You Know What They Did This Summer: SAIS Summer Internships

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Associate Editor for SAIS Washington

Second-year D.C. student Daniel Greenland found the  temples of Mandalay, Myanmar to be a highlight of his trip. (Daniel Greenland)
Second-year D.C. student Daniel Greenland found the temples of Mandalay, Myanmar to be a highlight of his trip. (Daniel Greenland)

Every summer SAIS students pursue adventures and internships around the world.  To gain a better understanding of these travels, The SAIS Observer approached several second-year students to share their experiences and compiled anecdotes for the benefit of the SAIS community.  Each student was asked six questions about their summer experience, and their answers are listed below. The students are from diverse concentrations and spent their summers engaging in different experiences.


1. Where were you in this summer? What did you do there?

2. What interesting phrases did you pick up in the local language?

3. What was the most unforgettable scene from your travels?

4. What was the most fulfilling moment in your summer internship?

5. What skills did you learn from this internship? How will they benefit your future career?

6. Would you recommend this internship to others? What are your suggestions for future interns?

Christopher Crachiola, Japan Studies

1. I interned this summer in Tokyo, Japan for Jones Lang LaSalle, an international corporate real estate management firm as a member of the Strategic Sales Team.

2. In Japan it is always best to veer on the more polite side in conversations, especially with those that are your senior within a firm. One phrase that comes to mind is a form of saying good-bye when heading out of the office. While many may know that a standard goodbye in Japanese is “jya-ne” or “sayonara”, a better, more humbled expression to one’s superiors as a novice worker leaving an office setting could be “O-saki ni shitsureishimasu” – literally, “pardon me for leaving first!” Despite attempts to provide a good impression as an intern by working late hours, in Japan it is safe to say that someone will always be at the office later than you, and usually they will respond with a cheerful, “Otsukaresama!” – ‘Nice work today.’

3. During my first few days, being my first time ever in Tokyo, I was sure to venture out to the bustling Shibuya Crossing – The “Scramble” – possibly one of the busiest and most iconic pedestrian crossings in the world. At the blink of the walk signal, the crossing floods with people in each direction, and with music blaring and jumbotron screens with ads flashing at all corners, it was absorbing. I am guilty of probably having crossed about 12 times in a row, enjoying the rush!

4. Being a part of the Strategic Sales Team, I was given a great opportunity to prepare a presentation for the Japanese president and regional markets director. There has been a lot of focus lately on new trends directing the global corporate real estate market, and I was able to provide insight pertaining to some innovative approaches taking place in the U.S. and Europe that can be implemented in Japan.

5. The hot topics floating around all of Tokyo this summer included new “Abenomics” economic reform policies, the start of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, as well as the Japanese election taking place; it was definitely an exciting time to be in the heart of Japan!

Working directly with Strategic Sales and Research departments this past summer, I was able to utilize first hand some insights I learned from Professor Plummer’s “Asian Economic Development” course at the SAIS Europe Campus, and participate directly with my superiors at the office discussing these impacts on Japan’s corporate real estate market.

Being an international firm, the bilingual atmosphere was very surprising and motivating. I enjoyed the feeling of meetings and casual interactions where both Japanese and English were utilized interchangeably, sometimes even in the same sentence. Overall, the experience introduced me to Japanese work culture but with an international slant, as well as some new perspectives on global issues that will definitely be beneficial to me in the future, whether in Japan or elsewhere in the world.

6. Jones Lang LaSalle was an excellent host institution, and I would strongly recommend the internship to others. The projects were diverse, and there were opportunities to work with several of the divisions within the office, providing a very thorough perspective of the industry. The company is interested in hosting SAIS students in the future, and if there are any Japan Studies students, or students with background experience in Japan or Japanese language, I think that this could be a very viable option for a fruitful summer internship.

David Vaino, Strategic Studies

1. I was in Moscow, interning at the Carnegie Moscow Center. I did research for one of the scholar’s projects, ran the institution’s Twitter account and worked on a project of my own on counterterrorist cooperation between Russia and the U.S.

2. Muscovites like to refer to good things as “classy” (or “klassno/Классно”) in Russian.

3. Going to a classical concert near St. Petersburg during the White Nights and watching the sun in midnight were truly unforgettable.

4. I would say conducting an interview with a Russian academic in Russian for my project. I definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was quite satisfying to know that I could have a serious, technical, professional conversation in the language.

5. I improved my professional Russian skills. I also learned a lot about Twitter accounts and getting opinions from people.

