Learning Outside the Classroom

As my internship draws to a close, I realize the value of travel and embracing the opportunity to live in a new place. I decided to stay on campus and do research with the Stanford Political Science Department last summer, which means I was at Stanford for the majority of the past two years. While I truly love the Farm, I now understand how important it is to seize every chance to escape the classroom and experience the world outside of homework, clubs and classes. I underappreciated several aspects of college life, not least my wonderful classes, because of the stagnation of being in the same place with the same daily routine. Taking an opportunity to work and live somewhere new is refreshing and just what my mind needed; new adventures, challenges and experiences. Don’t get me wrong, a 9–5 job can be just as tiresome and monotonous as essays and problem sets. The key difference is that the city offers a million things to do, ranging from swing lessons (despite my valiant efforts, I suspect my partner’s toes suffered a painful evening) to free Shakespeare plays! Moreover, the change of scenery provides an important break from school life and gives me the opportunity to recharge. Here at the end of the summer, I’m satisfied with my brief stint of professional life. my expectations of life at a development agency after classes on governance, poverty alleviation and institution-building were quite different from the behind-the-scenes view that I’ve gotten of the workings of a non-profit organization. I’m excited to get back to school with this new perspective to guide me through the ocean of classes to choose from.

These past few weeks have been a complex mix of powerful trips to the past and unparalleled inspirational experiences. The Holocaust Memorial Museum was heart-wrenching; each exhibit shed light on a different aspect of the terrors of the Nazi regime; I spent four hours there, poring over every word with an ever-growing lump in my throat. I was united with my fellow museum-goers in a sense of deep sadness and horror. Later that weekend I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at night; this was an inspiring journey through some of MLK’s most inspirational and moving quotes, including this gem: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in”. Other fun trips included a trip to Harper’s Ferry, a historic site in the American Civil war and Shenandoah National Park.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

My assignment has kept me busy and interested throughout my internship. The challenges of documenting the history of Rule of Law programs for The Asia Foundation remain complex; the biggest difficulty I have faced is organizing this monograph outline to satisfy both those who worked on individual projects for decades as well as those who worked from an organizational-overview position. Specificity is a luxury that may have to be sacrificed in the interest of covering the sheer breadth of the Foundation’s programs. Thankfully, everyone I’ve spoken to has been kind and eager to help out, making the task easier and more enjoyable! Working on such a project is yet another example of the value of out of classroom learning: the freedom I have had in organizing this monograph provides valuable learning experience since it is very different from the structured nature of the assignments that I get at school.

Photographing Shenandoah National Park

Written by Vivan Malkani ’19, Political Science major, FSI Global Policy Intern at The Asia Foundation in Washington, D.C.