what they were talking about! I'm also very excited about our first meeting with the experts on November 16th because I will be there to help and hopefully meet everyone and listen to their opinions on this situation!

Til' next week!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tedious Thursday

Technically this was supposed to be our last week to do research...well, that didn't happen. Monday I spent basically the entire day gathering information--about the opium trade in Afghanistan and its place among world production of poppy, about military capabilities, and about everything ISAF. Before this internship I never thought I would know so much about the international opium trade, or hectares of opium produced in Afghanistan (I didn't even know what a hectare was!) or the number of ASW helicopters each country in NATO has. My job was to find out these things-- without the book of the Military Balance I would never have been able to get most of this work done...and, boy, when I had gotten most of this information by 5 pm Monday, I was very proud of myself! But the work wasn't done yet...

Unfortunatly, I was informed when I came in on Thursday morning that part of our expert advisory team did not like the direction we were headed in for the initial assessment. This was most definitely not what I wanted to hear. While my boss tried to calm down and get everything reorganized, I headed on to DonorPerfect and manage to remember everything I was taught about it over a month earlier. I put all of our contacts from the project into the database--names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails and all! it was probably some of the most tedious work I have ever done--but I did get it done and that was the end of it! Yay! The rest of the day was filled with finding quotes from high levels officials abroad about the threat to NATO should we fail in Afghanistan, the threat to Europe, and countries individual capabilites. This was also pretty tedious, however I did learn a lot about Defense Ministers, Parlimentarians, and Generals from all over Europe!

I also found out this week that we have our first official Leadership Committee Meeting on November 16th! I'm very excited that I will get to be there and meet all the important people on our Leadership Committee! It will definitely be a highlight to this internship!