I think when many people read a blog “From the Intern Desk,” they are curious of the roles and responsibilities of a WFP intern. What exactly does a WFP intern do? Now that my internship is nearing an end, I’m in a better position to help shed light on this million-dollar question. Prospective interns, read carefully!
The intern desk is as far from fetching coffee, making photocopies, or busy work, as you can imagine. For me, the intern desk has given me a wide range of assignments and opportunities. Primarily, I was working with countries in Southern, Eastern, and Central Africa. As an intern this was very exciting because many of WFP’s core operations take place in this region. The internship provided me with a chance to learn about the region and the unique challenges facing each country. It is hard to believe that 3 months ago, I could barely pin-point Namibia, Mozambique, Central African Republic, or Burundi on the map. Yet now I find myself having heated technical discussions on these countries. I was also able to work on WFP operations in Latin America and Asia. I’ve touched on the internationality of WFP on my other posts, but I think this is a point that is worth driving home. Where else do you get a chance to learn about and work with so many different countries around the world?
I've had a chance to get involved in various emergency situations. From a funding crisis in Africa to the floods in Pakistan, I was able to get involved on the big issues and the high visibility projects. Dealing with donor contributions was a very big responsibility, yet my team fully trusted in me and incorporated me as a member of the team, working alongside consultants and staff.
One of my most interesting responsibilities was (rather oxymoronically) away from the intern desk, at the meeting table. I quickly learned that each WFP operation is the result of careful integration and coordination among various divisions: finance, operations, nutrition, procurement, fund-raising, and others. As an intern, there was never a shortage of interesting cross-functional meetings to attend.
This was a non-stop learning experience and at any given time I had several projects to keep me busy! A large portion of my work dealt with Excel. I was also responsible for several briefs to be sent out to the team, and I'm walking away with transferable skills in project management and data presentation. More valuable still, a great deal of my work was building relationships with the Donor Relations Officers around me, as well as WFP staff in the country offices. Countless emails, coffee chats, telephone conversations, and in-person conversations have proved a truly transformational experience. I’ve been told that learning to deal with different people is one of the most important skills to acquire, and WFP has really provided me with this opportunity, while also introducing me to some fantastic people along the way. Talking to co-workers from diverse backgrounds and working on projects around the world has helped me define my long-term professional goals and interests.