By Yumna Rathore, MID-DPES, 2014
When I was accepted as an intern at the Middle East Institute (MEI), I was ecstatic. The thought of being in Dupont Circle, next door to Carnegie Endowment for Peace and Brookings Institute, walking distance from Atlantic Council, and a metro stop away from the World Bank and Chemonics International, was thrilling. Moreover, MEI was an organization solely focused on Middle East. The definition included Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries I was invested in. My experience at MEI can be summarized in 4 Ps:
- Professional Relationships: After substantial internship experiences in NGOs, international organizations, and government, I dived into the DC think tank world hoping to build professional relationships in DC. At the Middle East Institute, I was working with Dr. Andrea Rugh who was a technical advisor for USAID development projects in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. She was a Research Associate at the Harvard Institute of International Development (1987-1994), and worked for Save the Children and UNICEF in Pakistan and Afghanistan (1998-2002). With over 40 years of residence and work experience in the field of international education, Dr. Rugh was a great mentor. Her guidance was a key resource to a handful of connections at the UN, World Back, and other smaller organizations.
- Projects: The next three months starting from April were busy. My tasks varied from building a database to conducting research!
- Compile and create a website database of 80 materials called “Primary Education Support” from 3 projects (a) a Pakistan education project funded by USAID (b) an Afghanistan education project funded by UNICEF and Save the Children, and (c) an Egypt life skills project funded by a group of international organizations.
- Review, analyze, and summarize project materials including study reports, program evaluations, case study analyses, and practitioners’ books for UNESCO library in Geneva, libraries in Kabul, and other interested international organizations such as Global Partnerships in Education.
- Promote and outreach website to 40+ individual professionals interested in post-Taliban education models.
- Collect and synthesize articles in chronological order on Muslim-Coptic relations in Egypt after the Egyptian Revolution from the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Al-Ahram, Beirut Daily Star, Egyptian Independent, and other secondary sources.
- Research and report on sources of funding for Christian-supported TV and radio programming in Egypt.
- Assist in two inter-departmental projects (a) generating a list of Yemeni, Syrian, Tunisian, and Egyptian writers for the Political Islam project (b) researching on transitional justice in Asia-Pacific countries mainly, Cambodia, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, East Timor, South Korea, and Taiwan for the Middle East-Asia Project (MAP)
- Preparatory Skills: Along with the work I was assigned to by Dr. Rugh, I was also a participant of the MEI Intern Development Series (IDS). The IDS provided all interns with excellent opportunities to speak with professionals from all facets of the job market. The group of 20 or so interns would meet weekly with individuals and groups such as POMED, UNDP, Ambassador Marisa Lino, Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain, and Mehreen Farooq. Interns were also fortunate enough to have extensive resume, cover letter, and networking workshops conducted by hiring officials at MEI. Also, the flexibility of the internship enabled me to go to daily events and networking meetings in more than 15 think tanks in the course of my internship.
- Practical Skills: Another component of the MEI internship program that I was so grateful for were the language classes. Interns could take up to two courses, one free and another at a discounted price. At MEI, I took Egyptian Arabic classes twice a week for two months. Going abroad to get language experience was not an option for me and so this was one of the best assets from interning at MEI! The institute also offers excellent Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Dari, Urdu, and Pashto classes.
To conclude, my experiences at Dupont Circle were all-encompassing! There is much to learn from being in a city that has a stronghold on policy-making! If you have any questions about interning in DC or the Middle East Institute, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!