Meet ISDP’s fall 2023/24 interns

Each semester, the Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP) runs an internship program open to university students and recent graduates that gives interns work experience in an international environment, encourages them to write and publish with staff members or on their own, and assume progressive responsibilities within the organization. What can interested students expect during an internship at ISDP? 

We currently have six interns who are now looking back on their first time at ISDP and are sharing what more they are looking forward to during their internship: Filip Borges Månsson (ISDP Stockholm Center for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs), Nolwenn Gueguen (ISDP Asia Program), Tove Jalmerud (ISDP Stockholm China Center), Pontus Norén (ISDP Stockholm China Center), Erika Rutonen (ISDP Stockholm Center for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs), and Clara Stäbler (ISDP Asia Program). 

ISDP: To give interested students an idea – what do you work with as an intern at ISDP? And how do you like it? 

Reading news, researching, and writing are common tasks for interns at ISDP. The interns tell us what is included in these broad tasks: 

Nolwenn: “A big part of my work is reading the news. Media monitoring, building up your knowledge on geopolitical events, finding news to highlight on ISDP’s social media, writing an internal news memo… Thanks to the daily news monitoring, I am learning a lot and can extend my knowledge of the area.” 

Filip: “I am also working a lot with news: For the India-Sweden Strategic Compass Newsletter, I gather news on the relevant subjects. I also assist in preparations for events held by my center. There’s a new sense of awareness and a learning curve because I am working with many different tasks. I learn to write effectively, what the administration around an event looks like, I have contact with speakers for webinars and feel like I get a better idea of the bigger picture and work with something that really matters.” 

Tove: “There are also many research tasks. Like assisting with research – gathering information on specific questions and writing summaries – but also doing your own research for a piece you can publish.”  

Erika: “I like the variation very much: Sometimes there are urgent tasks, administrative tasks, but you also have your own personal and optional projects, like writing a blog post or preparing an interview with an expert.” 

Pontus: “My tasks also always have a context. When I am working with a text or a presentation for my supervisor, I can see the value of the product directly. There is a sense of accomplishment.” 

Clara: “When it comes to writing, you learn a lot about drafting different types of texts during your tasks and get a lot of practice this way. Generally, the writing style differs greatly from university: It is not academic and always has this ‘real-life focus’. I like it a lot. Learning how to write in different formats for different target groups is a necessary professional skill in our field. You learn many transferable skills during this internship. I also like that I can learn a lot from my colleagues related to my tasks or career tips for the field in general. The team is really a knowledge hub for the future!” 

What does your typical day look like? 

Nolwenn and Filip describe that a typical day starts with reading the news, involves a lot of reading and writing, that they can switch back and forth between tasks from their supervisors, smaller tasks, and research during the day. “That way, it does not get boring.” 

Pontus: “The meetings with colleagues and visitors and conversations about current topics make the working day varied.” 

Clara adds: “It is also a good mix. There are not too many meetings, only those necessary for exchange and coordination. Otherwise, you can manage your time freely and organize your day. The open office space makes it also easier to approach people if you want to brainstorm.” 

Filip agrees: “The days are not as stressful as you think they would be. Even though you always have something to do, there is time for attending lectures, having nice lunches, and great opportunities to get to know the colleagues.” 

How can you apply your theoretical knowledge from university in practice? 

Tove says that her studies have already helped her a lot with her internship: “I can read news sources in Chinese, my previous training in research methodology and academic writing also helps me write in different styles and how to structure my writing and reading.” 

Erika: “People at ISDP are coming from different backgrounds, and we can use our specific knowledge. My focus is Europe and its external relations, which I can use often for my tasks.” 

Clara, who originally studied Chinese and is now involved in the Korea project at ISDP, explains how the internship builds on her studies. 

Clara: “I only took one class on Korean politics before, but I am learning Korean on the side and could show my interest in the peninsula during the interview. I love that I can now learn more about the Northeast Asian region. Also, during my university studies, I built up research skills that are very useful for the tasks here.” 

Some interns at ISDP come with a strong focus on one region, while others come with a more general perspective. 

Filip: “I started my internship without a regional or cultural focus from my studies. I come from the political sciences with a very general knowledge of security studies. I learned so much about the Indo-Pacific region and its dynamics here, and I also feel like it is okay not to know everything in the beginning, because ISDP expects you to learn a lot.” 

Pontus also observes that the colleagues at ISDP often find use of the skill of researching, which is generally one of the main skills that you learn during university studies, to quickly familiarize themselves with a new topic. 

What was unexpected? 

Many of the interns were positively surprised by the work environment – coming to one of their first work experiences. There was uncertainty about what to expect. 

Tove: “I was afraid of a strict and maybe a bit scary work environment, but I was quickly happy to see that it is very open, that everyone is helpful and nice, and that the life-work balance is good.” 

Clara: “I would also like to add the foreigner’s perspective in Sweden: I felt very welcomed as the work environment is open, it is a young team and a nice feeling that you can always ask for help. It is also great how ISDP emphasizes the interns’ growth and that the program is flexible. I was also surprised by how international the team is. So, my recommendation is: Apply, even when you are not from Sweden or have not studied in Sweden before. You will have a great time and learn a lot!” 

Filip: “I was self-critical in the beginning, putting pressure on myself and asking myself how can I be a good intern? But I quickly learned that any contribution or assistance is more than enough and that it’s expected that you are here to learn. It is a very rewarding experience and a good symbiosis.” 

What are the key insights you will take with you from the internship? 

Nolwenn: “I can take a lot with me for my work life: Advice from colleagues, university study prospects, new writing skills for a policy orientation or social media.” 

Pontus: “For me, it is the knowledge you gain here. There is so much input for interesting topics from experienced colleagues who are helping you.” 

Erika: “It also helps for the future to see how you can apply the knowledge from your studies in real life.” 

Filip: “One key insight for me is the bigger picture of how things work and how much I can learn.” 

What are you looking forward to for the rest of your internship experience? 

Here, the intern group is in complete agreement: having a blog post published is something they are now looking forward to. They already anticipate the feeling of finalizing a piece and putting it out for the world to see. 

Clara: “I am already looking forward to the feedback I will receive and believe my writing can improve from my experience at ISDP. There will also be more opportunities for exchange with delegations from Asia and other scholars, which will broaden my horizons. In this way, I can experience more of “Asia”, even though I am here in Stockholm.” 

Thank you very much for your insights! We at ISDP are very excited to be able to work with you for a few more months! 

Are you interested in doing an internship at ISDP? Here, you can find more information about our internship program. Calls for applications for the fall semester will be announced in March/ April. If you have any questions about the internship program, please reach out to the Outreach Coordinator, Anna Jarmuth.