I examine a hard copy of my latest discussion paper one last time. I cross a few things out, change the wording of a few sentences and make sure there are no embarrassing spelling errors (please realise we write in British English). When I am finally satisfied, I go to my computer and click submit. And like that, I make my afternoon deadline. Although it was due at 5:00 p.m. today, the clock on the top right-hand corner of my computer reads 11:00 a.m. Welcome to the world of remote internships!
Kathryn Carroll wrote a piece on remote internships in the field of human rights for the blog last week. So now is a good time for me to discuss my remote internship. I am part of Consultancy Africa Intelligence’s (CAI) Internship Programme. I am working in the Enviro Africa Research Unit from January until June. The experience has been phenomenal, for all the reasons Kathryn spoke about.
First, the flexibility allows me to work throughout the semester. My remote internship allows me to remain a full-time student. I was able to spend Spring Break taking a comparative legal studies course in Scotland and maintain my journal and moot court obligations. Further, I am able to work when it is most convenient for me. Rather than carve out two days from my schedule to commute to an internship, I am able to structure mine around my schedule. So long as I hit my deadlines, I can work at night, on weekends, or during 4 hour breaks in my days.
Second, I was able to find an internship in the field I am most passionate about. Rather than being bound to a New York City based company (which admittedly, is not really a hurdle at all), I was able to cast my net worldwide. CAI’s diverse research units, ranging from conflict & terrorism to industry & business, intrigued me. I was particularly impressed with Enviro Africa’s stance that environmental issues are by definition social issues. My love of environmental law made Enviro Africa my first choice and I was elated to find out that was the unit to which I was accepted.
My work with Enviro Africa has been rewarding and enriching. Prior to joining CAI, my article on Responsibility to Preserve, dealing with the Yasuni rainforest in Ecuador, was published. The piece tangentially mentioned Virunga National Park, in Democratic Republic of Congo, as another example of a situation where a government was selling out land protected under domestic and international law. My first piece with CAI explored this issue in a way that I was not able to do in my article. I was able to use my prior knowledge of a topic to write about something that I would have otherwise never written.
The feeling of being published, whether in print or online, is exhilarating. I was unsure how the piece would be received, but my fears were eased when the page views started increasing from the hundreds to the thousands. At last count, the page has been viewed over 4000 times. My internship requires 3-5 page monthly discussion papers. My only restrictions are that the papers must discuss environmental issues and must take place within Africa. Such leeway may be difficult for people who crave direction, but this allows me to write about whatever is currently piquing my interest.
My biggest concern with a remote internship was how I could make a positive impression from 8000 miles away. CAI’s interns work remotely, from every continent and from a variety of backgrounds. Although this may not seem like a big deal at first glance, remote internships where everyone else is inside the building may throw you out of the loop, especially when dealing with different time zones. Rather than being the outsider, a concern Kathryn addressed, we are all on a level playing field.
I was able to impress from day one. My piece on Virunga National Park was part of the reason I won February’s Intern of the Month. The other reason was the positive report from my supervisor. I realised that aside from doing your job, remote internships require constant communication and an extraordinary ability to convey your thoughts in e-mails and word documents. The lack of in-person interaction can be daunting, especially for someone who has never done a remote internship before. Unlike Kathryn, I do not use Skype or video chats, so my writing is all that I am judged on.
My second piece, on ecodrones, discusses a topic I was less familiar with. So I spent a little bit of extra time checking it over before submitting. I hope it will be as well received as my first piece. Although the workday was ending in Pretoria, my day was just beginning half a world away.
It’s five o’clock somewhere. But not here.