By EVELYN TAYLOR-MCGREGOR ’16
Assistant News Editor
In the last two years, the number of Madeleine Albright Institute fellows who take internships outside of the United States has drastically declined. In the first two years of the program, the majority of fellows interned internationally: 20 out of the 38 internships took place abroad in 2010 and 23 out of 33 in 2011.
However, in the last two years, the majority of fellows interned domestically. In 2012, only 11 out of 33 internships took place outside of the United States and last summer only 14 of the 33 fellows worked abroad. It is unclear what is causing the decline, but due to these declining numbers, the Albright Institute plans to encourage 2014 fellows to intern abroad.
The Albright Institute requires that fellows attend a Wintersession program to learn about global affairs, complete a summer internship and present at the Tanner Conference. Fellows’ internships must be full-time for 10 weeks, and either take place abroad or be domestic and globally focused. The Institute’s strict requirements for qualifying internships make the search process challenging for fellows.
Before accepting an internship offer, a fellow must submit a proposal to the Institute for approval. The Institute may reject the proposal if the location of the internship is deemed too dangerous or if the internship is not related to global affairs.
Although the focus of the program is global, many fellows find ways to fulfill the requirement without going abroad. Emma Rackstraw ’14 worked at the National Economic Council at the White House this summer after successfully arguing that her work would sufficiently meet the global requirements of the Institute.“It clearly had a global connection; it’s hard to say the White House isn’t global even though it’s domestic,” Rackstraw said. “A lot of what I was doing was related to
global issues, particularly immigration, so it had a lot of the elements I was looking for out of the Albright Institute.”
Rackstraw stated that she would have liked to intern abroad, but she heard back from the White House internship much earlier and had 24 hours to respond. In general, her experience was that the international internships she applied for took longer to process applications and made acceptance decisions later than domestic internships.
Rackstraw explained that this puts a fellow in a tough position when offered a great domestic internship.
“I think Wellesley women are pretty risk averse,” Rackstraw said, “so if they’re offered a great domestic internship and they’re given a few hours [to respond] they’re going to say yes.”
Prerana Nanda ’14, another 2013 fellow, cited transparency and a generally easier application process as additional reasons why fellows might choose to work domestically.
“Sometimes there is less transparency in certain parts of the world so it’s much less of a streamlined process,” Nanda said. “Not many organizations have a structured process so you have to negotiate more.”
Nanda initially planned to intern internationally in Pakistan, but when the program was moved to rural Afghanistan, both Nanda’s family and her contact at the internship program encouraged her to find another internship. Eventually, she interned at the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank.
When asked about the downsides of an international internship, such as ease of finding a good program or safety concerns, Kate Miller, the director of the Albright Institute, restated the importance of going abroad.
“We don’t look at it like that at all. There would be a con if you went somewhere that became very unsafe, obviously,” Miller said, “but we’re not in it to look for the cons. We want people to get out there and have new experiences.”
The Institute is concerned that the number of fellows going abroad will continue to decline in coming years. Although the institute has a few recurrent domestic connections, such as the Albright consulting firm and the Clinton Foundation, which each always take an Albright fellow, Miller emphasized that the Institute would prefer for fellows to go abroad if possible. For many, the Albright Institute provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to intern abroad, especially because the Institute provides a $5,000 stipend for fellows interning internationally.
Miller hypothesized that international events such as the Arab Spring or the U.S. recession could be affecting fellows’ decisions to intern abroad. Miller also stated that some fellows may be concerned with job prospects after graduation because the Albright internship usually takes place during a fellow’s junior summer—the summer when many students attempt to intern at a company they’d like to get a job offer from. Only three or four Albright fellows each year receive a job offer from wherever they interned, for after graduation. Nanda was particularly concerned with taking an internship that would lead to a job.
“For me, that was something I thought about a lot,” Nanda said. “If you can get an internship at the company you want to work for after you graduate, a lot of times you can secure an offer. That is a huge advantage to have, stepping into your senior year.”
The Institute and the CWS are involved in the fellows’ internship searches and provide contacts and assistance. Many fellows’ resumes were submitted to internships by the CWS, and they subsequently received guidance when selecting opportunities. Additionally, the fellows meet with Miller to check in about the internship. However, some fellows said they felt that the Institute could have done a lot more to help the fellows find internships and didn’t have enough resources to successfully guide the fellows toward internships.
Nora Mishanec ’14 interned in the Netherlands at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Although ultimately pleased with the results of her search, Mishanec described the process of finding international internships as overwhelming and stressful, and stated that she felt the CWS and the Institute could have been more helpful.
“I think the Albright Institute makes a distinction between the Institute and the internships,” Mishanec said. “I felt like I was very much on my own trying to do the search, rather than a search facilitated by the Institute.”
Other fellows stated that although they felt they could have received more help, there is only so much the Institute can do and ultimately the fellow has to take charge. Nanda suggested that, if possible, the Institute could create a database of all internships previously completed by fellows, with contact information, to assist future fellows.
Evelyn is a sophomore studying economics and political science. She is a proud Canadian. Follow her on Twitter @etaylormcgregor.