Intern for the European Social Observatory
Brussels, Belgium

Give a brief description of your internship.

The European Social Observatory (OSE): researching, writing, and editing publications on EU social policy.

What was your most memorable experience?

I got the chance to co-author a paper that would later be published in a political science journal. It was a chance to organize, synthesize, and articulate many of the new things I had learned during my three months, not to mention a great opportunity to see my work published.

Was there a specific person you remember in regards to your internship?

The director of the organization and my supervisor was Bart Vanhercke, who impressed me from the first day with his kindness and management ability. He has a lot of the qualities I aspire to in a leader: while not afraid to make hard choices or have difficult conversations, he is friendly, kind, and constructively critical. He has a unique energy and excitement about learning new things and working on fun projects. It was fantastic to work with and learn from him.

What was the strangest thing that happened during your internship?

The OSE is quartered in a normal residential house in Brussels and has been for thirty-some-odd years. About two months into my internship, the director decided that for the first time in the history of the OSE, it was time to clean the place out. The research team (a bunch of bookish-PhD types) made a chain down the three flights of creaky wooden stairs and spent a full day passing boxes from the fourth-level attic, whose floor had begun to buckle under all the weight, to an enormous recycling bin parked at the curb outside. The event wasn’t so strange in and of itself, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected to be doing during my internship–and it was way more fun than I had thought it would be. We all spent the next week moaning about how sore our backs were.

If you ate anything crazy, what was it?

Unfortunately, most Belgian food isn’t anything too far out of the box. The strangest dish I ate was a canned peach half with tuna salad on top, which turned out to be surprisingly good.

What do you think was the most rewarding aspect of your internship?

It was definitely learning about topics that I would never have thought to research on my own. Understanding how the EU works has given me a greater understanding of how the United States works, along with some ideas about changes that might make it better.

What do you wish every future intern would know or do?

Network, network, network! Use the precious time you have to get to know the wonderful people you work with and establish meaningful relationships. Not only is it an invaluable resource when you start to look for a job or when you want a letter of recommendation, but it’s also a great way to make lasting friendships and understand the value of human interaction.

Any last thoughts?

I wish I had taken my internship into my own hands earlier, instead of relying on the staff at the Kennedy Center to do things for me. I didn’t realize how flexible internship experiences can be; if I had, I definitely would have tailored mine better to suit my needs. Decide what you want out of an internship and then look for one that suits you–they’re out there, even if it takes a little effort to find them.