Category Archives: Internship Stories

Internship stories shared by students

Ivan Ponomarev Wastes No Time with Two Internships in DC

I spent this summer in Washington D.C. as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington summer program. I have never been to our nation’s capital before, so this was definitely quite the experience. From visiting monuments and museums to attending concerts and interesting presentations, this summer had no shortage of things to keep me busy. Add a summer class and two internships to the mix and you barely even have time to sit down and relax, but not in a bad
way. Why would you want to when the summer is short and any second wasted will only be a future regret?

Ivan Ponomarev at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy holding the organization’s logo with their “tracks.”

Aside from the coursework and all of the fun activities, the professional experience that I gained at my two internships was invaluable. Sure, it was tough balancing the two when there are
only 40 hours in a workweek, but the different experiences that I had and the different skills that I acquired were well worth it. I spent part of my time interning at Nonviolence International, which is an organization that works to promote conflict resolution through nonviolence and to create a worldwide culture of peace. My responsibilities included the oversight and planning of an educational peace tour to Ukraine, as well as research and outreach to potential participants for this trip.

My second internship this summer was at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, which works to promote a systems-based approach to peacebuilding and to facilitate the transformation of deeply-rooted social conflict. My responsibilities included conducting research on the conflict and peacebuilding sector and producing white papers, as well as analyzing conflict zones and identifying potential funders, partners and peer competitors.

I am eternally grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I had this summer, as it was certainly one to remember. I will always look back at this summer as an important building block in the person that I will become and am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead in my future.

Ivan Ponomarev is a MAIR student doing a second semester in the Maxwell-in-Washington program. He is currently interning at National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Maxwell-in-Washington Program

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Kirssy Gonzalez, OAS Database on Trafficking in Persons

My summer internship at the Organization of American States (OAS) was rewarding for many reasons. I am passionate about working in development and migration policies and projects in the Americas. The OAS has increased my expertise in those fields and has given me the opportunity to meet amazing people from different countries.

Kirssy Gonzalez at OAS

My internship was based in the Department of Public Security within the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security. I researched policies, programs, and publications on the prevention of violence and crime in the region. I updated the Inter-American Network for Prevention of Violence and Crime with daily articles and learned about the relation between public security and international development.

I reviewed forms submitted by the National Authorities in the area of trafficking in persons (TIP). These forms included the OAS Member States laws and best practices to combat the heinous crime of TIP. The forms also included information about TIP within their countries. I sorted through this information which will be used for the upcoming database on TIP in the region. This database will include the contact information of government officials and institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and activists that are working against TIP; hotlines for victims and witnesses of the crime; information on resources available for victims; and documents regarding TIP.

The internship has allowed me to meet United States Foreign Service Officers, international civil servants, employees of the Organization of American States, and people from all over the world who work in development, humanitarian assistance, and diplomacy.

This opportunity has been rewarding and I am grateful for the experience.

Kirssy Gonzalez is a graduate of SU’s Maxwell School and College of Arts and Sciences. She has earned both a MA in International Relations (MAIR) from Maxwell and a Pan-African Studies degree from Arts and Sciences. She also formerly interned at International Organization for Migration — the UN Migration Agency — in Geneva during the summer of 2017.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Pan African Studies at SU’s College of Arts and Sciences

Maxwell-in-Washington Program

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Sören Reischert, Hard Business Talks in Singapore

Founded in 1955 by Mr Yap Chwee Hock, YCH began as a modest passenger transportation company. Today, YCH is Singapore’s largest home-grown supply chain solutions company and leading regional supply chain management partner to many of the world’s leading brands across the Asia Pacific.

From May to August 2018, I had the chance to intern with YCH’s global procurement team. Since YCH operates in more than a dozen countries including China, even Brunei, then onto Australia, every day poses new challenges and brings interesting tasks. Besides helping with general procurement tasks, I mainly worked on analyzing the contract compliance rates of YCH’s operations in Malaysia and Indonesia. To put it in other words, my task was to analyze if YCH uses the most competitive rates on specific shipping routes. If the answer was negative, I would have a talk with the local route planners and other members of staff who are involved in on-the-ground operations. Questioning established business practices can be hard – especially for an intern – but engaging in these types of conversations meant I had a steep learning curve and gained insights in a multitude of operations and supply chain processes.

While the internship was worthwhile on its own, the multicultural nature of the city-state was another highlight of my SU abroad experience. Singapore is a fascinating place to work and live, as it is the commercial hub of South East Asia and home to people from all backgrounds. Virtually everyone is at least bilingual, and the heritage of each ethnic group is represented in the countless food courts of Singapore, which offer a unique blend of cuisines.

