Prior to starting my internship with Democratic Education Network (DEN), I only had a few ideas about it. I was involved in various projects, including the editorial of DEN’s annual book with a number of students. This academic year has been different, as teaching and learning has been virtual. During the first semester, I attended DEN’s meeting every Thursday, whereas in semester two, I decided to join the editorial team of the book. Over twenty students meet every week to organise, manage, and edit different articles written by students for the students. Last year and this year it mainly covered Covid-19
Whilst the agenda was organised by Farhang Morady, who is a senior lecturer in international relations and development. Students were involved with chairing, taking notes, and reviewing articles. This was something different to what I have done both in the classroom and outside as an extracurricular activity.
I feel as if I have progressed well, whilst also maturing intellectually and personally. The way in which DEN works is really refreshing and lovely to be a part of. As the atmosphere made it easy for me to get involved. I engaged with the placement, as well as being comfortable enough to contribute towards the group. At the beginning of it, I felt a little bit anxious and overwhelmed, as I was worried that I might make a mistake. However, with time, I felt more comfortable since everyone was very helpful, especially Farhang.
The ways in which I was comforted, was through having consistent communication with Farhang, in circumstances where I struggled with tasks at hand. During these periods, he would call or set meetings during his office hours via Microsoft Teams. Through organizing meetings, I gradually learnt how to manage expected requirements for different projects. I was also in communication with the other students to help and mentor, especially first year’s students such as Zohra and Sasha. It was very gratifying as they felt a little out of place considering the circumstances of being online. Therefore, communicating and befriending them was pleasant, as it helped them feel more comfortable being a part of this virtual DEN environment.
I realised the other students that I communicated with, were also on the same boat as me, since we were going through this new virtual experience together. The ongoing learning and experimenting made me feel better, and more confident in myself, which allowed me to help and support the other students. Chairing meetings and taking on more responsibilities, helped me to become comfortable in my role. I started getting more involved and showing willingness to participate in other projects.
Additionally, I have developed my critical and creative thinking. The project that I was involved in includes researching, writing, communicating, and learning from the other students. As a team, we have the role to edit different papers and engage critically. This helped me to understand when and where a writer needs to be concise or more detailed. For example, we must be critical with both our own and our colleague’s work. I have been able to
improve on my literate and effective communication, through contacting the members of the project and the individual writers’ work that I have edited. For example, I edited Illona’s paper, who is a third-year student. Communicating with her not only helped me with being a part of this project, but further helped me gain insight in what is to come with third year, and how to tackle its difficulties. Accordingly, I have more social and environmental awareness as well. Considering this book project is on COVID-19, and it involves how the environment and different societies have been affected. This has been an eye opener for me to learn and research about some of these cases.
This placement experience of DEN has helped me immensely. For example, it will be put on my CV and LinkedIn profile. I, therefore, hope to enhance my employability. This has been an opportunity that I cherished being a part of, and I would recommend students to consider it seriously. This will not only develop and increase their individual growth and learn from their lecturers and fellow students. It will also build a link between the courses that we study, mentoring, and above all employment.
Najaha Choudhary, Year 2, BA (Hons) International Relations, 2021