When I first found out that FSS was offering the opportunity to complete international internships online, I was a bit skeptical about how interesting an international experience could be, when I was doing it from a desk in my bedroom. But, after looking into it, and reading about the different countries and organizations, I realized that this was something completely new to me, and that although it may not be as thrilling as visiting a different country in person, it could still be a great learning opportunity and a unique experience. I was excited to have the chance to work (remotely) in a country that I have a personal connection to - and being able to do it as a part of my university journey was really special.
I was partnered with the Teacher Creativity Centre (TCC) in the West Bank, Palestine. The TCC works to improve access to and quality of education in order to provide students and teachers with learning and teaching environments that are in line with the values of human rights, and that encourage the growth of healthy civil society. This work is especially important given the unstable and sometimes dangerous nature of the situations that students and teachers often have to navigate living in the West Bank.
I am working with another intern to research the social impacts of the pandemic on working women (mainly female educators) and their roles in society (for example, how traditional gender roles have re-emerged or how they have been challenged in the context of lockdowns and the shift to working from home). One unique aspect of working remotely is that our work is much more self-led than it would be in a traditional work setting.
A typical workweek for my fellow intern and me involves one meeting with our supervisors at the TCC, to check in on our progress and discuss next steps (these usually happen around 8 am, given the 7-hour time difference). Then, for a few hours every day, we work together on the tasks we have been assigned, delegate smaller tasks and responsibilities, and review the work we have done so far. We have already completed our research methodology, as well as a literature review. Currently, we are preparing to conduct interviews with two focus groups, as well as heads of organizations specializing in women’s issues who will help inform our research - this is probably the task I am most excited for since we will be speaking directly to people on the ground about their own personal experiences and views.
The fact that this internship requires more independent work has pushed me to find the motivation and discipline to work efficiently, as well as develop (and maintain) healthy and sustainable work and study habits. My own personal understanding of the issues I am researching has also increased immensely, and I’ve gained so much knowledge on topics which I was less familiar with, such as how the TCC and other organizations work helps to inform policy decisions at higher levels in government. I’ve also had the chance to work on my language skills, since many of the sources we are using for our research are written in Arabic, and it has been a fun challenge to put my knowledge of my second language to the test.
This experience has also opened my eyes to new routes that I could possibly take in terms of my career as a human rights student. Moving forward, I would like to explore future opportunities with NGOs and do some research on where I could go, or who I could work with to help address the human rights issues that I feel most strongly about.
Although many of the changes and adjustments that COVID-19 has brought about have been less than ideal, I think it may be an improvement rather than a setback that we are able to work, study, and volunteer from home. For people with busy schedules, or those who cannot access international travel, or even those who are apprehensive about going to a completely new place alone, the new normal of online work has presented an opportunity to gain new experiences, as well as the chance to make a difference locally and around the world. I am still looking forward to travelling once it is safe to do so, but in the meantime, I’m glad to be able to learn and engage with people from other parts of the world from the safety of our respective homes.