Overall, my internship in Singapore was a great supplement to my studies in Syracuse and Berlin. Even if I will not stay in the logistics sector, working at YCH was a unique opportunity to gain professional experience and work in a fascinating and diverse environment.

Sören Reischert is an Atlantis student completing a joint MA International Relations and Master of Public Policy degree at both the Maxwell School in Syracuse and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He is currently interning in Ireland.

Sören Reischert in the YCH lobby

Atlantis Trans-Atlantic Double Degree

Singapore Summer Internships Program

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Kyungmi Shin Initiates Children & Digital Marketing Outreach at UNICEF

This summer I interned at UNICEF in Geneva. My team was the Children’s Rights and Business Unit within the Private Sector Engagement Division of the Private Fundraising Partnerships (PFP) Department. UNICEF headquarters is located in New York, but the entire PFP department is based in Geneva. Due to my previous work experience in the private sector, I have been interested in exploring the intersection of the public and private sectors, and this was a great experience which helped me to expand my expertise and pursue a future career in this field.

Kyungmi shin at the Palais des Nations where here office was located.

As a graduate intern, I was able to get involved in several projects such as the Children and Digital Marketing initiative. I was in charge of finding ways to make the Children and Digital Marketing discussion paper more child-friendly so that children can easily understand what digital marketing is and how it affects their rights.

I developed the idea of creating an animated video which can grab children’s attention with youth-friendly story telling. After watching this short video, children are asked to answer a survey which is designed to find out how much they actually understand the content and what their opinions are regarding this topic. I was given the ownership to initiate and lead the project, and I am happy to finish my internship with actual deliverables.

Before joining UNICEF, I had a very limited knowledge of human rights and how the private sector is engaged with children’s rights. After three months of interning, I am convinced that the role of corporations in children’s rights is significant not only in the aspect of child labor but also in children’s role as consumers and their impact on corporations. This great lesson is so meaningful that I would like to further explore more ways to learn about public and private partnerships. After reviewing a number of impact assessment reports on children’s rights and business from numerous country offices and human rights institutes, I am confident to say that my skills in researching, creating reports, and communication also improved.

Despite the high living costs of Geneva, it was definitely a great experience that expanded my horizons, and I am grateful to share this UN experience in this amazingly beautiful city.

Kyungmi Shin is a MAIR student at the Maxwell School currently interning at the International Finance Corporation in Washington, DC.

Kyungmi Shin in the Swiss Alps.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Graduate Internships in Geneva Program

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Katherine Hewitt, Life, Studies, & Interning at the Pompidou Group in Strasbourg

This past summer, I had the opportunity to live in Strasbourg, France as a participant of the Summer Internships in Strasbourg program. I interned with the Council of Europe as well as studied religion and human rights at SU’s Strasbourg Center.

The Strasbourg Center is in a perfect location, surrounded by diplomatic missions and easily accessible by several bus and tram routes.  The Center very quickly becomes the focus of your day to day life.  They organized monthly picnics with foods from the local market and weekend excursions in France and Germany for all students.  Even from before our arrival the staff at the Center was very active in making sure our arrival and adaptation to Strasbourg was smooth.  They answered all of our questions and helped a couple of us find a place to get our laptops fixed.  I was even able to use the Director’s connections to find my next internship at Caritas in Bosnia.

During the summer there are students participating in several programs: engineering, French language, religion and human rights, or the intern program.  They were all undergraduate students both from SU and from other universities.  But by the second week, we were all good friends, hanging out after class and on the weekends. It’s been several months since the end of the program, but we all still talk to each other.

Weekly picnic with fellow Strasbourg Center students

Living in Strasbourg is quite relaxing and easy.  The city’s public transportation is extensive and easy to use.  The trams can take you anywhere, even across the Rhine to Germany!  The Center provides you with a renewable pass so that you have unlimited access to public transportation.  But, if you leave yourself enough time, it’s quite enjoyable to just walk everywhere too.  There is an option to live with a host family, but I decided to live by myself.  I had a quaint little apartment in an area known as Petit France looking over the canal.  I lived above a typical Alsatian restaurant, and every morning and afternoon the wait staff would say Bonjour and exchange some pleasantries.  It really made you feel like you were apart of French life!

