Having touched on my internship in last week’s blog I will expand on my experiences there for this week. My internship was with a security think tank called Atlantic Initiative. This group is hired by a number of groups from around the world to conduct research and analyze information on a variety of topics. This year their projects have ranged from Russian interference in the Balkans to gender violence in international bodies such as the European Union. My assigned tasks have primarily worked with the former of these, having researched Russian involvement in the Republika Srpska, Montenegro, Macedonia, and most recently the interesting relationship between Russia and Turkey. Stepping away from Russia, I have also done some research on the increasing presence of Saudi Arabia in Bosnia and what the Gulf state’s interest here may be. In sum, I have been given a number of research topics each of which relate to Bosnia and Herzegovina either directly or indirectly; each has been of increasing relevance with the upcoming elections in October of this year in BiH. Different from many other research projects I have taken on over the years, this one emphasizes the importance of my sources being much more recent than in more academic contexts, which makes sense considering the rapid development of international relations.
As far as the structure of my internship it was typically as follows. I would meet once a week with my supervisors where we would discuss my work over the previous week and assign a new topic, as well as discuss my personal opinions and theirs as well. The rest of the week I would work from the hostel conducting research and formulating a paper based on my findings. Initially I was unsure what the expectations of my research were, but I essentially aimed to exhaust the content available on the task at hand. While this is ultimately impossible, there is a point where each article I found would begin to be repetitive, at which point I would consider the research stage complete and begin writing my paper. I found this process to work quite well for me and appreciated having freedom on what the papers would look like and how to work on them but was still given however many days to figure it out. Having a hard deadline but flexibility in the working process proved to be a really positive experience for me.
One part of my internship that I really appreciated was that I feel as though I learned at least as much as I was able to provide. Each topic covered was new information to me, and hopefully to Atlantic Initiative as well. While I did not come to Bosnia expecting to become an expert on Russian relations in the region (and I certainly am far from an expert), I feel as though I was able to go on a self-guided journey through the history and modern state of foreign affairs here in the Balkans and benefitted greatly from this. Every source I found provided new information that I will take away and bring back to my studies and potentially a future career. There was nothing repetitive about my internship and I really appreciated that as well; I’ve had internships before where each day was monotonous and provided little for me other than a bullet point on a resume and perhaps a free lunch once in a while. At Atlantic Initiative I felt like part of the team and appreciated that I was trusted with tasks that required a high degree of focus and dedication, and not once did I feel as though I was any less than an equal and therefore prescribed “easy” tasks. Ultimately, this was by far the most beneficial internship I have had, and I am excited to see how the skills and knowledge learned this summer translate to the second year of my master’s program and beyond.