Summer internship case studies

Discover the amazing stories and benefits of undertaking a summer internship as part of your International Relations with Politics studies

Emmy Noklebye – Teaching at the Ndulu English Project in Nias

In the second year of her study, in the summer of 2017, Emmy Noklebye volunteered at the Ndulu English Project, based in the south of Nias Island, in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The project’s mission is to provide quality English language instruction and enrichment activities to the village children.

“The project is purely voluntarily led by a local entrepreneur and his family, with help from foreign volunteers. Classes run from 14.00-16.00, Monday to Friday, after their regular school, and are free. The interest is very high, and the two open-air classrooms at the beach are crowded with an average of 100 students a day. Partly for that reason, in addition to considering a varied level of English, the children are divided into different groups.

“During my three weeks at the project, I was teaching intermediate and advanced groups of children. In the former, we were going through very basic topics with a lot of repetition. Standard themes could be the body, colours or family. The focus was to give the children confidence to speak, as well as helping them to remember words and form simple sentences themselves. We applied some songs too where appropriate, which was very engaging.

“The main challenge teaching this group was there were so many they couldn’t fit on the benches and under the roof, which became a difficulty when it was raining, affecting their concentration. For this reason, we divided the youngest students into three groups instead of two, which also gave room for adapting the lessons accordingly.

“I really enjoyed teaching the advanced, smaller class with older students, and thought it was engaging to plan the lessons and observe individual improvements. Typical exercises would be to write a poem about dreams or writing about pros and cons of their village, in addition to help and correct grammar and spelling."

“I found it challenging to take into consideration that our differences in childhoods and opportunities for the future, were not necessarily comparable to each other, so subjects like weather and seasons, favourite TV shows or travel, was not always suitable to use as learning materials."

“It was greatly enriching to take part in this project, as we as volunteers were so free to structure the lessons and discover suitable teaching methods. It was very rewarding to get to know the children and recognise their language development."

"This project was a perfect opportunity to dedicate oneself to learning Bahasa Indonesia, as this adaption to the culture made it far easier to communicate and learn from people’s life experiences, particularly the effects of the tsunami and earthquake that hit the island in 2004/2005.

“All the children in the school were from the local village, so I got to know almost every family along the road, which made me feel very welcome and gain a better understanding of the everyday life of an island family in North Indonesia. 

"In addition to running classes, we also participated in beach clean ups with the government and the navy, and tried to raise awareness around the local and global environmental effects of polluting the ocean, which we are all so dependent on."

<p>Emmy Noklebye – Teaching my first class in the outdoors classroom<br></p>
Emmy teaching her first class in the outdoors classroom
<p>Emmy Noklebye –&nbsp;Implementing songs with other volunteers to the intermediate education<br></p>
Implementing songs with other volunteers to the intermediate education
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<i></i>Emmy Noklebye&nbsp;– In the classroom with some students from the advanced class and volunteers</p>
In the classroom with some students from the advanced class and volunteers
<p>Emmy Noklebye – Beach Clean at Lagundri Bay, where the Ndulu English Project is based<br></p>
Beach clean at Lagundri Bay – where the project is based

Daina Ramanauskaite – Supporting the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the State of Israel

As a part of her studies in International Relations, Daina Ramanauskaite completed a seven week internship between July and September 2017, at the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the State of Israel. Daina was responsible for assistance in providing consular services and delivering the daily tasks for the Chargé d’Affaires Ramunas Davidonis, Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas.

“Each day of my internship started by reviewing a selection of regional newspapers, since the news had a substantial impact on the work that I had to do. At the end of the week I had to write a regional news report, which was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. 

“During my internship, the consular was away on leave so I had a great opportunity to familiarise myself with the job role and carry out the daily tasks of the consular in their absence. The consular assistant played a key role during my internship – she gave me detailed training and always found time for my questions and was willing to help. 

“The daily tasks for the Chargé d’Affaires and Ambassador included writing speeches, official letters and translating texts. Furthermore, I attended the Europe Union Ambassadors meeting in which discussions focused on current affairs in the Middle East (at the time of the Temple Mount crisis). I also took a part in preparations for the programme of the official visit of the Lithuanian’s Foreign Minister to Israel."

