My internship placement process turned out to be unexpectedly chaotic. I opted to take my remaining two classes over the summer and complete the internship in the Fall. Originally, I was supposed to be placed with an organization in Italy. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t come to fruition due to some unexpected issues between my graduate program and the hosting organization. I want to say that I was heartbroken, but I simply didn’t have the time to wallow in my sorrows.

Due to lack of time, my internship options were circumscribed to IEDP partners in the U.S. After doing some research, my choice fell on Results for Development (R4D) in Washington, D.C. Though R4D has ties to IEDP, they didn’t go easy on me during the interview process, which impressed me! I had to submit a writing sample, complete a timed assignment and pass an interview with the education team. The timed assignment threw me off a bit as it was given to me right before my flight to Lisbon. I didn’t want to think about the assignment during my much-deserved vacation, so I completed it on a red-eye flight!

I started my internship a week late due to last-minute paperwork that needed to be filed. I noticed a discrepancy between what I was told by my graduate program at the beginning of the year and information on the website of the ISSS. As it turned out, the university has changed some of its policies, which impacted international students like myself. Fortunately, IEDP and ISSS helped me to collect all my documentation in a matter of days.

The quiet room (I call it the “nap room”).

The onboarding process at R4D was organized and welcoming. I spent my first week meeting the members of the education team and being introduced to the projects I will be working on. My supervisor is a great guy, who has been with the organization for a while. R4D occupies the entire 7th floor of a beautiful building in downtown D.C. The amenities at the office are top-notch: there is a gym, a nap room (dreams do come true!), a mother’s room and a kitchen with free tea! Every day around noon, I am faced with the difficult decision of where to have lunch, as there are so many options.

R4D combines my two greatest passions: health and education.

The organizational culture at R4D is nothing like I experienced before in D.C. (or Kazakhstan). Most of the senior positions are held by women. The organization offers flexible work schedules for many of the working moms and dads on staff. HR doesn’t police what you wear. Interactions between colleagues are friendly, yet professional. There are no gatekeepers to senior-level staff. The other day, the CEO casually started a conversation with me in the kitchen. The office itself is exceptionally quiet!

I am glad that, at the end of my long and tumultuous internship placement process, I landed at R4D. At first, I worried that coming back to D.C., a place I know so well, wouldn’t contribute to my professional growth. I was wrong though. Yes, I am in the same place where I was 10 years ago, but I am a whole different person.