Category: Spring 2018

Reflecting on an Incredible Semester at the El-Hibri Foundation

Isabella, a AU GAP student, smiles behind a camera at her internship site.

Me at my internship in the El-Hibri Foundation

With just a few weeks left of this semester in the AU Gap program, I find myself reflecting on my gap experience and the lessons I will take away. Through classes and workshops, I’ve learned valuable interview and networking skills. I now have a polished resume, know how to write a cover letter, and feel prepared to apply for future jobs and internships. And, going to college, I’ll already have internship experience which will set me apart from my peers.

This semester, I’ve interned at the El-Hibri Foundation (EHF), an organization that equips Muslim leaders and allies with the tools to build thriving, inclusive communities through grants and various programs. EHF provides grants to nonprofits that serve American Muslim Communities. They also offer resources in areas like capacity-building and strategic planning. With my interest in international relations, social justice, and empowering marginalized groups, I knew before I even started interning that EHF would offer invaluable lessons.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of my internship has been working during the trainings that EHF offers their grantees. Earlier this month, I assisted the foundation during a Nonprofit Management Training, transcribing speeches, greeting attendees, and filming and recording the event. Each task provided insights into event work and how events run smoothly: picture that image of a swan, graceless and effortless above water, frantically paddling below. But in between running up and down flights of stairs with each new task, I had the opportunity to network with the event participants. I spoke to employees at think tanks, respected imams, and even a former diplomat! And in the moments where I was sitting, taking in each word the speakers were saying, I had the chance to learn alongside these notable people. Over my time at the El-Hibri Foundation, I’ve developed a profound appreciation for the work they, and other nonprofits like them, do. I’ve been welcomed into the foundation, learning valuable lessons from people I’ve come to deeply respect, and I have a sense that the work I’ve done is appreciated and valued. I feel grateful that I’ve had this experience; grateful to the El-Hibri Foundation and the AU Gap program. I can’t think of another place where I would have the opportunity to explore my passions in such a way. With just a few weeks left of this program, I can’t wait to see what my remaining time entails, and I’ll be sure to soak up every ounce of new information I learn. – Isabelle Moshiri- Elwood, AU GAP Program Student

What would you ask if you had the chance to sit down and chat with a diplomat?

AU Gap Students outside the Turksih Embassy

What do Turkish and Russian diplomats have to say about the refugee crisis in Syria? How about their opinion on the importance of cultural diplomacy and “soft power”? This month, GAP students got the inside scoop on what it means to be among the most influential global leaders in international politics, in two countries that have fostered unique relationships with the United States.

As Communications Coordinator for American University’s School of Professional & Extended Studies, my job is to highlight the stories of our students — be it an uplifting profile on a student fighting for veterans’ rights, or an event preview that discussed race, politics, poetry, and the internet age. At the Russian Embassy this month, students met with Deputy Head of the Economic Section, Grigory Zasypkin. At the Turkish Embassy the following week, they attended a private seminar on cultural diplomacy with Embassy Counselor Celil Erdogan.

At the Russian Embassy, students took part in a private tour of the opulent Ceremonial Building. Designed by Soviet architect Michael Posokhin, the 39-year-old construction is used for press conferences, public events, special receptions, seminars, and diplomatic meetings alike. Our tour guide for the afternoon truly said it best — the Russian Embassy is “a city within a city”!

Just a 20-minute walk away, in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s famed Embassy Row neighborhood, Mr. Erdogan and GAP International Relations professor Gul Gur lead an enriching discussion on the constructs of Erdogan’s work. He also went into depth about the success of past diplomatic campaigns and how they ventured to showcase Turkish national identity to a wider global audience. One such campaign is their annual “Turkey Home” event, where artists, journalists, clergymen, intellectuals and other “opinion makers” come together at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ankara to network and forward the mission of culture-making in Turkey.

One of the most powerful takeaways from these visits was how receptive and collaborate these diplomats came across to our students. They were invested in opening the floor for enriching discussions — especially as they relate to the ways they can show the richness of their respective cultural histories. Perhaps much of the reason why they have achieved the positions they hold today is due to their pride and gratitude for being an visible representative of their home countries.

What would you ask if you had the chance to sit down and chat with a diplomat?

-Kelly Kimball, Communications Coordinator

Exploring My Passions at My Internship

When I decided to attend the AU Gap program, I knew that I wanted to use the unique opportunity to get involved in work that I was passionate about. This intent was what eventually drove me towards my internship with Vital Voices Global Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women leaders all over the world to reach their full potential. Founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, among others, Vital Voices has provided a key mentorship and support network to a diverse population of women spanning the globe. As someone deeply passionate about female empowerment and leadership, an internship with Vital Voices is an incredible opportunity to gain a first-hand understanding of the nonprofit sector, the inner workings of a global network, and above all, the power of women empowering women. 

With just a month of my internship under my belt, I have already gained a range of invaluable experiences. I have gotten to sit-in on fascinating panels and meetings and have been exposed to a wide variety of projects within the organization. I have the pleasure of working with a fantastic group of women and men who make every effort to ensure that my internship is an enriching learning experience. The skills I have acquired and the lessons I have learned from them thus far have already significantly strengthened my professional abilities.

