Internship Spotlight: Thomas Kennedy

As a student heavily invested in International Relations and History, there is no better place to go than at the border of where the “iron curtain” once laid across Europe, with two economic systems of government competing face to face. Prague was the display window of each of these competing systems. Now a post-soviet country, the Czech Republic rejects its’ authoritarian past and is attempting to renew its’ ties to the rest of Western Europe and its’ previous commitment to liberal democracy. For a Political science major and History minor, there is no better case study, in my opinion. I am fascinated by the paradox between their commitment to being part of the E.U and yet being extremely skeptical of it, as they spent most of their past fending off empires like the Austro-Hungarians, Germans, Prussians, Russians and Soviet Union to preserve their identity and culture.

The Insitute of International Relations is an EU Think-Tank that guides policymakers and public opinion through quantitative and qualitative research from researchers who organize panels, discussions and policy breakfasts with the public, government administrators and elected officials. While not all researchers agree on peculiar and intricate notions about how the international system functions and states behave, these disagreements are a good sign that this Institute is not a lobbying group. The European Concept of a Think-Tank is not to advance specific ideology and policies, but quite a free process, even though tightly linked to the government, the latter guarantees its’ independence. As an intern, I was able to write on any subject I wanted for the official website, from my opinion on the Iran conflict to Facebook’s digital currency, with criticism always welcome. What also initially attracted my attention was the chance to see how European think-tanks function, with researchers who would be able to guide me concerning further studies in Politics and International Relations. I also wanted the chance to start building a network in Europe, since I am from there, in academia. It would be to complement the network of academics, students and researchers from North America.

The highlight of the internship was meeting policymakers and advisors of a high level at the placement (such as a professor who had advised both the CIA, MI6 and KGB-- the only one to do so). My daily tasks were to help researchers with data sets, administrative tasks, make a monthly mail notification system, organize and prepare events and write in English for other interns, my supervisors and the researchers. Toward the last days of my internship, I decided to focus on using the resources available, often not found online because they’re arcane books, to start my research paper on the Czechoslovakian dissolution compared to the Yugoslav divorce, and why it didn’t result in war, whereas Yugoslavia descended into chaos. I hope my Professor supervising and correcting this paper, Prof. Sabetti of the Political Science department, will enjoy the lens through which I analyze both situations. I am also receiving three credits for a political science course, POLI 599, for this internship.

This internship has set me on a path towards trying to enter a Ph.D. program after a Master in Political Science, with a particular focus on transatlantic relations. The team here gave me confidence in myself to at least try to tackle the route of academia, as the field matters to me more and gives me more meaning than working for a corporation or government and being subject to quite probably advance a cause I would sooner forestall. The funding for the internship helped me pay rent in the country for three months for which I am very thankful. In conclusion, although this was a very intensive summer, I got more work done here than any previous summer in my existence, as being proactive and energized by becoming deeply satisfied and interested by the matters at hand made the process much more enriching.

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