The religion and human rights course is extremely interesting.  While I focus on human rights, I hadn’t explored this connection before.  The professor, Yuksel Sezgin, teaches the course in a very approachable manner.  It is very clear he is passionate about what he teaches and wants all of his students to walk away with an increased knowledge of the subject.  For a grad student, the nightly readings were manageable, but more importantly were engaging.  He used his connections at the local university and the Council of Europe to bring in guest speakers that really expand our understanding of religion and human rights in a comparative context.  Even if you decide not to go on this study abroad, I highly recommend taking one of his classes on campus.

Council of Europe, main building

Interning at the Council of Europe was probably the highlight of the summer. Through the universities connection with Thomas Kattau, the Deputy Security of the Pompidou Group, I was offered an internship alongside another undergraduate participant. The Pompidou Group analyses trafficking trends and national strategies on drugs as well as promotes public health solutions to drug use.

While I was there, I worked on several projects.  My first big task was to write the Meeting Report for the Annual Airports Group Meeting.  For three days, I attended the meeting taking notes and meeting with various officials from across Europe and the world.  It was an excellent opportunity to see how international organizations share best practices and “success” stories.

Agora Building, location of the Pompidou Group

I started to work on preparing for the 17th Ministerial Conference that will be held in November.  Among typical tasks like preparing papers on the project outcomes, making schedules, and writing speeches, I had a unique opportunity to set up an app for the event.

Everyone in the office made me feel welcome and included.  They would pop by my office every now and then to chat and see how I was getting along with their assignments.  I was always given interesting tasks to complete and many of them prepared me for my next internship.

Katherine Hewitt is a MAIR student on her last semester at the Maxwell School. She is currently interning at Caritas in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

SU’s Strasbourg Center

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Stephanie Spera Works with Illiterate Mothers in South Africa

Stephanie Spera is a current joint MPA /MAIR student at The Maxwell School. This summer she interned with Connect Network, a non-profit network based in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of her degree requirements. She also participated in the summer program South Africa: A Global Health Education Experience.

This summer, I embarked on a journey that has changed me academically, professionally, and personally. It all started with a Skype call with Dee Moskoff, an alum of the Maxwell School and Director of Connect Network, an organization that partners with NGOs around Cape Town to reach women and children at risk through health, education, and empowerment programs.

Connect Network office in Cape Town, South Africa

My primary responsibility at Connect was to aid in the final stages of developing a health literacy manual for illiterate mothers and their children in the Western Cape. The manual focuses on empowering women and children to respect their bodies, identify their health needs, and improve their understanding of issues such as sexuality, emotional health, and abuse. This included several steps, including performing a baseline survey of mothers to identify community needs; meeting with partners to finalize content and to ensure they are happy with the final product; writing a year-end report for donors; and drafting a budget request for year two funding.

From the start, my team met the stress of development and deadlines with passion, purpose, and perseverance. We sat for hours with partners to make sure the manual met their objectives. We facilitated conversations between each partner, the illustrator, and donors to maintain the vision of the project at every step. Amid threats of rioting, we traveled weekly to Khayelitsha Township to meet with local facilitators who helped to develop and collect surveys and provided valuable feedback on the needs of the community. Although each partner has different interests in the project, our shared dedication to improving the lives of women and children by empowering them to advocate for themselves and improve their access resources has kept us moving forward.

Stephanie Spera and her team at Connect Network

During my time in South Africa, I have found a passion for health care and bridging resource gaps for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. My experience at Connect has taught me the importance of people and relationships, and has given me the skills necessary to continue that fight when I return stateside.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

South Africa: A Global Health Education Experience

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At World Vision-Ecuador, Valeria Urbina Cordano Applies Collaborative Governance

Valeria Urbina Urbina Cordano is a De-Sardon Glass Fellow working on the joint MPA/MAIR degree.

Between the months of June and August, I had the opportunity to do my internship at World Vision (WV) in Ecuador. My professional interest in social policies aimed to enhance the quality of life of vulnerable people, particularly in Latin America, motivated me to do an internship with this great NGO.

WV-Ecuador is a Non-profit Organization aimed at increasing the well-being and integral protection of children and youths in Ecuador. To achieve this, WV works with children and youths together with their families and communities to reach their full potential in the exercise of their rights and participation. It also works to promote their economic development.

As an intern, I worked within the Directorate of Integrated Ministry, the department in charge of implementing, monitoring, and evaluating their institutional programs and projects. In a context of organizational change, my responsibilities were twofold. First, I conducted research regarding the inter-institutional cooperation between WV and the public sector oriented towards recommending improvements to WV’s inter-institutional cooperation strategy. Second, I identified and assessed the most important causes of vulnerability in children and youths in order to diversify and increase the positive impacts of WV’s interventions.

