CERES MA Internship Experiences: Helsinki and Tbilisi
Amelie and Nicholas, two CERES MA students, discuss their internships which both took place during the summer of 2022. These internships are part of CERES’ 10-week fieldwork component and offered the students the chance to work at an organization of their interest on the ground in Europe.
Amelie completed her internship at the Aleksanteri Institute in Finland. The Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Helsinki, is the Finnish Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies and describes itself as “...one of the world’s largest and best-known centres in the field of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies.” For Amelie, completing her internship at Aleksanteri was a natural choice as their work was very aligned with her academic and research interests.
Nicholas’ internship took place in Tbilisi, Georgia where he worked at the Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy (EECMD). Nicholas’ selection process involved speaking to various University of Toronto professors who helped guide him to an organization that was focusing on politics. The EECMD was recommended to him based on the work they do for supporting and building sustainable democracy. Not only that, but Nicholas felt Georgia would be a good fit given the unfortunate similar history being played out once again—with past animosity between Russia and Georgia. This personal interest, as well as the work of the EECMD combined with the cost of living made Georgia a great fit.
Both Amelie and Nicholas were involved in interesting projects throughout their internships. Amelie was acted as a research assistant for a project entitled “Electoral Malpractice, Cybersecurity and Political Consequences in Russia and Beyond” (ElMaRB). As a member of the ElMaRB team, she was tasked with collecting data, facilitating in-house seminars, and even writing blog pieces for the Aleksanteri website (her article on the Belarussian referendum is linked below). Amelie’s internship afforded her the opportunity to meet and interact with renowned scholars in her field of interest while also offering leeway for her to conduct her own work and research.
For his part, Nicholas contributed to the translation efforts of EECMD by translating documents with his knowledge of Russian, Ukrainian, and English. The translation work also required him to proofread documents, ultimately leading to final products which include a document comparing Georgia’s path to political literacy to that of Czechia [AB1] and Slovakia. He also worked on the topics of separatism in Donbas and Transnistria, and foreign policy, among other things. In addition to this, Nicholas was able to attend a conference held in late July. This conference was attended by politicians from countries including Georgia, the United States, and England and discussed fraud and corruption. Nicholas also worked on a podcast with a CERES colleague. The podcast gave 5-minute briefs on various topics relevant to Eastern Europe such as NATO and the EU.
As for the importance of an internship abroad, both Nicholas and Amelie emphasized the meaningfulness of getting to live and work in another country. It was not only the social experience of another culture but the experience of a totally new work culture that gave them skills of adaptability and flexibility. They both cherished the connections that they made and the personal growth elicited by this experience. In the words of Amelie, “[An internship abroad] shows you have perseverance both personally and professionally.”
Amelie and Nicholas both mentioned the personable and hospitable environments they found at their internships. Nicholas’ team helped him find a place to stay and was flexible with him working from home when he was sick, while Amelie recalls how appreciative she was that every weekend her colleagues took to the streets to protest the war in Ukraine. Clearly the personal relationships developed on their internships were a highlight! They were also able to take advantage of their time in their respective countries to do some sightseeing and enjoy the local cuisine and culture.
In summary, Amelie and Nicholas’ internships were a great opportunity for professional development as well as an occasion to immerse themselves in a new culture and learn all that a different country has to offer.