Cream of the Crop (in my opinion): International Internship and its Process

Forewarning: No photos for this post! Couldn’t find any visually enticing materials that could be relevant to this topic… yet! Definitely more coming in the future once we actually start our internship!

I’ve had a several opportunities (Masters preview day, email exchanges, virtual info session, etc.) to share why I chose IEDP as opposed to other similar programs in different institutions, and each time, my response strongly emphasized the international internship component of the program.

I really liked the fact that once in the program, we will be guaranteed with an internship at an organization. True, you might not get to intern at your dream organization but hey, at the end of the day, you will be somewhere for sure? Also, I thought, “if I couldn’t land on my dream internship via this program, my chance of landing that internship via some other routes (cold call inquiry, etc. etc.) would have been even slimmer anyways.” Not to downplay my caliber and competency but the relationship that IEDP has with these organizations place our applications in a special status. First of all, Dr. GK knows exactly whom to get in touch with and the person in charge will definitely reply to her email because they have been working together for a long time! Also, we are not competing with other applicants but will be considered for the position on our own. When I learned about these, I thought to myself “how could I pass such opportunity!”

Also true — despite the great perk, the internship assignment process isn’t always rosy, as I learned from a blog post about the internship process that my dearest predecessor wrote. In fact, Erin did a phenomenal job of explaining what the process looks like so if you are more curious about the actual details of the process, definitely check out her post.

From my personal experience, I think there was more transparency in the process this year because some of my cohort mates got to hear explanations on why they would not be considered for their first choice internship position. At least for all the cases I have directly heard about, it had to do with the fact that the organizations did not have room for an intern this summer (both physically and logistically) or there was a change in the project that they wanted an intern for. (funding, national policies, etc.) One thing many of our cohort mates did learn from this process is that at times, our qualifications and competencies are not the sole factor for the internship assignment — it really is a dance between the organization and us so it’s important to be mindful of our counterpart in the process.

Our cohort being the biggest in the history of IEDP (if I remember correctly), Dr. GK was a bit intimidated about placing all of us before summer but as of now, almost everyone that is doing their internship in summer has more or less a clear idea of where they will be! Yes, many of us are still working out the logistics, paper work, visa, etc. etc. but at least we know which organization we will be in. Some of us who are going in the fall are still left hung but for those, there’s definitely more time so I don’t think anyone feels too pressed at the moment.

I personally had a somewhat tumultuous process of internship assignment but in the end, I’m extremely happy with my assignment! I thought of the international internship as an opportunity to be totally out of my comfort zone and for me, that means getting real work experience in somewhere else other than the U.S. and Europe. Though I did not have a specific country in mind, getting out of U.S.-Europe-Korea comfort zone was quite important to me, and I made that quite clear on my initial internship survey. At the same time, because I did not really have a regional focus in mind, I told Dr. GK that I would be down to go anywhere — Latin America, MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc. — as long as the topic of the project aligns with my area of interest. During my preliminary research of the organizations, I did find an organization’s office in Kenya that had a project that almost perfectly aligns with my area of interest. Dr. GK also thought I would be a good fit for that project (plus, apparently the supervisor of the project is an AMAZING mentor) so she reached out to the supervisor. Only to learn that the supervisor is no longer in Kenya and has moved to Paris! The project that the supervisor is in charge of in Paris office was in fact, even more in line with my interest area to the point it was almost hard to believe. But as I mentioned above, I really looked forward to leaving my comfort zone for once… Thus the dilemma began.

At the end of the day, because I did value the topic matter more than a regional focus, I decided to pursue the Paris option. I will be honest here in that if I weren’t able to figure out the financial aspect of it, I would not have been able to pursue Paris option. Going to Paris means all the expenses can’t be covered with the stipend from the program. I was very lucky in many ways.

Was it a some sort of compromise on my end? For sure. Am I not happy about it? Not really! This is another lesson that I have learned from the internship assignment process: things cannot be perfect but that is absolutely fine. As many from the previous cohorts and Dr. GK always say, international internship is really what you make out of it. Though I haven’t started my internship yet, I could sense that their wisdom is probably right. Because in this process of having to compromise and make difficult decision, I was able to look back and contemplate what are my priorities. Also, because the perfect piece of cake I had envisioned never existed, I had to look through all the options I have and really weigh the pros and cons, which helped me hone decision-making skills.

I have to throw a disclaimer before I end this post: internship assignment process vastly — like beyond our imagination — differs from person to person. My experience or other one IEDPer’s experience of internship assignment do not reflect everything perfectly. In a sense, as much as it could add to our anxiety (because our cohort doesn’t get enough, right?), I believe that’s the beauty of it — you are about to have an experience that no one else has had before!

Will try to update the post with some photos… if I find anything relevant and intriguing. (But no promise made!)


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