By Richa Bhattarai
On May 23, 2016, ten days after I had finished my sophomore year at St. John’s, I was at McPherson Square Metro Station in Washington DC. After a half an hour ride on the orange line, I was still early for my first day at work. So, unlike everybody else running up the escalator, I took a step back to observe what was going on around me. People dressed in work clothes carrying laptop bags sprinted out of the station while some walked slowly and paused every few seconds and looked down at their phone. Undoubtedly, I belonged to the second category of people as I had Google Maps helping me get to work. Later that week, I learnt that this group I belonged to marked the beginning of intern season in the nation’s capital.
For the next ten weeks following that Monday morning, I was an intern at the Partnership for Transparency Fund. PTF is a non-profit organization that works to reduce corruption and increase transparency in developing countries by actively advancing citizen-led approaches.
Growing up in Nepal, I was constantly surrounded by news of development projects led by international organizations happening in different parts of the country. I also had opportunities to observe some of these projects in their implementation phase, but it wasn’t until I joined PTF for the summer that I understood how much work needs to be done by organizations like PTF to take projects that far. With a longstanding interest in international development, an internship with PTF was the perfect place for me to start learning the basics of my field of interest.
My St. John’s education proved itself to be extremely helpful at different occasions during my time at PTF. It would have been a challenge to keep track of points being discussed at a meeting if I had not been used to a seminar style discussion. Having been in such an environment for two academic years, I had very little trouble comprehending different perspectives of people on a particular subject and connecting ideas on the table for my own understanding. I also drew on my collective experience of writing essays at St. John’s while I occasionally did some writing for the organization’s website.
Out of all the new things I learnt at PTF this summer, doing a research project was the most rewarding experience. Unlike most college students, I was new to research. Without being critical of our way of learning at St. John’s, my mentors at PTF emphasized how important it was for me to learn and develop research skills for future academic and professional experience. They guided me through every step of my project and were always willing to answer my questions.
One of the many things that made my summer internship sweet is the Hodson Internship Grant awarded by St. John’s Career Services office. I was able to pay for my everyday trips to DC and even saved a little!
This summer, I have gone from understanding the sheer amount of details that go into planning a development project to learning to do a research project from scratch, from pausing every few seconds to read directions on the map to being a part of the crowd running on the platform to catch a train, from getting lost in the streets of DC to being able to give direction. When I will look back at the summer of 2016 few years down the line, I will remember it as one that was filled with a lot of learning and growing.