Valeria Urbina Cordano conducting a focus group discussion with community leaders in Colta, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador.
Group Photo of the focus group with community leaders in Colta, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador.

I had the great opportunity to lead both endeavors. In this sense, I was in charge of activities such as setting goals, literature research, methodology design, tools’ development, coordination, data collection and systematization, as well as analysis and elaboration of the final report. I really enjoyed reviewing the literature and applying frameworks from my Maxwell courses, particularly, those related to Collaborative Governance.

Moreover, as part of this work, I visited two of WV’s Area Development Programs located in different regions (Colta which is in the highlands, and Santa Ana which is on the coast). There, I conducted interviews with WV’s personnel and partners from the local government. I was able to grasp the perspectives of decision-makers in charge of local policies in education, health, social development, among other areas.

Group Photo of the focus group with community leaders in Santa Ana, Manabí Province, Ecuador.

Furthermore, I conducted two focus groups with community leaders, who in the case of Colta belong to the Kichwa indigenous people. They inspired me. These extraordinary men and women work every day to achieve greater development in their communities. Despite the long distances typical of Ecuadorian rural areas, they attended and participated enthusiastically in the activity.

Valeria Urbina Cordano conducting an interview with the Major of the Municipality of Colta.

This experience was so meaningful for me. It allowed me to strengthen my methodological, analytical and interpersonal skills in a context of cultural diversity. Also, from my fieldwork, I learned more about issues of ‘collaborative governance’ from the current role of WV Ecuador. In this context, for instance, I could identify some challenges for promoting and developing this form of government effectively in Ecuador, Peru, and other Latin American countries. Finally, I met a great team and many people who deepened my passion for working on development policies in this region.

Valeria Urbina Cordano with the Directorate of Integrated Ministry’s team on her last day at work. From left to right, Top: Pamela Toro, Kelly Gonzales, Mabel Bustamante, Milena Olivares, Mares Sandoval, Gabriela Romero. Bottom: Ángel Cucurí, Valeria Urbina, Gabriela Benítez.
Valeria Urbina Cordano in the Historic Center of Quito, Ecuador.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

De-Sardon Glass Fellowship at the Maxwell School

Giovanna Saccoccio, Showered with Kindness in Ghana

Giovanna Saccoccio came into the MAIR degree as a Fast Track student directly from Maxwell’s BA International Relations program.

During the summer of 2018, I interned at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana. The IOM is the UN agency dealing with issues related to migration, and its mission is to promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all.

Before going to Ghana, my main objectives were to gain field experience in a developing country, comparing the theories I have learned with the reality on the ground, and gaining exposure to the internal workings of a UN agency. My main goal was to understand whether I want to work in the development and/or humanitarian field. The projects I worked on helped me in this by letting me work with communities firsthand, which made me realize the impact I can have as a foreigner in local contexts.

Together with other Syracuse University students, I worked on projects related to child trafficking in the Volta Region of Ghana and on assisted voluntary return and reintegration of Ghanaians who have returned from countries such as Libya and Algeria.

Giovanna (far right, facing away) assisting community members with questionnaires about possible initiatives to better their community

It was sometimes challenging to deal with the reality on the ground, lack of information and strong language barriers. Still, I was happy to be exposed to the field and the professional and personal challenges that come with it. Altogether, these experiences allowed me to understand various issues related to the migration, and how to best interact with people affected by them.

Maxwell students (Lindzi Ngati left, Giovanna Saccoccio center, and Sunil Casuba) plus SU student Tran Khang. (center, back) with IOM staff on a break from focus groups with returnees and community leaders.

“While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.”

These words from Maya Angelou rang true throughout my stay in Ghana. I was showered with kindness and friendliness everywhere I went. Most of all, despite all the issues still afflicting the country, it was fascinating to witness the peace and coexistence in such a culturally and religiously diverse country.

Giovanna with a community member

The two months I spent in Ghana allowed me to expand my worldview and my interests. I had never been to Africa before, and I did not know much about African history. I also did not have a background in migration, and the information I had was filtered through a Western and often-conservative lens. As an Italian who is surrounded everyday by talk about migration, it was important for me to compare media and politicians’ rhetoric with the reality on the ground. This experience helped me dispel all the stereotypes I was brought up with, and I have been active in sharing my experiences with people in Italy and the US.

