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About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I decided to carry out this placement for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to engage closely with local researchers and institutions in order to ensure that non-Western narratives and approaches are incorporated within my own research . Secondly, I wanted to expand my knowledge of specific research methods, as well as of the methods of policy monitoring and analysis, and to increase my exposure to a new working environment and culture. Furthermore, I wanted to become further embedded within a network of researchers engaged in similar topics of research.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Over the last few years, the University of Sheffields Faculty of Social Sciences has been working to build closer linkages to Colombian institutions, and has recently entered into partnership with CINEP and a local university, to work on a large scale research project. During a previous visit to the CINEP headquarters, I was able to establish initial contact with several members of staff including several of those with responsibility for monitoring the 2016 peace accord accord. I maintained contact with those individuals and was subsequently able to arrange the placement.

Application process

The application process was smooth and straightforward. I received an email about the PREP funding pot, and was invited to attend a workshop where the application procedures were outlined. I then got in touch with CINEP who confirmed that they would be able to host me. I then completed the application form, received a response within a short period of time, and was then able to begin my internship.

Main responsibilities

The main tasks which I was engaged in included qualitative and quantitative data analysis; liaising with local researchers from CINEP and other civil society organisations; attending conferences and workshops, and supporting staff with administrative tasks.

Typical day

There was no typical day at CINEP as each day was often different to the last. On the first day, I was introduced to the different teams and spoke to numerous researchers and staff about their research projects, and was also afforded the chance to speak about my own fieldwork plans. On the second day, I attended a workshop on CINEPs role in monitoring the Colombian peace process. Later in the week, I was introduced to CINEP's library and virtual database, where I was shown how to access a range of historical data on the conflict. On other days, I attended meetings at the nearby university regarding a broader research project, met with renowned experts on peace-building and contributed to writing a report on CINEP's peace-building project.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

During this experience I particularly enjoyed engaging in conversations with passionate, like-minded researchers at various stages in their careers. I learned about the organisations role in understanding and mediating urban and rural conflicts in Colombia. I gained new perspectives on the broader Colombian conflict, I was afforded a privileged level of access to experts in my field of study, as well as new possibilities for future collaboration. I was also provided with numerous suggestions of academic work to broaden my understanding, and was provided with an opportunity to discuss my own methodological approach and initial findings. Ultimately I achieved a deeper level of embeddedness within the local research and policy landscape and solidified my place within a network of researchers.

Challenging aspects

One issue I encountered pertains to time limitations. Having only one week available to me limited my possibilities for deep engagement. Although we discussed the possibility of organising a second week, ultimately this was difficult due to time constraints and the need to begin my own fieldwork elsewhere in the country.Other challenges included fitting in with the busy work schedules of members of staff, who were often out of the office attending meetings elsewhere in the city. On the final two days, several people left Colombia for an international conference in Boston. I managed this limitation by maintaining contact via email and agreeing to meet with them on a separate occasion.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

Primarily, this experience has allowed me to engage with local researchers and academics to a significant extent, which I would consider to be the principle benefit. I was exposed to a new working environment in a new country, which allowed me to enhance new skills as well as clarify my own thematic focus and methodological approach.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

This placement has cemented my career aspirations; specifically my goal of working in social science research. I now realise that this would be possible beyond universities including within think tanks and other research institutions such as CINEP.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

My advice to students would be to aim to engage with local researchers as much as possible, as frequently as possible, and ideally at an early stage within the research project cycle. This kind of engagement can provide a really strong grounding in current issues, provide new contacts, and expose one to themes and topics which one may not have even considered. I also believe that this engagement is valuable towards the end of a project, for example offering the chance to present ones findings to experts, and thus should be undertaken at strategic moments, and continuously, throughout a research project.

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Form completed: 04 Aug 2019

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