By Sasan Faraj ’23
Going into this past summer, I didn’t know what to expect of it. Buildings were closed, internships were cancelled, and friends couldn’t see each other in groups. Going down what seemed like a pretty isolated path of staying at home, I was fortunate enough to gain a remote internship at AidData, a research lab housed at the Global Research Institute (GRI). I thought that I would only be sitting behind my computer all day without a lot of human interaction while working for the Global Research Institute, but thankfully I learned that was not going to be the case.
During my remote internship, the GRI offered many different opportunities to network with professionals, receive feedback on resumes, or simply talk with past William & Mary Alumni. Out of all their events, I have to say that my favorite event was the GRI Coffee Chats. About 1-2 times a week, the GRI would set up informal meetings between students and William & Mary alumni to talk about professional experiences, network, and possibly drink coffee over Zoom. I learned about the hiring processes and the professional lives of people who worked in a range of fields from working in a United States’ consulate office in another country to being part of a consulting firm. Although our work was remote, the GRI made a strong effort to create a community.
The GRI events helped me not only learn about professional development, but also about systemic racism and social justice. Personally, asking a professor who had a history of conducting academic research questions about my own study about vaccination coverage and crime opened my eyes to perspectives I hadn’t thought of before. Additionally, the GRI’s promotion of other events in our community brought a level of sophistication and cultural awareness to my job that I hadn’t experienced before in other jobs. One event which stuck out, was a webinar with motivational speaker and facilitator George Lee who spoke about the importance of intersectionality, white privilege, and being pro-black. The event was sponsored by GRI student leadership council member, Pooja Tanjore, and organized by the Allies for Black Voices Coalition with the National Organization for Women.
To say the least, these GRI events taught me about the world using perspectives I hadn’t yet encountered. The GRI events made working at AidData and the GRI more informative and enjoyable, so they are definitely considered a bonus to my internship. What seemed like what was going to be a standard remote job ended up shaping into many avenues of learning that I can directly apply to my own life through research and career exploration. Going forward, I can’t wait to apply the lessons I learned during the coffee chats to my actual professional career.