By Logan Miller
One thing that they don’t tell you before you move to Europe for more than half a year is that it is really hard to find peanut butter. It’s not like it isn’t here, it’s just that it is rare, more expensive and less tasty. When I return to Canada, I am looking forward to a big PB&J sandwich. As my research internship in Prague at the Global Arena Research Institute (GARI) comes to a close, my final blog features this and other reflections from my time abroad.
In my last weeks at GARI, I was able to see one of the main projects that I was working on come to fruition. This project was GARI’s Next 100 symposium. For weeks, I was helping to advertise and plan for the event. After weeks of planning, it seemed impossible that I would find myself taking notes for the event’s report as the first keynote began. Between running around attempting to fix tech issues, I got to see very interesting discussions on topics such as the future of Britain in the European Union or the future of climate research. While I had been to events like this before, this conference felt extra special as I had a hand in putting it together.
This month, I have also learned another lesson about NGO work — that someone has to pay the bills. Unlike a government organization, an NGO’s funding isn’t guaranteed. So after GARI finished its central yearly conference, it began its search for funding. So now I find myself writing grant proposals. Depending on the description of the grant, we may have to shift the exact activities of our organization to fit the grant’s mandate. This has not only helped me to understand how things work at small non-for-profits, but it has given me a better appreciation of the difficulties that organizations face when trying to fulfill their mandates and attract funding.
Aside from my work at GARI, I have also been working on archive work for Dr. Andrew Thompson at the Balsillie School. This work has involved searching through documents written by the Czech Republic’s first president, Vaclav Havel. This research led me to the President’s Office Archives, so I emailed the librarian and booked an appointment. I didn’t fully appreciate until the day of the visit that the archive was actually inside the presidential palace. So after negotiating with the security guards with just my driver’s license and an email from the librarian, I was able to enter the library and the palace. While I was still a tad under dressed to visit the building in which the president lived, I was in. I then “struck gold” – I was able to read the original speech flashcards used by President Havel at a speech given to the United Nations.
Through my internship in Europe, I have had the opportunity to put many of the things that I have learned in the MAGG program into practice. I have also learned a lot about working across cultures. So as my internship comes to a close, I am grateful for my time spent here but also, I could really go for some of my mother’s peanut butter cookies.