“I assisted the consular with legalisation of documents and in processing applications for issuance/replacement of passports for the Republic of Lithuania. I also assisted with the documentation of reinstatement of Lithuanian citizenship, for the persons who held citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania before 15 June 1940 and were exiled from the occupied Republic of Lithuania before 11 March 1990. 

"Besides that, every day I would be contacted via email or phone asking various questions related to reinstatement of citizenship, issuing passports and visa application inquiries.

“Before the internship my knowledge of the actual work carried out at the embassy was minimal. Now that my internship is over, I feel I have really learned a lot:

  • I became more familiar with the embassy day-to-day life and I deepened my knowledge about Israel and its region. 
  • I was out of my comfort zone, so I had to learn quickly and adapt to new challenges in a professional manner. I feel like the internship contributed to my personal development too. 
  • The internship broadened my career opportunities and will have a valuable impact on my CV. 
  • The internship opened opportunities to meet new people and networking at work. 
  • It made me realise what further steps I need to accomplish to do well in my career in the future.”

<p>The Temple Mount in Jerusalem<br></p>
Daina at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
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</p><p class="wysiwyg-text-align-center">Israeli West Bank barrier in
Bethlehem</p><p></p>
Israeli West Bank barrier in Bethlehem
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</p><p class="wysiwyg-text-align-center">Israeli West Bank barrier in
Bethlehem</p><p></p>
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</p><p class="wysiwyg-text-align-center">Tel Aviv from Jaffa (an ancient
port city in Israel)</p><p></p>
Tel Aviv from Jaffa – an ancient port city in Israel
<p>The view to the drying the Dead Sea form the rock of Masada. Masada is an ancient fortress in southern Israel’s Judean Desert.<br></p>
The view to the drying the Dead Sea form the rock of Masada – an ancient fortress in southern Israel’s Judean Desert

Aaliyah Lightburn – Working with the Embassy of Belize

Aaliyah Lightburn had the experience of a two week internship in Cuba in 2016, working in the Embassy of Belize.

“My internship in Cuba, although short, was full of opportunities for both professional and personal growth. I had the opportunity to work in the Embassy of Belize with a mostly Cuban staff from 9.00-17.00 and sometimes until 23.30. Weekday evenings and weekends was my chance to learn about Cuba and experience the country for myself. 

“In my first few days of working at the embassy, Ambassador Lou-Anne Burns, Belizean ambassador to Cuba, explained to me several times the importance of everyone’s job working in the embassy – from the gardener to the ambassador. No one’s job was above another’s and everyone had a valuable part to play in keeping the Embassy functioning. Now reflecting on that, I find that is essential for those working in diplomatic service, especially at foreign postings. Without a staff that felt appreciated, the Embassy of Belize would not be able to operate efficiently. I found out that even I as an intern had a very important part to play, even though I was there for only a short time. I was given a variation of work throughout my time that was simple but extremely important.

“Thankfully from the work I did, I now know what can be expected of me if ever I was to join Foreign Service in the future. My assignments ranged from administration to more technical work like operating Photoshop. First, I was tasked with enhancing and tagging images of important newspaper articles taken at the Cuban National Archive that were to be put in the Belizean National Archive. The tagging would make the process of digitally searching for images simpler than before, thus improving the quality of the National Archive. I was also asked to help organise the Embassy's financial documents in preparation for a continued audit by the request of the Auditor General of Belize. While these were simple tasks, I had to be extremely mindful of what I was doing because one small mistake or misfile could greatly alter public information.

“My work in the Embassy wasn’t without hardship though – gaining some insight into running a diplomatic posting in a country suffering from an embargo. The work I had could have been done in a timely manner had there been equipment, software and internet readily available to me. I learnt, however, that these things aren't easily attained in Cuba, especially by a small country with limited resources. 

"Very often during the day, internet at the embassy would stop working, thus rendering it impossible to work or research information online. Alongside the unstable internet there was also a data cap, so only certain things could be looked for fear of exhausting all the data available to us for the month, which would then be very expensive to reinstall. This often led to me abandoning my work for the day to think of work I could do that didn’t require the internet. 

