Bonjour from Paris!
If you read my first post you may remember that I am currently interning for an NGO called Kiron France, based in Paris. As I dive into my last two weeks in Paris, I thought it’d be good to give a small debriefing on my current projects as an intern of the organization circle, including but not limited to: discovering that eclairs à la crème de pistache are almost as good as coffee ones, attending a Bengali wedding in Paris, and working on Kiron’s internal gender policy.
My role at Kiron France was very well-defined from the beginning; something I wasn’t expecting as an incoming intern with limited experience. We often hear that interns spend hours doing administrative work and making coffee, but my experience at Kiron has been quite the opposite (in the best way possible). When I arrived, my supervisor walked me through a process internally called “on-boarding”. In my head, I pictured this moment as some sort of initiation activity that would welcome me onboard of the “Kiron” boat. Similes aside, I wasn’t quite mistaken! The on-boarding process is really just a welcoming session for new interns, employees, and volunteers at Kiron, by which the volunteer manager welcomes them to the team. Perhaps most interestingly, I was also introduced to the internal gender policy. As a European international student at Connecticut College, I am constantly thinking of my overlapping identity both as a woman and a foreigner. In France, I wasn’t expecting these types of conversations to take place – not at least in my work environment. Not only did I learn that the current country director of Kiron France is a woman, but also that most of the volunteers identify as women as well. While discussing the internal gender policy, my supervisor walked me through the strategies in place to transform our workplace in a more inclusive community. This conversation derived into a two-hour-long chat with Deborah (my supervisor, even though she highly dislikes that term) on the roles of gender and sexuality in the United States and France, and on our role and responsibility to act upon them. Surprisingly enough, she invited me to start working on this policy on my very first day as a new Kironista. I could not have been more pleasingly surprised: not only I was being valued as a member of a new community, but also given tasks that were interesting to me on my very first day as a summer intern.
After working on the gender policy, I helped organizing English tests at the British Council in Paris and co-organized workshops on volunteer management and work-life balance, among other things. Deborah and the rest of the team have quickly become excellent colleagues and inspiring young people that I look up to as I try to transition from being a student of International Relations and French to a motivated individual ready to go out to the real world. I read an article a couple weeks ago where the author stressed the importance of making connections during our internships, and I could not agree more with him. I am definitely learning a lot at my internship, but it is the new set of connections that I am making that I value the most. And I don’t mean this in a “networking – I will need a job in ten months” kind of way. Being a member of Kiron France, I have been able to exchange my views and motivations with people in 4 different languages, and to meet inspiring individuals that are making my experience in Paris unforgettable. Perhaps one of my favorite moments from this summer was meeting some of the founders of Kiron France itself. These encounters allowed me to put my experience into perspective, and to gain a better sense of belonging and purpose. Let me explain. The founders of Kiron France were students of Science Po that started gathering together at a cafe to discuss the so-called “migratory crisis” in the fall of 2015. Right now, only a year and a half later, they count with their own office space in the 15th arrondissement, 40 members of the team, over 200 students enrolled in their courses, and 2 academic partnerships with French universities. Listening to their experiences and seeing what they built in only eighteen months is rather motivating.
On top of the wonderful professional experience that I am gaining at Kiron France, I have two special moments of my life in Paris to share with you. The first one is discovering éclairs à la pistache. For those who know me and know that I love eclairs au cafe this will come as a surprise, as two weeks ago I decided to get out of my comfort zone (this may seem like a joke, but I am actually quite conservative when it comes to my choice of pastries in France) and try an eclair à la crème de pistache, and oh was it a good decision (refer to the attached picture – do not if you are hungry). Choice of eclairs and sugar aside, my favorite event of the last two weeks was going to the Bengali wedding of one of the first Kiron students, Suchorita. Suchorita is a wonderful young woman in Paris, who is originally from Bangladesh. She invited the Kiron team to her wedding last Thursday, and it was wonderful to join her in this special day. Voici une photo of Suchorita, fellow CISLA students Carolyn and Anna, and I at the wedding.
Stay tuned to ConnChronicles on Instagram as I will be taking over next week!
A très bientôt,