by Weeam Ben Rejeb
1. Flexibility is key. One of the biggest takeaways from my internship in a civil society organization like Aswat Nissa is that flexibility is key. Unlike more bureaucratic and established organizations, Aswat is a smaller and younger organization that prides itself on being militant and agile. What this practically means is that work is often reactionary. Although Aswat has some long-term projects and initiatives, the priority is always on the present context. Many times, I started a task that had to be either completely dropped or changed based on current needs. It is therefore very important to remain flexible, and to be comfortable with working outside of a set schedule.
2. Each experience is unique. For all the over planners out there, you can’t really plan for an international human rights internship. The work of many grassroots organizations like Aswat is based on current needs, which are based on present sociopolitical realities. The unique political situation during my internship (see Blog 1) completely changed my experience, tasks, and takeaways. This means that each experience will be unique. Although reading about past experiences of other interns can be useful, the work that you will do can be completely different. My advice is to engage with the work of the organization with no prior expectations, because interning in a civil society organization means working within an ever-changing society.
3. The hardest might be in the mundane. Going into this internship, I expected a lot of things to be hard: working in my third language, being away from home, being exposed to hard realities, and everything else typically associated with doing an international internship. Of course, many of these things were difficult, but nothing prepared me mentally or physically for the most difficult part of my internship: taking public transportation. As I previously shared, I lived with my grandmother in the town of Ezzahra, a few kilometers away from the offices of Aswat. However, the commute, which could take me between 30 minutes and 2 hours, was incredibly challenging. The public transit system in Tunisia is extremely unreliable and uncomfortable, especially in extreme heat during the summer. What was supposed to be a “normal” part of my day became the most challenging.