"When I did have the chance to use software and equipment available to me, they were rather old and difficult to use. In addition to the software issues, one problem I encountered that I had never considered before, was being able to use software and equipment in Spanish. While I have no problems speaking conversational Spanish, I did have some difficulty adjusting to technical software terms in Spanish. I eventually overcame this hurdle and managed to finish my work.

“Besides the work given to me by the Embassy, I had to assist former ambassador to Cuba, Ambassador Assad Shoman, with information that he needed to be researched. Ambassador Shoman has been a key figure in realising Belize's history and helping with the ongoing dispute Belize has with one of her neighbour's. Having the chance to research information on Belize (then British Honduras) for him was an incredible opportunity. While researching for him, I was able to go more in depth with information about our history that I only managed to skim the surface of in school when I was younger. Ambassador Shoman also took the time to speak to me about his work and the importance of it for our country."

“When I wasn’t working in the office, I was able to see the relationship between Belize and Cuba – its history, present and future. During an Embassy function, I met one of the most important figures in the Caribbean who brought the Caribbean countries together and, unknown by most people, was a key figure in the Cuban revolution and a right-hand to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. To meet someone who has been on the forefront of one of the most important revolutions in the world and to see him then fostering a relationship not only between Cuba and Belize, but also between the entire Caribbean is an experience I will never forget. To this day he still rallies behind his region and does everything he can to make sure the Caribbean countries are progressing together.

“I was able to learn so much about the Cuban people and their country that I wouldn’t have the chance to learn otherwise. The Cuban people are quite isolated from the international community, due to their limited internet access and hard time travelling off the island. 

“I found the Cubans extremely friendly and always up for chat – in Spanish, English and many other languages. I took these opportunities to practice as much of my Spanish I possible could. Even though they knew my Spanish was not fluent, everyone was extremely patient with me and even went ahead to enunciate every word and speak extra slowly when it got complicated. I, in return, helped them practice their English and sometimes French. I am extremely grateful to the Cuban people to help me practice my Spanish in a comfortable environment that encouraged me to grow my language abilities.

“I learnt about the resilience of the Cuban people through their infamous período especial in the 1990’s where their economy had collapsed and the Cuban people and government needed to find ways to survive. I heard of the hardships they had to endure during then, some slow improvements that followed and the hardships that they face to this day. I spoke to many people about this, but one conversation that stuck out to me was from a Spanish as a Foreign Language teacher, who told me that after the recent disintegration of PetroCaribe, which helped not only the entire Caribbean when it came to fuel but especially Cuba, she felt as though Cuba was going to entire another períodio especial

“Through speaking to people I was able to really hear what it was like to be living in present-day Cuba. The teacher, as well as my Cuban colleagues, also spoke to me about second jobs that they needed to attend because earning from one job was simply not enough. Cubans simply did not have enough. Cubans are a resilient people, however, and that does not stop them from finding a way to live their best life."

“The trip to Cuba has been the most educating trip I’ve ever had. It was not only educating from an International Relations standpoint – Cuba’s revolution and the diplomatic relationship Belize has with Cuba, but also from a personal one. The skills I learnt at the Embassy and the knowledge I gained from people were acquired separately and under different circumstances, but they will all be beneficial to me in the future. I will carry these skills with me into future jobs, as well as future interactions with people.”

Sophie Smith – Working on midterm campaigns in the USA

Thanks to the generous internship funding that the Politics and International Relations Department provides, Sophie was able to travel to the US and work on midterm campaigns for the Democrat Party in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 

"In New Hampshire, I worked on a variety of campaigns from state representative to congressional primary races. New Hampshire is a prominent and important swing state. Following the 2016 elections it was described as ‘even’ Democrat and Republican, when I arrived I was told that every door I knocked on could change the result. 

