I started off feeling very small. Not knowing how to do the work I would be given was probably the greatest source of my nerves. What if they gave me an assignment I didn’t know how to do? What if I don’t know enough about foreign policy? What if my writing isn’t actually that good?
During the first few days leading up to my internship, being the worry-wart I am, I ran through every little thing that could go wrong on the first day. Sleeping through all five alarms, ruining my dress during breakfast, rolling my ankle in my brand new heels, missing the Metro, etc. My mind was in overdrive.
Being from Canada compounded these feelings. I felt like a bit of an imposter since most of my fellow interns mentioned they had lived in the states their whole lives. They were already well versed in American politics while I had only just gained most of my knowledge from a few political science courses and NPR Politics. Canadian politics had been my area of focus for most of my degree until my third year when I took an American Politics course and began exploring international relations. So working at an international human rights focused NGO as my first internship was quite daunting.
Nevertheless, the first few days at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) weren’t a disaster at all. The first task I was assigned was incredibly interesting and was a great introduction to the world of human rights advocacy. Each intern was expected to write up a few oral interventions for the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on topics that interested them. I ended up being able to write an intervention for the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women as well as a statement for the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression — two issues I’m very passionate about.
After independently writing dialogues for the HRC as my very first project, I felt significantly more confident in my abilities as an intern. The more interventions I worked on, the more my time management improved and the less I doubted my research and writing abilities. So far I’ve also successfully drafted several human rights complaints, compiled daily press clips, and even written a blog post about Raif Badawi, a prominent Saudi Arabian activist for the freedom of expression.
Although it’s only been about two weeks, I already feel much better about being a D.C. intern. I was worrying needlessly about being horrible at my job or being just another intern who grabs coffee. Working with ADHRB has been life-changing so far; I know my work is making a difference in the lives of those who are being deprived of their basic human rights. I no longer feel like an unimportant speck in the midst of all these accomplished leaders.