Internship Spotlight: Robert West - US-ASEAN Business Council

I went to work for the US-ASEAN Business Council because it saw that this internship presented a chance to take the knowledge I had gained as a joint honors student in International Development and Political Science at McGill and put it into practice. Moreover, this internship provided me with my first real chance to experience the excitement and challenges of office work in a high-stakes and fast-paced professional environment.

The US-ASEAN Business Council (generally called the Council) is a free trade advocacy group specializing in helping American companies invest in the ASEAN bloc. The Council provides regular news and analysis to its member companies and hosts business missions to the ten member countries within the ASEAN bloc. As part of this work, the Council regularly meets with key government officials in the US and ASEAN to ensure that the US remains a critical partner in this fast-growing region.

As an intern, I had three portfolios: Energy, Membership, and the President's Newsletter. In the energy portfolio, I was tasked with following developments in the energy industry in ASEAN and turning the most critical articles into news clippings. Then, at the month's end, I would write 3 to 5 articles summarizing vital regional developments. In addition to this task, I was responsible for compiling a briefing book for a business mission hosted in Jakarta this August. In the membership portfolio, I was tasked with putting together briefers for the President and CEO, Ted Osius which would prepare him for meetings with current and prospective member companies. Finally, I was responsible for drafting and releasing the President's Newsletter. This monthly newsletter, sent to over 4000 recipients in the voice of former ambassador Osius, was critical to positioning the organization as a thought leader in the region and summarizing the organization's significant accomplishments over the previous month.

I came into the position with the objective of several practical objectives as well as more academically oriented learning goals. On this first practical level, I knew this job was a singular chance to learn how offices worked. Given that my only previous professional experience was as a line cook, I knew that operating within this environment was far from intuitive. On a more general level, I viewed this internship as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of how international development worked. While my time as a Development student at McGill gave me a rich theoretical understanding of how the US and Canadian private sectors operate in developing economies, I knew that to grasp these dynamics; there was no replacement for actually watching these interactions occur.

My time at the Council was a significant success in both regards. After these three months, I have learned valuable lessons about being a valuable workplace member and asserting myself while making room for others. Moreover, having gotten an up-close view of how American companies work in the region, I now feel like I have a much richer understanding of what makes a country an attractive site for investment. In these ways and many more, working at the Council has profoundly impacted what I plan to do professionally. The skillset I have gained while in this position puts me in a far better position to seek employment as I graduate from McGill.

This learning, these opportunities, and all my connections are only possible because of this Award. The fact that I could go into the office was only possible because I could afford to travel to DC and afford the cost of living. Put simply, whatever I learned inside the headquarters of the Council was because your generosity got me through the front door.

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