"For the Democrat primaries in New Hampshire we had a chance to canvass, operate phone banks and attend events for candidate Chris Pappas. The canvassing in New Hampshire was very different to the UK. There were sometimes miles between houses so it was vital we had a car. We were undertaking targeted canvassing so most were registered Democrats or undecided. Many registered Democrats were less interested in the outcome of the primary but assured us that they would turn out to vote in order to keep Trump supported Republicans from power.

"There was a huge anti-Trump sentiment amongst most people I talked to. There was the odd house however, where someone would say they are a republican and Trump supporter and we would have to politely remind them that they are in fact a registered Democrat! 

"I attended a forum where all the candidates for New Hampshire’s First Congressional District were quizzed on their policy and background. A group of us were called in at midday to put hundreds of Chris Pappas signs across the lawns and driveway of the community college where the forum was being held. It was boiling hot but quite a sight. We then stood at the entrance to the college holding huge signs as people arrived. The forum itself was very aggressive. Some candidates stuck to talking about policy and experience, whilst some got very personal with attacks. I learnt that so called ‘carpetbagging’, where politicians move to certain states for political gain, is not favoured in New Hampshire.

"I visited Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and met with a professor and some of his students. I was able to ask questions about American politics and the professor and his students talked about their backgrounds and predictions for the future. Later, a group of us met with the Massachusetts chapter of the political action group Moms Demand Action. It was amazing to hear how the movement has grown and how much impact they have had. It was heart-breaking to hear of their fears for their own children’s safety."

"I also spent some time in Massachusetts with Kate Donohue. She is a superdelegate and the hardest working woman I have ever met. Kate had us canvassing for Jay Gonzalez who was running for Governor. It shocks a lot of people that the 'deep blue' state of Massachusetts has a Republican Governor. Canvassing in Massachusetts was much easier. The houses were closer together and I don’t think I spoke to a single Republican. One of the things I liked most about canvassing there was the diverse range of communities we were connecting with. I met a very wide range of people who all had one thing in common: they dislike Donald Trump.

"I also undertook some phone bank work in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Working as part of the phone bank felt really disheartening when no one picked up or they said they didn’t wish to be contacted. It was very hard to convey to people over the phone what a candidate had to offer when they are in a rush. However, on the day of the primaries, we were all asking the simple question of “Have you voted or do you have a plan to vote?”. I really enjoyed convincing people to use their vote.

"I’m glad to say I have a 100% success rate of the candidates I have been working for winning campaigns. In Massachusetts, I attended a unity rally where all the candidates came to support those who had won and made speeches to encourage everyone to volunteer and work as one unified group. In attendance was Jay Gonzalez, Ayanna Presley, a surprise win and very inspirational as a young black woman and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Everyone was holding signs that read ‘persist’ and the rhetoric was all about removing power from Trump and those who support him. 

"I learnt so much on this trip. I learnt that America is more divided than ever and winning an election takes hard work 24/7, sacrificing your job and putting your family in the spotlight. The USA doesn’t have 6-week election cycles, as soon as one election is over another starts. After just four weeks I was exhausted but amazed by all the volunteers, staffers and candidates I met."

"I am taking two modules that focus on American policy and politics this year and I’m sure I can apply so much of what I have learnt. Thank you to the department for allowing me to have this opportunity."

<p>Sophie Smith internship USA</p>
Display of campaign signs in New Hampshire
<p>Sophie Smith with Democrats</p>
Sophie with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Ayanna Presley and Jay Gonzalez
<p>Sophie Smith internship USA</p>
Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

James Lord – Working in Westminster as a Parliamentary Assistant 

Over the summer of 2018 James undertook a two week internship as a Parliamentary Assistant with Charlie Elphicke MP.

"If it had not been for funding from the International Relations and Politics Internship program I would not have been unable to undertake the internship."

"My internship was spilt between the constituency office in Dover as well as the office in Westminster in Portcullis House. At the constituency office I worked on ‘casework’, this involved speaking with and assisting constituents with any issues they had, as well as chasing responses from various departments or agencies who the constituent had asked to be contacted on their behalf. Issues brought up by constituents varied from concerns over planning applications to asking about Brexit and the direction of negotiations. As a result I often had to research legislation and locate various information to explain to constituents why certain issues were dealt with, often in ways that they might disagree with. One of my daily tasks was to look over the minutes of meetings held by the local district council and county council the day before and to provide a summary of what had been discussed and any decisions that had been taken. In addition to this as the office is also home to the local Conservative Association some of my time was spent assisting with their activities, including the creation and management of social media pages.

