My Summer Internship In Washington DC

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient Grace Klauer interned in Washington DC in the summer of 2019 at the Global Language Network, a nonprofit whose mission is to use language as a tool to fix the world.  Class of 2021, Grace is majoring in international relations and is double minoring in French and economics.

Upon reflection of my internship at the Global Language Network, I have some mixed feelings.  I walked into this internship with a lot of excitement and motivation because I truly wanted to help this nonprofit, but at the same time I recognized that my impact would probably be small and that nonprofits tend to not run as efficiently as I would prefer.

Before my internship began, there were some small concerns I had upon reviewing the nonprofit’s website and emailing back and forth with the program coordinator.  I noticed the website was quite dated and even the mission statement seemed, in my opinion, to have poor word choice, especially with respect to the word, “fix”.  Furthermore, I would not receive a response to my emails for a couple weeks, at times.  With all this running through my mind, the anticipation of being around people who loved languages and different cultures as much as I did as well as the prospect of being able to take free language classes swept away a lot of my concerns and hesitations about accepting the internship and the organization itself.  Additionally, I wanted to spend the summer in a new city and DC seemed like the perfect place because I love politics and being in an international hub.

The Global Language Network Intern Team

The bizarre fact I discovered upon my arrival was that the founder and executive director (and the person who conducted my interview) of the organization did not live in DC but rather worked remotely from Israel; the person who actually ran the office was the program coordinator.  As I was learning the ropes on that first day, my mind felt as if it was going to explode because there was just this overload of information I was given, a lot of which was related to the administrative side of the nonprofit.  Luckily, the other interns assured me that I would get the hang of everything quickly.  I was feeling pretty good on my first day even with the mass amount of information thrown at me, and I started becoming even more excited during my one-on-one discussion with the program coordinator regarding my interests and how I would like to contribute.  During this conversation, I was trying to be animated about my likes and dislikes but at the same time trying to keep the hand talking to a reasonable amount; I was telling her how much I love languages and how I have studied French and Arabic as well as how I think I could contribute the most when I’m working alongside the teachers and/or the students.  She tells me that that I will have to do some of the tedious administrative work like all the interns, but that I can certainly get to know the teachers more.  The first task I was given, which was my favorite task of the entire internship, was to interview the teachers to inquire about their motivations to voluntarily teach their language (all teaching positions are volunteer positions), their style of teaching, and their hobbies and interests.  I had so many laughs with these teachers and I loved learning just a little bit about each of their respective cultures.  I interviewed an Arabic teacher from Sudan, and I learned that the pyramids in Sudan are actually older than the ones in Egypt.  I just found this to be super cool and I wish I had been able to stay on the phone and learn more about Sudan from her.  I got to take take some the teachers’ responses and make some social media content as well as a blog post for the website.  So the first week or so, I really enjoyed interviewing and simply chatting with teachers to open my eyes to new cultures and to get to know new people.

At the Ballpark

Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend the entire internship doing interviews and putting together excerpts from each of the teachers.  As classes were beginning, my attention had to shift to the administrative and logistical side of the organization.  During the registration period and the heart of the semester there were a lot of details to be worked out, including but not limited to class postponements, substitute teachers, refund questions, and overall email and phone communications to teachers, students, and volunteers.  It was during this period that my negative feelings towards the internship began to grow.  The biggest issue I had with the organization itself was the lack of efficiency and the fact that the interns could have been better utilized.  There was one day that I did nearly nothing because the program coordinator was so busy in her office that she didn’t delegate any more tasks to us besides answering emails, which was also issue in itself because we weren’t allowed to send out many emails by ourselves; we had to write a draft and then she would read and edit them before sending them.  I definitely had some real moments of frustration because I wanted to help and I felt that sometimes there was no point in me being there if I had nothing to do.

Laughs in the Office

However, even though I had some tough days, I loved every minute I had with the other interns.  We laughed so much in the office and eventually had inside jokes.  One of the sweetest moments we had together was during one of the intern’s last day when we bought her a fruit tart as a surprise.  We revealed  it to her, and I swear, I thought she was going to break out into tears because she was so surprised and almost overjoyed at the thought of eating the delicious tart but also because of our thoughtfulness. We all reminisced of our time together at the Global Language Network and how much we would miss her, and it was just a great feeling to know that I had found all these new people to be friends with.  In addition to the moments we had in the office, we also spent some quality time outside of the office. On the 4th of July, a few of us went to see the Nationals game and then we strolled the streets of Georgetown before spending too much money on boba tea and Thai food.  Another day, some us went to the folklife music festival on the National Mall, and we had a such a fun and relaxed time. We got boba tea (boba was just a recurring theme for me this summer) and just simply chatted about everything and nothing; I loved this time that we got to see glimpses into each others’ lives as well as bonding over our shared experiences at our internship.

Like I said at the beginning, I have mixed about this summer’s internship.  Even though I felt as though the internship itself wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped, I did learn quite a bit about the nonprofit world and the challenges that they face.  And I learned some applicable skills related to doing administrative and logistical work.  I believe that I grew from this experience and discovered what I may want or not want for a future career.  I found that the nonprofit world may not be for me even though I find many of their missions and goals inspiring, and I realized how I want to treat and delegate tasks to interns, if I have ever have them.  The best aspect of this entire experience was the relationships I formed with my fellow interns and the teachers and students I met who shared similar passions as me.