Just a week ago I joined the Peace & Justice Center as Community Solutions Fellow for an intensive 4 months fellowship. The Community Solutions Program is a professional development program for the best and brightest community leaders from around the world and provides substantive hands on learning experience in US-based community work.  Before being recognized as an emerging leader and having the courage to set up a grassroots NGO in Bulgaria, which promotes peace education, I’ve gained experience in a variety of settings.  For us millennials internships have become the standard for career foundation, but how do we know if a given internship opportunity is worth our time and money. Overloaded with information and opportunities we need to make the right choices that will help us have a unique resume, which stands out from the crowd. Some skills are valued more than others at the begging of one’s career. For example having experience working in a team, planning and organizing, communicating with clients in person, on the phone and via mail are vital for starting a first job in any given field. We also need to consider other factors such as if we should choose a big or a small organization, globally known or locally respected. All that depends greatly on our career goals.

My experience for example as an intern with the Office of the President at the International Criminal Court in The Hague was an amazing opportunity to learn about international politics, be present at meetings with ministers and chief prosecutors, attending crucial decision-making process and learning how to prepare reports. However I’ve lacked something very important during my time with the ICC – being treated as an equal human being, because all interns had to wear orange badges, thus meaning that staff who were wearing blue badges didn’t like losing their time speaking to interns for anything than giving orders. When this week I had the opportunity to read the feedback that more than 40 interns have given about their experience with the PJC over the last few years my heart filled up with joy. I was at the right place. Here I have the opportunity to share some of what those bright people have said in their internship evaluation responses.

What type of tasks did you enjoy doing most?

  • I enjoyed writing articles regarding various topics and also helping plan out events.
  • I really enjoyed going to different panels and events, as well as accompanying Kyle and Rachel to their presentations at UVM. I also enjoyed working to get the events up and running, as well as the research I did.
  • I really enjoyed both writing articles and press releases for the enews as well as event planning.
  • I liked reaching out to local businesses because it was a skill that I really wanted to build and I did build it tremendously.
  • I loved preparing for events. Whenever I had an event coming up, it was awesome to promote the event, give information to the public, and then finally be able to go out there and show what I know.
  • I really liked drafting the Drone Resolution and talking with community members/police chief about how to make it as good and airtight as possible so it would get passed.
  • I enjoyed working on events and going to workshops! I also really enjoyed recording the police commission meetings.
  • I really enjoyed talking to other staff members and expanding my knowledge of social justice issues. I also enjoyed the programming meetings, especially when an issue or topic was brought up that we all discussed. I also really enjoyed going to and participating in events.

Did the program change you or your worldview in any way?

  • I definitely know more about drones now…and American foreign policy and surveillance technology in general, and how it has been used so far. I was not at all informed in either of those issues before this internship, and I believe the knowledge I gained will inform my decisions in the future.
  • I don’t think it really changed me that much because I was already familiar with a lot of these topics, but it taught me how to address these issues in many different ways in the real world.
  • I think my time here has furthered my education on the issues that are happening in the world right now, and has furthered my belief that things need to change and the best way to create change is to band together and offer various types of resources and education to the community.
  • Yes, particularly in regard to recognizing how impactful and pervasive systems of oppression are and how our socialization makes us all racist yet blinds us to that fact. Most significantly, I learned how blind I am to my own biases and how we all take things for granted and don’t ask enough (important) questions. After my internship I have grown extremely tired of listening to white dudes because I now hear how racist/prejudiced/ignorant so many of them sound.

What did you enjoy or benefit from the most through your internship experience?

  • Being able to work closely with my supervisor, feel welcome asking questions and guided by her experience.
  • I really liked How to Talk to Kids About Racism, I think because I got to go to it twice. I’m working at after school now and the things I learned in that workshop are helping me navigate this new job.
  • Learning more about advocacy work!
  • I was glad to have lots of different kinds of tasks and projects, and I feel like one of the really positive aspects of being an intern at the PJC is that you can get involved not only in your own program/area of interest but in as many different fields as you want–there’s always room for your help and input, and always more opportunities to learn.
  • Working with such amazing activists! Everyone is so dedicated and I just loved working with different people from different backgrounds, but a common goal.
  • This was a completely new environment for me and I felt I grew a lot and became more exposed to other people’s feelings.
  • I really enjoyed learning about drones. I think this topic is going to become even more relevant, so being informed about drones will be very beneficial. I also really enjoyed sharing what I have learned with my family and friends. They were always very curious about what I was learning about and have now taken an interest in learning about drones as well.
  • I liked being able to just be in an environment where everyone was interested in learning and doing work in a similar field. And everyone was always really friendly, which helped a lot being new around here.
  • I enjoyed working on the website and having a large project to complete; I picked up a lot of new skills from that
  • I really benefited the most from hearing the stories of other people and how they got to PJC. Everyone has a different story and working to break down assumptions is something that I have been hard at work at. All the work that I did at PJC was so rewarding and taught me a lot but learning and talking with everyone at PJC was something I will take away. I truly believe that starting conversations lead to a ripple effect of knowledge that can be passed on to others.

What skills did you learn at your internship?

  • I gained invaluable organizational and communication skills from working with the coalition to plan the World Beyond War Conference. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on the same project for most of the semester and to see my work come to fruition at the conference. I would have liked to learn more about racial justice because my internship made me realize how little I know.
  • I became very familiar with pages/publisher and I definitely improved my poster making skills, I learned all of the ways you can reach out to your community through social media/community forum pages, I learned how to communicate with strangers more effectively
  • I learned how to utilize technology such as excel, a video camera, and basic website entry.
  • I learned a lot about program organizing and all of the background work that goes into it. I also liked refreshing my skills with graphic design. I wish that there were more programs or workshops I could’ve attended.
  • I really learned more about the power of social media and got to teach other interns about what I was learning, which was very cool. I tend to have a huge idea and sometimes when things don’t work out I get disappointed. I learned a lot about event planning and sometimes the need to giving up on ideas.
  • I’m really happy about the public speaking experience and event planning.
  • I learned about event planning, management, and promotion. I learned a great deal regarding war in itself and also learned how to write for different articles in different occasions.

The PJC believes that internships are more than the standard “you give us free labor in exchange for something to put on your resume”. Through our programs we address important issues faced by our community. The Racial Justice Programs seek to spread awareness about the inequity people of color face in Vermont and to build understanding and collaborations to undo racism. While our Peace Programs seek to address the problems with our country’s current militaristic approach to conflict, provide meaningful tools to nonviolently engage in conflict and oppression, and share about the power of nonviolence.

Our most recent Newsletter included articles from two different former interns. Get more inspiration reading about the experience of Lydia Bates and Isaiah Hine here.  You can also read about our tailored internship opportunities here.