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Home  > Article

Rising Stars: An International Perspective on Politics

By Andrea Calabretta

Gabi directs programs to develop women's political participation in the Middle East and Africa. Her job has allowed her to gain valuable field experience and has opened up her options for the future.

 
Name: Gabriella Borovsky
School: Ramapo College of New Jersey
Major: Political Science
Years Out of College: 2-5
Title: Senior Program Assistant, Women's Political Participation Programs
Company: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
 
First Steps

"I graduated from college on a Tuesday. By the following Monday I was already starting my first job. I had applied to a paid internship at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs to work on their Central and Eastern Europe programs. It made perfect sense for me, given that I had studied abroad in both Poland and Czech Republic and that I wanted to be in Washington, D.C."

"Immediately upon beginning my internship, I knew I had made the right choice. I loved having a 9am-6pm working schedule, earning a pay check and working in an environment and with people that valued my international education and perspective. I decided that whatever my next step would be--whether academic or professional--it would be relevant to my interest in international relations and development."

From Then to Now

"Even though I entered college as a Psychology major, I played an active role in Student Government and took an interest in politics. I eventually switched my major to political science and took courses that gave me a concentration in international studies. I then decided to study abroad, first for a winter semester in Prague, Czech Republic and next for a full semester in Krakow, Poland. My choice to study abroad in a transitional part of the world helped set me apart from many other students and ultimately, helped me get my internship."

"When I was an intern, I worked very hard. I treated every task--no matter how simple or administrative--with the same care and attention to detail. I took the time to be friendly with everyone with whom I worked and offered to do extra work without being asked. Soon, people began to notice that I was a hard worker and a team player."

"When a new position was created on NDI's Women's Political Participation team, I received many positive recommendations. After a lengthy interview process, I was hired onto the team. It was (and still is) my first, salaried position. The moment I was offered the position, I knew my life was about to change. Working a global issue such as women's political participation has given me a broad, comparative view of the world and a particular expertise on a relevant and timely issue. Even more, it has broadened my options for future professional and academic moves."

Challenges Faced

"After I started my internship, it became quickly apparent that my graduation money would eventually run out and I would need a better paying position that offered medical and retirement benefits. My ensuing job search was excruciating."

"Washington, D.C. is a great place for people with academic backgrounds similar to mine, but the problem is that there are an infinite number of people who studied in interesting places or speak several languages. Many people with Masters Degrees are even competing for entry-level jobs."

"As a result, I embarked on what seemed like a fruitless search for job that would match my interests and utilize my skills. It was a tough time; I interned for six months and interviewed at various organizations before I was hired to fill a permanent position at NDI. Money was tight, so I took a second job as a server in a restaurant near my apartment."

My Experience

"Currently, I act as the primary point of contact for NDI's women's political participation issues related to our Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southern and East Africa (SEA) programs. I analyze and guide strategies for both regions' women's participation programs and regularly hold consultations with staff in Washington, D.C., and throughout the world on the design, implementation and evaluation of their program activities. I also direct the development of NDI's library of materials related to women's political participation issues, maintain the Institute's database of female training experts, hire and supervise the team's interns, work closely with the Institute's Executive Office and manage various components of event planning and fundraising activities."

"I am most excited by my job when I have an opportunity to travel and meet and work with the participants in our programs, and NDI has given me invaluable field experience. In January 2006, I traveled to Amman, Jordan to plan a retreat for Iraqi women political activists and in June 2006, I helped coordinate a training program for first-time women candidates in Kuwait's parliamentary elections. There, I worked closely with an international team of experts to provide individual consultations with women candidates on campaign, media and messaging strategies, and assisted with trainings for Kuwaiti youth activists on campaign organizing."

"Soon I will be working on an intensive campaign training academy for women in the Maghreb region (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). These are the projects that keep me inspired and that I hope by doing so I also inspire others to find work they believe in and enjoy."

Next Steps

"For my next job, I definitely want to have a 'hands-on' position that keeps me busy and on the move. Though I work well independently, I love being part of a team and working on team projects. I would also enjoy a position that requires some event planning; I like planning events because it is a process that delivers very tangible, visible results. I also want to continue working on international issues that give me the opportunity to travel and learn about the world."

"Grad school certainly fits into the picture; it is clear to me after working for almost three years since I graduated from college and after talking to many people who have Masters Degrees that I will need a graduate degree to advance professionally. Grad school will help hone my writing and research skills, provide a great networking environment and will give me expertise in a given area. It will also give me the time to do additional internships or conduct field research and, thus, diversify my professional experience."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"No! When I studied political science in college I was afraid that I was only going to be slated for working on political campaigns or in a Congressional office on Capitol Hill. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a place to work that merged my academic background in political science and my personal interests in international development."

"Some days I am surprised by where I have ended up--I was particularly surprised when I arrived in Kuwait City in sweltering heat to work with first-time women candidates. But I often reflect on how I got to where I'm at and realize that it was not all by chance, but rather a result of hard work and solid professional relationships."

Advice for Others

"Network, network, network! It's easier said than done and when people have advised me to network, I never knew what they were talking about. To me, 'networking' brought to mind images of old men slipping each other their business cards at company happy hours."

"But, what I came to learn is that networking is a much more complicated, long-term process with huge pay-offs. It involves staying engaged with everyone you know (professors, friends, friends of friends) and everyone you meet (new co-workers, clients, etc) so that you stay on their minds and they stay on yours. It is as simple as sharing an interesting article you read with several of your contacts. The more people you know and in whom you take an interest, the more people there will be who take an interest in you and your future."



















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