It is my last week at R4D! How is it here already?!

Trip to Eurasia

The Caspian Sea!

It has been less than a month since my last blog post so not much has happened work-wise, but a lot of interesting things took place outside of work! For starters, I traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan for the first time. It was gorgeous! Visiting all the major post-Soviet cities has been on my bucket list and Baku didn’t disappoint! I wish I had more time to explore the country, but I had too many things planned for my short vacation.

After Baku, I was in my native Almaty for an insanely busy week. I turned 29 in the company of my close friends and family. Realizing that this is my last year in my 20s hit me hard but in a good way! I am exactly where I want to be, and I am very grateful for that. During my short stay, I was invited to get involved in the work of a newly convened committee on sustainable development at the city government of Almaty. The major focus of the committee will be on pollution in Almaty (pollution index 78). During my initial meeting with the committee chairman, I insisted on the importance of relying on the local expertise and extending support to existing, successful eco-projects (Dr. GK, your lectures on the importance of local expertise and participatory approach were not in vain!). I was given less than 24 hours to convene this group of local eco experts and activists for a business lunch with the committee chairman. And I did! I also met up with my team at Neupusti. While I was in grad. school, one of my co-founders made it to Kazakhstan’s Forbes 30 under 30 list!

Lessons learned

During my flights from Kazakhstan to the U.S., I wrote a list of lessons that I learned during my internship with R4D. It could be particularly helpful for the first-year IEDPers when they will be applying for and settling in their internships.

  • The internship is not the highlight of your IEDP experience. Like most of my cohort mates, mistakenly assumed that the internship is the jewel on the crown that’s IEDP (I apologize for the colonial metaphor). Now, looking back at the past year, I realize that the highlights of my time at Penn GSE were IEDP core classes and the friends I’ve made. The internship is just an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired to real-world projects and learn something independently outside of a structured curriculum.  
  • The internship is not a fun trip. It is a professional development and educational experience. If you are picking the internship country and organization based on how much fun and sightseeing you will do, you are doing it wrong. The internship selection must be based on your academic and/or professional objectives and how well the host organization can help you achieve those goals.
  • During the interview process, discuss your goals with your potential supervisor(s). See if they can accommodate them or if you are interested in adjusting your goals to fit the organization’s current work. Don’t forget that the internship placement process is a two-way street. It is not just the organization assessing your fitness to intern with them; you are also assessing the organization’s fitness for your goals and expectations.
  • During the onboarding process, insist on regular check-ins with your supervisor(s). Things get very busy very quickly, and it is important to have a one-on-one with your supervisor to discuss your progress, concerns, questions and other matters. Be proactive during these meetings: schedule them by sending calendar requests, develop a meeting agenda beforehand and share it with your supervisor(s) and take notes during these check-ins.
  • Ask for work. When you start, your host organization doesn’t know how you work (your work process, how fast you work, etc) and what kind of work you enjoy. If you are not given enough work and/or you would like to get involved in different types of work, just ask!
  • Clarify how your contributions to the organization’s work will be recognized. This is particularly important if you are involved in research and writing. For example, will you appear as a contributor, co-author, author, editor in the final publication?
  • Keep in touch with IEDPeops. They are an incredible source of information, support, and inspiration.

Goodbye!

…and on this note, I conclude my internship blog for IEDP! The internship itself will end on December 19. I have yet to attend R4 holiday party and my goodbye lunch with the Global Education team on Wednesday. I am told there will be lots of good food!