Felix Straatsma

From July to September of 2023, I pursued an internship at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies. As a bachelor student of International Studies at Leiden University, with North America as my region of specialization, I figured the RIAS would be a suitable place for me to build upon the knowledge I had already gained about the United States, and to get a sense of what it is like to work in an academic and research-related environment. Apart from that, I was eager, in a more general way, to gain some experience working regular office hours as part of a team.

As an intern at the RIAS, you are the institute’s jack of all trades, whose responsibility it is to oversee and organize a range of different duties. There is a pleasant amount of variety between individual and collaborative tasks, between working on (relatively) longer projects, on the one hand, and dealing with smaller tasks and solving problems in the (very) short term, on the other. No two days at the institute were ever the same.

Apart from getting familiar with the organizational aspects of working in an office setting, one of the things I found especially memorable about my internship is that it allowed me to exchange thoughts and experiences with researchers from different places and at various stages of their academic career. What made you decide to do a PhD? What is it like to design and organize a university course? How do you go about writing a paper? These were the kinds of questions that I had the pleasure of discussing, with people from the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Germany, Scotland, North Macedonia, and the United States.

Though Leontien and I certainly shared many laughs in the office, I did encounter some challenges as well. Sometimes I would start working on my paper, for instance, and within minutes there would be one, two, three tasks or problems that needed to be dealt with (immediately). Before my internship, I had not been accustomed to these kinds of interruptions, so it really took some getting used to, especially in the first weeks. Though there are certainly a few things that I wish I would have handled differently, I would say that my internship was all the more valuable precisely because of what I learned from these initially uncomfortable experiences. In the end, it was a good thing to (have to) step outside of my comfort zone. It shed new light on some of my strengths and weaknesses, and helped me to improve my skills along the way.

Overall, therefore, I am more than glad to be able to say that I interned at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies. I sincerely appreciate all the help and kindness that everybody has shown me, and I am certain we will keep in touch!