Jen Shriber ’10,  Anthropology Major

I spent my Jan Plan 2009 working for Barakat, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts that funds schools and health programs in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  I got to spend a lot of time with the executive and program directors during my internship.  These people taught me a lot about how nonprofits are run, giving me a better idea about a field in which I am very interested.  I feel that my internship was a success: I am very glad that I was able to spend a month that was beneficial not only to me but also to a worthy organization such as Barakat.

I had many duties as a part of my internship, ranging from run-of-the-mill assistant work to substantial tasks that I truly felt made a difference.  On one hand, I updated Barakat’s database, wrote thank-you letters to donors, and ran errands.  On the other hand, I was amazed at the trust that some of my other duties implied.  On one occasion I was asked to put together a budget form for Barakat’s schools in Pakistan.  I had never done anything like this before, yet when I was finished a staff member quickly scanned my work and announced that she would send it off to Pakistan right away.  I could hardly believe it: something I had made was going to Pakistan, to be filled out by Pakistani school administrators and to help determine the budgets for an entire school year!  Another time I was asked to edit Barakat’s annual report.  My supervisor gave me free reign to edit the report: he trusted my decisions without scrutinizing each of my adjustments.  Throughout my internship I was astounded by the relevance and importance of my work.

I definitely learned a lot during my internship.  First, I learned about all of the different considerations that go into running a nonprofit organization.  The staff members with whom I worked told me about nonprofit classifications, the bureaucracy involved with grants, and numerous other small details that Barakat must take into account before even beginning to think about the actual projects that are run in South Asia.  I also learned a great deal about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.  My increased knowledge especially came from my duties as a news analyst: I searched the internet for news articles each day (with the help of LexisNexis, which made my job much easier), and so I was able to follow events as they unfolded.  As a result of my internship, I feel as though I am much more knowledgeable about a region of the world that is of such significance.  Furthermore, I gained a lot of practical experience with various software and computer programs.  I learned how to run Barakat’s database; gained more experience with Excel; and was introduced to programs and software that I had had no prior contact with, such as Adobe Illustrator and Google Analytics.  Knowledge of these programs and website will no doubt help me in the future, when I apply for and work at new jobs.

I consider myself lucky to have been able to intern with an organization that is such a good fit with my field of study and possible career plans.  As an Anthropology and International Studies major, I have enjoyed this chance to learn more about cultures of which I had previously had very little knowledge.  I am also very interested in development.  I have thus benefitted from gaining a first-hand look at the impact that small projects can have for improving a country’s future: India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will reap the benefits of a better-educated generation that will hopefully use their knowledge to improve the lives of their compatriots.

I am very glad that I found such a supportive, friendly atmosphere in which to try out a possible career path.  I went into this internship considering nonprofit work for the future.  Now that I have worked with a nonprofit organization, I find that this is definitely something that I could see myself doing years from now.