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Intern Q&A: Katie, Research Intern

Katie MacDonald has interned at williamsworks for over six months – previously working on trips but now working as a research intern – and has also worked for Save the Children. A student at the University of Washington, Katie studies Near Eastern Languages and Civilization as well as International Studies, and plans to graduate in the spring.

Katie sat down to talk about her experiences in school and as an intern at williamsworks.

Katie MacDonaldWhy did you choose your majors?

I have been traveling abroad and participating in cultural exchanges from a really young age. I did my first trip without my parents when I was 12, traveling to Costa Rica on an eco-tourism trip with some family friends. Since then I have had a passion for traveling and learning about a country and its culture by actually living with families abroad.

How many countries have you been to?

Not that many actually, but I hope to go to more! Since high school I have mostly been returning to the countries that I love and the places where I have built strong relationships with the people that live there. I now have really close friends in Tajikistan and Turkey and consider those places like a second home.

When you go back, what do you do?

It depends on how long the trip is. In Turkey, sometimes stays are as short as five days or as long as five weeks. I stayed with a family in Istanbul while in high school, and when I go back it’s to visit them. The family has a daughter my age and we are very close.

I usually have spent two-to-three months in Tajikistan per trip. I did two language courses in the capital Dushanbe, where I lived with a host family and this past summer I worked for Save the Children in southern Tajikistan. It was a great experience and taught me a lot culture and family life in the area as well as development work in practice.

If you to pick one new place to travel to, where would it be?

I would love to go to India, especially Rajasthan.

Why did you want to intern at williamsworks?

I thought it was a really interesting and exciting company, and I was interested to learn more about ways in which the public and private sector can work together to promote positive change. I appreciated their emphasis on responsibility, effectiveness and rigor in every aspect of their work, from research to planning, monitoring, and evaluation.

What kind of things do you work on as a research intern?

We get all kinds of different requests relating to a variety of areas, such as travel arrangements, international development, or up-and-coming companies. I really enjoy more in-depth projects that require critical thinking, as I get to investigate a topic and present my own conclusions.

Every project has been a good learning experience, and in particular I feel like I have learned a lot about how to present data or complex information in a way that is succinct and useful to its intended audience. This type of audience directed writing is something that was not heavily emphasized in my university, so I really value getting to practice different types of writing and different ways of presenting information.

What do you like most about working at williamsworks?

I love that my job is always changing or morphing. I have something new to work on every day, and I am constantly learning about new things or places and developing new skills.

At the UW my studies have been focused on Central Asia, but being an intern at williamsworks has given me an opportunity to expand my knowledge to countries and peoples in a wide variety of regions and the issues they face. This internship has really broadened my horizons and how I think about international development.

I also really enjoy the atmosphere here. I love the open office and open communication.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

I’m taking a gap year before going on to graduate school. One thing about this internship is that is has opened up my eyes to the many different paths to making a positive change in the world. I want to take the time to explore the intersection between what is useful and what I enjoy.

What are some elements of your dream job?

I would love to have a job that allowed me to travel and work abroad, particularly in Central or South Asia, though any area of the world would be interesting. I really enjoy research and would like my job to incorporate elements of the work I did with Save the Children — speaking with people about their lives, thoughts, and needs and transforming that information into a format that was digestible and useful to those involved in program or policy design. But ultimately, I am still in the process of exploration and finding out what my dream job would be.

How has interning at williamsworks changed your future plans?

Interning at williamsworks has given me a much greater understanding of the logistical and administrative side of project implementation, travel, and event planning. I’ve found that really like this type of work and would be happy to work in this area in the future.

Why should someone want to intern at williamsworks?

It’s an incredibly valuable experience. During university we do a lot of a particular kind of writing, but there are numerous other types of writing and skill sets involved in working in a career related to international studies. This internship gives you a chance to work with budgets, learn how to write effective briefs, and organize information in a useful way – all these skills are critical. You get to learn so many interesting things about different countries, organizations, and up-and-coming ideas.