The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22
Global Islamic Studies, International Relations Major
When I was accepted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) in the fall of my sophomore year, I never thought I’d be forced to search for my international internship (which is a traditional part of the CISLA program) during a global pandemic. I also did not think I would be doing a remote internship. I was excited about furthering my Arabic language skills during my study abroad semester in Morocco and then a summer internship, also in Morocco, where I would be strengthening my professional linguistic skills. However, Covid-19 forced me to change my plans.
As the pandemic showed no signs of slowing, CISLA reluctantly told us that we could not study abroad or do our internships in person. This complicated an already difficult situation. As I could not study abroad in Morocco, I did not have the necessary contacts to source an internship. Now, I had to find an internship willing to take a remote intern who they did not know. I was stumped. I could feverishly Google all the organizations I wanted but not physically being in Morocco made the search incredibly difficult. I had to reimagine the way I could find an internship.
After a couple of months of Google and Linkedin searches, one of my professors referred me to a Conn alum who had done a CISLA internship in Morocco in 2014. I reached out to her over Linkedin and amazingly she put me in touch with her former internship supervisor. Luckily for me, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), located in Marrakech, Morocco, was looking for summer interns and I secured a position.
Although I had a virtual internship with HAF, I had a great experience. As a research intern, one of my main contributions was co-authoring a manual of methodologies to preserve the cultural memory of Jewish Moroccans as part of a USAID-funded project that HAF had started. While this project took up most of my summer, I also had the opportunity to write research blogs about women’s empowerment and sustainable development. But one of the most exciting things I did was collaborate on an Arabic translation for one of my research blogs which was published by a Moroccan news website. Learning Arabic has not been an easy task especially during a pandemic when I could not have an immersive experience in person. Writing this article allowed me to assure myself that I did know some Arabic and helped me learn new vocabulary. While the internship was virtual, I interacted closely with Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, my supervisor and the founder of HAF; Jennan Al-Hamdouni, HAF’s Director of Advocacy and Engagement; and Katie Bercegeay, HAF’s Director of Development. Working with experienced professionals in the development field was an incredibly educational experience. I learned many new skills, such as how to write a grant proposal.
My internship experience enabled me to critically look at theoretical frameworks and question how they are applied to real-world frameworks. This lesson will be invaluable as I write my CISLA senior integrative project (SIP) this fall. HAF I am incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to work with HAF. Not only did I learn new things, but I also had fun while doing it.