6. You should strongly consider living somewhere other than the MGIMO dorms. They were extremely cheap, but you get what you pay for in terms of quality and location.

Daniel Greenland, Southeast Asian Studies

1. I was in Yangon, Myanmar doing political risk consulting.

2. In Burmese, marriage literally translates to “house prison.”

3. All visitors to Myanmar should see Bagan, where you will be treated to a landscape of thousands of beautiful temples that are sometimes over 1,000 years old. Just remember, try to avoid the 12-hour bus from Mandalay (less than 200km away) that is loaded with chickens, goats and watermelons.

4. I attended the 25th anniversary of the 88 Generation protest movement, where I met the famous 1988 student protesters and heard Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi give a speech about national reconciliation. It was inspiring to see a nation try to remake itself for the better in front of my eyes.

5. I learned a great deal about Myanmar’s political process and history plus some industry specific knowledge based on what particular client I was assisting.

6. It was a great internship that provided many opportunities to figure out what I wanted to pursue this year. Don’t rely on applications online. Reach out to real people.

Jingjing Zhou, Latin America Studies

1. I worked with IFC Mexico on the topic of Oil & Gas reform.​

2. ​Bobote means straw in Mexican Spanish.

3. ​In Chiapas, the least developed state in Mexico, I had a five-hour bus ride to a Mayan ruin. ​On the way I saw the most amazing mountains in my life. Primitive tribes scattered on the green sea of endless mountains, which are covered by various kinds of tropical plants. As the road was 3,500m above sea level, I saw clouds floating under the bus.

4. ​I made my final presentation in front of an IFC country officer, regional director in Energy and Infrastructure and the senior investment officers. ​

5. I am keen to develop my career about energy and infrastructure financing with multilaterals. This internship experience definitely aided me by exposing me to professional working environment, horning my Spanish, gaining industry knowledge and building up connections.

6. ​Absolutely. ​Be more prepared about the weather in Mexico, since the summer is really chilly and rainy.

Joshua Simonidis, Global Theory and History

1. I worked at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as an intern in the embassy’s political section.

2. “Sikit sikit lama lama jadi bukit” means “little by little over time will grow into a hill.”

3. It was a late night on the island of Penang in a torrential rainstorm. A friend and I waded down streets towards our hostel and began running between covered sidewalks. She wanted a photo, so I took out my camera and motioned her towards the street for a better shot. When she stepped back into the street’s deceptively shallow-looking water, she screamed as she misjudged the distance to the ground, fell and was completely covered by three feet of water.

4. The most fulfilling moment was when I got my cable about contentious Malaysian politics published and sent out across the State Department network.

5. I learned how to network and make contacts; more importantly, I learned how to “write short.” The ability to write concisely while still retaining important information is probably one of the most important skills I took away. These two skills are highly applicable in most professions including the Foreign Service.

6. I do recommend this internship to others. It helped me understand how embassies and bureaucracies work generally, specifically Malaysia’s inner workings. The best advice I could give is about turning all parts of the State Department application in early and to continuously follow up with them to see where they are in the process. Several classmates and I had issues with the security clearance, which takes forever to get. Call them to remind them that you are waiting for it if you are not sure. I received a call five days before my clearance was supposed to be done saying that my fingerprints were “unreadable” and that I needed to do new ones to finish the process which led to three week delay in receiving clearance. Basically, it definitely helps to stay on top of where they are in the process.

Mallory Baxter, International Development

1. I was in Panajachel, Guatemala developing a monitoring and evaluation system for a small but growing social enterprise, Mercado global.

2. N/A

3. I really enjoyed the view from the top of Chicobal, a volcano with a little lake at the top.

4. Working with our team of indigenous translators was an incredible experience. The most fulfilling moment for me was during our exit interview with the team. One woman went far above and beyond what we had asked for and gave me a hand-written and calculated document with the summary statistics for all the surveys she had completed. It was a humbling moment and reminded me of how much can be done with passion and dedication to a project even when resources are scarce.

5. I learned a lot about project management, field research and statistical analysis.

6. Yes! It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot. I really enjoyed being at a small organization where I was given a lot of responsibility with little direction. The drawback was having to figure it all out as I went along, but it was an incredibly hands on learning experience and a very fulfilling summer.

Careers Services Statistics

According to Career Services, the 2013 summer internship survey report is not yet complete. However, Summer Internship Funding (SIF) data are available.  For summer 2013, SIF disbursed over $140,000 to 167 SAIS students across all three campuses for their unpaid internships.  These internships were located in 45 countries and were across every sector.

For additional photos and videos of SAISers’ summer travels, please visit

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