My Experience Interning with AIF during the 2020 Summer

This summer has been one that I will never forget.

Not only will I remember this summer because of the chaos our world has been plunged into with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and not only will I remember this summer because of the unrest that the United States is experiencing with the protests over the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, but also I will remember this summer because I completed my first virtual internship with the American India Foundation.

It has been a tumultuous few months for everyone, to say the least. But each day, I looked forward to the opportunity to help out with an organization that puts so much good into the world. 

As a Jeff Metcalf Intern through the partnership between the University of Chicago and AIF, I had the opportunity to witness the amazing work done at AIF and participate in many different ways. The nearly three months I spent with AIF were months full of growth and learning. During my time, I read countless blog posts, listened to the AIF Clinton Fellows’ podcasts, read articles, and really learned a lot about Indian history, Indian culture, and daily life in India through the Fellowship program without ever setting foot in India or in the AIF Headquarters in New York.

Cover of the Fellowship podcast series, produced by McKenna Parker and Ismael Byers.

My learnings were not limited to just about the different regions of India or the many languages and cultures found from the deserts to the jungles to the mountains, but I also grew a lot as working virtually requires flexibility and adaptability.

Over our many calls and WhatsApp conversations, my supervisor, Dr. Kurz, really helped me strengthen my skills in time management, in productivity, and many other areas. She helped push me to become a much better worker and much more of an early morning person as well!

And, from day one, Dr. Kurz, who has been a wonderful mentor, boss, and most importantly, friend, has pushed me to expand my skills professionally in a variety of areas, from writing to editing to graphic design, communication, and even my Zoom skills! She gave me the chance to work on so many different projects and help out in so many different ways, exposing me to so many areas of running a non-profit organization.

One of my favorite projects that I had a chance to work on this Summer is the Stories of Service Report that covered the last few Events from the 2019-2020 Fellowship Cohort. Included in the report are summaries from each day of the week-long “Stories of Service” event with the Fellows, as well as a breakdown of the Closing Seminar by section.

Excerpt from the Stories of Service report I drafted.

This was a really challenging but exciting assignment because the AIF Clinton Fellowship Program (CFP) Team was stepping away from the geometric design that was the signature motif of the previous two reports. With no real concrete starting point, I am very happy with how it turned out. And that leads me to talk about how important working with Kanan Gole has been this summer, because she was instrumental in creating a theme and coming up with creative ways to construct this report.

I was fortunate to work with Kanan on many of the other projects as well. Our Google Hangout meetings were the #Dream Team meetings, and our discussions always were super productive. I started saying that I was the Robin to her Batman, or maybe even I was the Pippen to her Jordan. I really appreciated the conversations we had about working in the nonprofit sector and about our individual work experiences.

We worked together on what I would consider the second biggest project I got to participate in, which was helping craft a new Social Media Strategy for the CFP’s individual social media accounts. Through some online research, some comparison to other nonprofits, and through picking Kanan’s brain about proper social media strategy, we were able to come up with what I feel is a very strong first draft and formulating a plan for the upcoming social media calendar year. Working on this project really opened my eyes to the ways in which different platforms work and how managing social media is a complex and detail-focused task.

Banner for the July 1st Closing Seminar with guest speakers Dr. Alyssa Ayres and Ambassador Frank G. Wisner.

I have also been able to take part in many of the Events that the CFP has put on over the past few months which have really taught me a lot about what it is like to serve doing development work abroad. I have enjoyed attending these events, and also crafting summaries and blurbs so that we can post them on social media and in our newsletter. One of my other favorite parts of this was getting to read all of the Fellows’ blog posts which are super interesting. I liked reading their learnings and creating hooks to get people interested and to ultimately click in the newsletter.

Another very exciting project that I got to be part of was the Stable-Matching Paradigm task to help match up the Fellows for the upcoming year with their host organizations. It was really fun getting to read about each of their interests and preferences, and creating a platform to help make sure each of them ended up where they were supposed to was super cool. It was also fun seeing the CFP Team really excited about their next batch of impressive young leaders.

The last few projects that I have worked on have been creating reports for the AIF Young Professionals and AIF CFP Alumni that showcase the many events they held over the past year. It is so exciting to see so many people passionate about the issues that AIF works on, and I have also been able to chat with the newest New England Chapter, which was super inspiring. My goal in these reports is to create something that is both professional and takes these programs and chapters seriously, but highlights the fun that comes along when you partner with so many passionate people. I also helped modernize some of the communications between the YPs and Dr. Kurz so that event planning, budgeting, and more become streamlined and more organized.

At the end of the day, I look back on my nearly three months with AIF with lots of smiles, but reluctance to go. I am so grateful that I have been able to meet all of you and spend time with you chatting over Zoom. I am especially grateful for Dr. Kurz, who has really taught me so much and who trusted in me to help out on many projects. I will miss all of our candid conversations that spanned what felt like every topic under the sun. 

I couldn’t think of a better internship experience!

I can’t really pack up my desk or my supplies, but I am logging off from AIF. I know that this experience will be one that I carry with me long into the future and will impact my professional career for the rest of my life. 

Thank you to everyone at AIF for such a great opportunity!

Snapshot from one of our virtual staff meetings.

Born and raised in Colorado, Trent is a 4th-year student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Global Studies and Economics. He's interested in international diplomacy, cultural exchange, and understanding how cooperation and friendship between people and countries can lead to benefits in many different ways. During the 2020 Summer, he worked as an intern for the AIF Clinton Fellowship Program through the University of Chicago's Jeff Metcalf Internship Program. Before joining AIF, he interned with a nonprofit organization in Hong Kong to strengthen U.S.-China ties, and with the U.S. Department of the Interior, working on education and health policy for Native Americans. After graduation, he's planning to pursue a career in foreign service.

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