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!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crunch Time

On Thursday my boss Ryan called together a "let's make sure we're all on the same track" we laid out everything that has to be done within the next week and goals up to December, and boy, do we have a lot of work to do-- op-eds, case studies, and research assessment ready for our expert advisory team-- and that's just the next two weeks! Our final report, including an assessment with conceptual framework and a book of case studies, needs to be done before their trip to Europe in December. Needless to say, I wish I could be there more days a week to help get everything done--so much to do so little time!

After going through our letters to experts and letters to the leadership committee and letters to European experts, I have started to get used to the language used and etiquette needed when speaking to people of importance...first and most importantly, suck up. If you have any way of complimenting the person, do it because it increases the chances of them being willing to help. I have definitely learned the importance of complimenting someone you want to work for you. Every time I find some piece of information or get a chart or graph or anything really both of my bosses are extremely complimentary, which makes me want to work more and more for them. I'm even beginning to get compliments from people who I'm not working with in the office...major ego booster!

This week I also found myself acting like a giddy school girl after being contacted by Julian Lindley-French himself (through e-mail, but hey, whatever!). You may be asking who this man is...well, Lindley-French works with the Atlantic Council and is a professor of military arts and sciences at the Royal Military Academy of the Netherlands....I know, I'm such a geek, right?

Anyway, that was pretty much my week! Lots of research and writing! I'm sure there's more to come so check back next week to see if we got everything we needed done! Whether that will happen or not, I don't know, but I really do hope so!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

So this week I was granted the task of doing massive amounts of research...granted most of it was finding the addresses and e-mails of people like Hans Binnendijk (whose name is pronounced Ben-in-dike, which I learned from an embarrassing phone call to his center--note to self and anyone who might be reading this, always find out pronunciations of names before calling) and Julian Lindley-French, but most of these experiences actually have refined my professional phone calling skills. This research also proved a lot to my boss-- most of the research he asked me to do I had done in five minutes, much quicker than he even said it would've taken him....score 1 for the intern! I am actually pretty shocked at the amount of information I retained after doing so much reading this week...I guess that's what happens when you read about topics that are actually interesting to you.

Sometimes research isn't research at is research that will help you create your own research. This was my day on Thursday when I went through all 28 NATO countries in the CIA World Factbook to find out each one's individual GDP and next week I will go to all their aid websites to find out how much money each country gives in aid to Afghanistan each year, and then I will use alllll of that data to figure out percentage GDP of aid given to Afghanistan. That is what we need for a publication we are putting out.

I also cost my NGO over $200 this week when I found this really good publication called The Military Balance from the International Institute for Strategic Studies about the military capabilites of over 170 countries...I was told it was a pretty damn good buy and I earned my letter of recommendation for finding that jewel. =)

On Thursday, the Center organized a discussion group with the interns and some of the younger workers to talk about our anual Fellowship Conference in November and what our president would talk about. He wanted some guidance on how a generation much younger than him would percieve his message about social and personal responisbility...we offered many suggestions and ended up with an excellent round table discussion on topics that our plaguing our generation such as health care and environmental concerns. I was able to engage with people who are several years older than me (although still included in my generation) and I was pretty proud of how I handled my arguments and presented opinions and suggestions.

Another thing I learned on Thursday was that is probably one of the worst ideas to leave work at 5:15....the Metro is hell. I must have sat at Farragut North for 20 minutes waiting for a train that had a few inches of room to spare in the cars. Never again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning the Lay of the Land

August 27, 2009-- The first and youngest to start. At a time when I am the one starting to feel the oldest, I am in a sea of people older, once again. Making the transition from school to office setting at first sent a shock to my system, although I had been forewarned. During the interview process I had reminded myself that accepting a position like this would mean not being able to roll out of bed and off to class. I was to become a commuter-- wearing business attire, SmartTrip card in one hand and New York Times in the other. It was different, but I was excited to start "work" and be able to say things like "Oh, I can't...I have to go to work" or "At work today...". It became a game, and I loved it and I realized that this internship wasn't me giving up anything at all. After several days, I knew that I loved this sort of work. I quickly became acclimated to the work and research I was doing and the people I was working with and I have been having a great time.

*A note on my job--I am the intern to the NATO reform project the NGO is working on. We are working to compose a team of experts to travel to Europe with the project heads to convince European governments to provide more military support in Afghanistan. The NGO was awarded a grant to fund this project.

This week was a completely different experience. Our Congressional Correspondent invited me to attend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Afghanistan and I was ecstatic! I had never attended any sort of Congressional Hearing before and I turned into a giddy school girl, planning my outfit and my route to the Hill. It was an amazing day. After taking notes for 2 1/2 hours at the hearing, we left the Hill and I was asked to write a memo on the hearing to be sent out to the entire staff, and my boss loved it and congradulated me several times on a job well done.
After being asked to attend this I completely disregarded the stereotype of the intern-- at my small NGO, interns were not people who made photocopies or continuously ran errands. We did important research, wrote important notes, attended meetings, held meaningful conversations and were people who our bosses really wouldn't be able to get much done with without our help, and the best part was, none of my bosses took me for granted. Each one appreciated everything I contributed, whether it was a helpful reminder, a written memo, or some help with research. They were truly appreciative of the work I was doing, and this has already made my experience as an intern extremely rewarding.