Yet, what really makes interning with Vital Voices such an important experience for me is being welcomed into a movement of women and men working together to ignite change towards a future of gender equality. To work in an environment of inclusion, empowerment, and optimism, as well as to explore a viable career path before attending college, has given me an invaluable opportunity to develop and explore my passions. I am beyond excited to continue to learn and grow through my AU Gap experience!

– Hannah George, AU Gap Student, Spring 2018

Joining the Conversation in Washington, D.C.

Although New York City claims the title for “The City that Never Sleeps,” I would argue that Washington, D.C. is “The City that Never Remains Silent.” The District is alive with conversation, and any passersby can overhear a conversation over simple preferences to a lively debate over the political issues frequently depicted in The Washington Post. Our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is an incubator for problem-solving; the place where passionate discussion centers around the nuanced and multifaceted problems facing the United States today.

It is for that reason I decided to spend the second half of my gap year in the American University Gap Program. The AU Gap Program recognizes the importance of immersing its students into the Washington D.C. culture by actively promoting internships within the city.

When I was first accepted to the AU Gap Program, I imagined I would actively participate in the Washington political arena by working on the Hill or a think tank. However, as I participated in the internship fair, I found myself innately pulled towards organizations that advanced these conversations by providing the facts that either party could interpret. I was specifically attracted to the National Archives and Records Administration, an organization whose museum I had visited numerous times during my visits to D.C. Following an application and interview, I accepted a position at the Boeing Learning Center at the National Archives. 

I was inspired by the Education department’s initiative to promote lifelong learning by utilizing some of the Archives’ over 15 billion records. The National Archives is decidedly nonpartisan, and I enjoyed the idea that I could present facts and documents and all visitors to discern their perspectives. I believe the analysis of the past informs current decision making and shapes our future. This sentiment coincides with the Washington D.C. culture of conversation and stimulates curiosity in students of all ages.

In my past few weeks as an intern, I was granted numerous opportunities and responsibilities I could have never imagined. I recently met with the Archivist of the United States, and I was able to talk to him at length about his journey and his favorite pieces from the collection. I have also been able to assist with tours of the National Archives, and as well as develop a new activity for the Boeing Learning Center. In the coming weeks, I will help with the influx of visitors for the Emancipation Proclamation, volunteer at the National Archives Sleepover, and manage activities for Friendship Between Nations Day.

This internship has allowed me to not only develop professional skills beneficial to the workforce but also better understand my intellectual curiosities. I have been fortunate for the many opportunities I have been presented thus far in my AU Gap experience, and I look taking advantage of the many opportunities Washington D.C. has to offer.

– John Larsen, AU Gap Student, Spring 2018

Self-Discovery in the AU Gap Program!

There is nothing quite like waking up in the nation’s capital with a cohort of like-minded students, engaging in the realities of young adult life—all while trying to make better sense of ourselves and who we would like to become in an increasingly competitive and vibrant society.

The above was my motivation for taking a gap year – I wanted to discover a better sense of myself and who I would like to become. For the first half of my gap year, I was plagued by seemingly insurmountable difficulties and tragedy at home and had some trouble with this goal. My daily routine consisted of working five hours a day in the real world of “grown-ups” and the hustle and bustle of the tri-state’s urban sprawl. I would spend the evenings with my grandparents over jeopardy and some unfathomably delicious meal my grandmother prepared earlier that afternoon. The day usually came to a close around 9PM. Let us, for argument’s sake, agree that there was little room for me to do any real social and intellectual blossoming in the crowded square footage of my bedroom, bathed in the analog light of Friends on Nick at Nite.

As January started though, I found myself on AU’s campus. I was nervous, but also exhilarated by the idea of being inherently unique as a gap year student. Orientation thrust me into the great work of honing my interview and job marketing skills, questioning most notions I had about what it meant to intern or develop a career. I got to explore the historic landscape of DC with my new friends, though ultimately taking dead last in the scavenger hunt that would have landed us the hottest ticket in town at the Italian embassy.

Next, Professor Gur jumped right into the experiences that make the AU Gap Program so unique – visits to the US Institute of Peace and the State Department are only the beginning of the adventures she will enthusiastically guide us in exploring throughout this semester. I’ve also done some surveying of my own, visiting historic Georgetown and a talk led by Jeb Bush at the American Enterprise Institute. As a liberal, the latter was a fascinating cross-ideological discussion of school choice in the face of an ever increasingly automated technological society. I feel right at home in DC’s political arena.

I can only imagine what awaits me as I become more a part of the AU community and work as a social media and digital content intern with the National Press Club with the news media clearinghouse American Forum. The dream to one day be dead center in the Fourth Estate as a media specialist is being realized earlier than I ever conceived possible. My hopes for self-discovery and personal actualization are already becoming less ethereally existential, and more of a reality thanks to what I hope will be a great semester. The amazing friends, the exquisite cuisine of DC’s diverse communities, and the immense history and promise in this city are an undeniable part of what has so far made my experience one of the best of my life. Here’s to more greatness in the months to come!

– Nicholas Massenburg-Abraham, AU Gap Student, Spring 2018