Students had the chance to travel during the weekend. Giovanna at the Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

International Relations Undergraduate Program

  • For more about the Fast Track BA/MA program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino,  at comolino@syr.edu

Survey of Current Issues in African Migration Program, Ghana

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Yue Chen, Living & Working Like a Local in Singapore

Yue Chen is a MAIR/MSPR student at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools who participated in the Singapore Summer Internships program.

During the past three months in Singapore, I worked in the Stewardship Asia Centre and lived like a local person. It is not only a fruitful experience for my work and studies, but also an interesting trip to embrace Southeast Asian culture.

Based on my study in public diplomacy courses, which consists of public relations and international relations, I applied for a summer internship in Singapore. The Stewardship Asia Centre is committed to fostering effective stewardship and corporate governance across Asia and the world. It collaborates with partners to promote the sharing and mutual learning of concepts as well as practices that would help organizations create wealth and contribute to the well-being of the community over the long term. I interned in the team which focuses on engagement, facilitating stewardship to potential partners and organizing conversations and events.

Every year there is a prominent event organized by Stewardship Asia Centre called “Stewardship Asia Roundtable”, which brings together the region’s influential thinkers and leaders for a dynamic exchange of ideas on advocating sound stewardship and governance in their organizations and businesses. Luckily, when I started my internship this year, I was able to join organizing this important event and learn from successful leaders.

Yue Chen (3rd from left) at the Stewarship Asia Roundtable

Organizing a global event can be very challenging, especially for an event that brings together over 200 participants from 20 countries. I was so touched by everyone’s passion and the good atmosphere of the team. The Stewardship Asia Centre not only promotes stewardship to others but also practices stewardship itself.

Aside from work, I was so attracted by the diverse culture in Singapore. It’s a country that consists of people from different regions and religions, but no matter where you are from and what beliefs you have, everyone is supposed to be respected. The Singapore Government even sets public holidays for different religions such as Hari Raya Puasa for Muslims and Vesak Day for Buddha’s Birthday. In Singapore, there are so many languages but English is their official language, so it’s very interesting to see Singaporeans of Chinese descent, Malay descent and Indian descent all communicating with each other in English.

Yue Chen during Hari Raya Puasa

Singapore is known as the Garden City, and its beautiful scenery attracts millions of tourists coming from all over the world every year. Its amazing night scene in Marina Bay with unbelievable skyscrapers and unique buildings show the world a modern and well-developed city-state. Singapore is also a perfect place to explore since it’s so close to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. So if you have a chance to live or work in Singapore, definitely try your best to embrace the diverse culture.

Marina Bay, Singapore

Singapore Summer Internships Program

Newhouse and Maxwell School’s Joint M.A. in International Relation & M.S. in Public Relations

Sarah Buell, How DOD Does International Cooperation

Sarah Buell came into the MAIR degree as a Fast Track student directly from Maxwell’s BA International Relations program.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for the Department of Defense, in the Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, in the International Cooperation Directorate. Essentially, International Cooperation (IC) works to form long-term armaments and military partnerships with our allies and friendly countries. It creates agreements with these countries on weapons and communications systems, vehicles, aircraft and other technologies. It is almost like the diplomatic component of acquisition at the Pentagon.

I gained a lot of experience with prepping our Undersecretary and our International Cooperation director with preparing to engage with an international counterpart. On one occasion, I was able to write all of the briefing materials for a meeting the IC director had with an ambassador. I then got to attend the meeting and watch the director use the talking points that I had come up with. It was extremely satisfying to see that the work I had done could actually be used.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon

Interestingly enough, this internship taught me about a lot of coordination, and showed me that I had more backbone than I thought I did. Among other things, I was put in charge of handling reservations for a trip that the Undersecretary was supposed to take. When the trip got cancelled, I was then in charge of cancelling all of them. When a cancellation did not go through, I spent a long time on the phone calmly with the hotel explaining why we should not be charged. I got a partial refund. Everyone in my office said that they were impressed that I was able to assert myself like that. It gave me the confidence I needed to be able to handle more difficult tasks in the future.

This internship introduced me to how the Department of Defense interacts with our allies. I learned that diplomacy and long-standing relationships are important, even for our defense interests. I also learned how to assert myself in an effective manner. In short, I learned policy and practical skills while increasing confidence in my professional self.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon Visitor’s Center while assisting with escorting around the building

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

International Relations Undergraduate Program

  • For more about the Fast Track BA/MA program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino,  at comolino@syr.edu

Maxwell-in-Washington Program

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