"At Portcullis House, my tasks included some of the same work that I did at the constituency office but also involved researching topics that Mr Elphicke wished to raise at the Treasury Select Committee, this was largely based around crypto currencies with the fraud and security risks the currencies brought to the United Kingdom. Another topic was researching the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) and how often their projections were correct.

"While at Westminster I was able to take part in a private tour of the Palace of Westminster which included being allowed onto the floor of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, including standing at the dispatch box, it was unfortunate photography wasn’t allowed."

"During my two weeks the cabinet meeting at Chequers was held (where it was decided how Brexit negotiations would follow) as well as the publishing of the White Paper. I was tasked with reading through the White Paper and providing a briefing on it for Mr Elphicke highlighting areas that were vital for the constituency such as fishing, and movement of people (as in the constituency we have the Port of Dover). Following this briefing I was asked to look into the trade agreement between the EU and Canada for possible solutions to the Northern Ireland-Ireland border problem which meant examining the treaty in detail.

"The role of Parliamentary Assistant changes day to do day with you reacting to the political reality. It is a job I would be very happy doing after I graduate."

"This internship was far more than making tea. I was treated as a member of staff, included in meetings and my opinion sought on the issues of the day."

Sarah Afrane – Congressional campaign experience in the USA

Sarah spent her summer working for a congressional campaign in Orange County with Politrip.

"During the summer between my first and second year of university, I chose to spend a month undertaking work in the political field and began searching for opportunities, through which I came across Politrip. This offered me the chance to spend a month of my summer undertaking an unpaid political internship in America working on a congressional campaign. Having studied American politics for a year in sixth form, I already had a vested interest in the politics of America and with a memorable presidential election having recently taken place, I was even keener to immerse myself in America’s political scene during the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. 

"Before the international program commenced we attended a training day in London which gave us the opportunity to meet the other young people who had also signed up and whom we would be working with. The training day also helped us understand the type of work we would be undertaking and the long hours involved, which gave us a better idea of what to expect."

"August came and I boarded my flight from London Gatwick to LAX; my feelings were a mixture of trepidation at the unknown and excitement to have the opportunity to be in USA and be a part of the politics I had been learning about in text books."

"We hit the ground running and the morning after arrival we were up and out at 9.00am Los Angeles time. Heading to the Katie Porter campaign office headquarters, we were unsure of what to expect, however we were met by a friendly group of office staff who welcomed us and gave us a training brief. We were to be campaigning for Katie Porter, democratic candidate for Congress in District 45 (Orange County, California). We were given policy information and had the chance to ask questions. We were also told about the nature the weeks would take; this would involve working in the office taking calls as part of a phone bank, data entry and spreadsheet work with voter information as well as canvassing such as knocking on doors and engaging in political conversations with people. The work involved long hours as it was key to speak to people at peak times in the day; weekends, mornings and evenings. I was eager to start canvassing and begin my day with interesting political conversations, hopefully ending in convincing the Californian electorate to vote Democrat."

"Aside from the long working days (often surpassing 20,000 steps) we had the opportunity to explore the local area of Orange County and wider California, including Los Angeles.

"With the knowledge I have gained of the congressional election process, I hope to do more research into the different roles that make up the US political establishment, especially those which involve international relations, so that I have a better understanding of what transferring to a political role in America would entail."

"The internship fund has been invaluable to me as it has allowed me to gain experience which I would have been otherwise unable access due to cost."

"The internship fund has helped me to take further steps in my career progression and I would encourage applicants to give the application process their all as the benefits of undertaking work experience can lead to paid opportunities in the future.

"For me the opportunity to immerse myself in a large crowd of people within a busy environment has meant I have been able to build my confidence within a real workplace, which has given me skills for the future. Additionally I have learnt more about America itself, what makes it run and the issues which matter to Americans."