An overview of my time with the ICWI

Faculty of Social Sciences
From the Field

By Lauren

Student, Honours in International Studies and Modern Languages

A continental map
“Overall, I believe that this has been a wonderful experience for me.”

Lauren, Honours in International Studies and Modern Languages, Alternatives, India, Indian Civil Watch International

As my internship with Alternatives Canada and the Indian Civil Watch International comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the past couple of months and about what I have learned as a result of this experience. I have broken it down into three major categories and learning points for myself.

The first has to do with communication by way of knowing how to ask powerful and useful questions. Due to the virtual nature of these internships, it has been imperative that every message have a purpose. It is also important to be comfortable asking a lot of questions in order to make sure that you are receiving the right information when starting a project. In my experience, this ability to ask impactful questions has come with time. I was given the opportunity to interview Satya Sagar, a political columnist from India, which is when question formulation was the most important during my time with the ICWI. I of course had questions prepared beforehand that I had approved by my supervisors, but when it came down to the actual interview, it was also necessary to be able to think of questions then and there based on the path of the conversation. We were discussing his past experience with the Peoples Health Movement in India as well as their political prisoner crisis. The conversation swerved in all different directions which made it necessary to tweak what I intended to ask so that the discussion still felt natural. It was also important that every email that was sent had meaning. I wanted to make sure that I was getting as many questions answered with the least amount of emails having to be sent. Communication is key, but is most reliable when you take the time to as pertinent questions.

My second major learning experience was figuring out how to research and prepare a list of useful annotated bibliographies for the ICWI. This is one category in which my prior university experience did come in handy for the initial stages of my internship. Being a social science major, the majority of my classes over the past couple of years have been heavily graded based off of research papers and examinations. That being said, there was still a bit of a learning curve. At school, most of the time, you just want to get your papers done as fast and efficiently as possible in order to move onto the next thing. However, in the case of my internship, I had more time and more focus on one subject matter. I was taught to write synopsis’s in a specific way and create annotated bibliographies that were actually pertinent to the topic (unlike in university where you have to fill a sort of quota for sources). I read article after article about terror laws in India, specific cases that involved their implementation, watched webinars on the topic, and spoke to some very educated people about the crisis there. Not only has it been extremely interesting, but it has honed my skills and taught me how impactful good research methods can be.

My final major learning point has to do with gaining confidence about my knowledge. I came into this whole experience thinking that I was underqualified, and not smart enough to be working on such a project. I had never worked in the field I was studying, let alone an NGO. Fortunately, I realized very quickly that I actually had learned more than I thought throughout my university experience, not only by way of classes, but also because of my extracurricular activities. I am the president of a club on campus, and was able to use my experience there to help the ICWI clean up their website and find a target audience for their information. I realized that I am more capable than I had previously thought, which has been a massive confidence boost (especially going into my final semester of university!).

Overall, I believe that this has been a wonderful experience for me, and anyone who is on the fence about doing one of these internships should take advantage of the opportunity. I am aware that virtual internships may not sounds overly appealing, however even under such circumstances, there is everything to be gained.