IRIO Placement Report 2023 Cross Your Borders
Student: Romy Lotte Spaan
Student Number: S3405443
Organisation: Cross Your Borders
Master: Ma International Relations - Geopolitics and Connectivity
Course: Masters Work Placement IR - LYX000M10
Internship coordinator CYB: M. Roosendaal Internship coordinator RUG: E.M. Feringa
Date: January 28th 2023
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2
2. Before the Placement 3
1.1. Orientation Before Finding A Placement 3
1.2. Searching For A Placement 3
1.3. The Placement at Cross Your Borders and Preparation 4
3. About The Organisation 6
4. During the Internship 8
3.1. Description Of My Tasks 8
3.2. My Learning Objectives 8
3.3. Reflection Of My Expectations 9
5. Conclusion 11
4.1. The Connection to International Relations 11
4.2. My Career Plans 11
4.3. Tips For Other Students 12
6. Appendix 14
The following report will contain all information on my placement at non-profit organisation Cross Your Borders. I completed my internship at this organisation during November 2022 and January 2023. The placement at Cross Your Borders was a part of my Master’s degree in International Relations, and was also the final component into my graduation.
During the coming chapters, I will start off with my search towards this placement: what I did to prepare myself and how I approached the search. Thereafter, I will explain how I found Cross Your Borders, and how I underwent the start of this placement. The document also includes a section on my learning objectives during the placement, and whether I felt that I succeeded in improving these objectives or not. Lastly, I will conclude with how I felt that the placement connected to the Master’s of IR, how the placement affected my future career plans and my tips to students who will also be doing a placement, either at Cross Your Borders or at another institution.
If you have any questions about this report or the placement at Cross Your Borders in general, or if you need any tips, feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Before the Placement
1.1. Orientation Before Finding A Placement
Before doing the Master IR, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and I did the six-month Pre-Master’s track of IR. Because of the small period of time spent within this track, I felt like I was just starting out and I had no idea where exactly my interests were within the field. As a result, I wanted to explore my exact strengths and interests within the field of IR and once I had this figured out, I told myself I would start searching for a placement. Luckily, I started quite early with this orientation phase.
I started my Master’s track in February 2022, and I planned on starting the internship right after completing my thesis in December 2022. In March 2022, I planned an online meeting with Esther Haag of the Career Services. She informed me on all possibilities to explore my interests.
She advised me to read the previous placement reports (https://arts.studenttheses.ub.rug.nl/) and find organisations which attracted me. She also advised me to make a concrete to-do list, and to find a placement coordinator around the summertime. During these months, I was also a loyal participant of the workshops and seminars on the Career Platform. I participated in these workshops: ‘Self-analysis workshop’, ‘Networking with Linked-In’, and ‘CV & Cover letter’.
These workshops taught me the tips and tricks on getting to know which topics you are most interested in, in which qualities you stand out, and how to translate this on your CV, cover letter and Linked-In page. I also signed up for the Career Day by the RUG and attended the seminars by companies I was most interested in.
At the beginning of August, I emailed IRIO course coordinator Lies Feringa to get a placement coordinator assigned. After receiving a coordinator and meeting with them, this person could unfortunately not combine the coordinator position with their other duties, so Lies Feringa became my placement coordinator from September onwards.
1.2. Searching For A Placement
When beginning to search for my placement in September 2022, my main concern was finding a placement which would fit within my time frame. I planned on finishing my thesis at the end of November, so I wanted to start a placement right after. The RUG requires a placement to be 280 hours/7 weeks full-time minimum, and I wanted to find a placement around this length, since I planned on travelling for some time and finding a job right after this. This left a tight 8-week space for me to do the placement (December 2022 - January 2023).
While searching for a placement, I made a document with a long list of all companies I was interested in, if they had any open positions, and if they did not, whether a new round would open soon. I also noted all the companies for which I applied and when I would hear from them.
Because of this, I had a clear overview of all companies and why I would like, or not like, to do my placement at theirs. In addition to this, I set a weekly reminder at websites like
werkenvoornederland.nl, Linkedin and Indeed, so that I would receive an email whenever a new placement opened. I filled out a couple of application forms for internships, and soon heard from a few.
At the beginning of September, I was invited for an interview at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Department of Stability and Humanitarian Help in the Hague. I also had an interview at the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations for the Department of Democracy. Although I had two very interesting meetings with them, they both could not provide an internship shorter than six months. Therefore, I was not chosen for these internship vacancies.
I posted a message on my Linkedin that I was looking for an internship, and I soon got a reply to this message from someone working at Cross Your Borders (from hereon referred to as ‘CYB’).
Since I was already looking at applying to this organisation, I emailed them with my resume and motivation letter. Not much later, I got a call from Flore, a CYB-employee, to talk about my motivation. In this call, Flore and I talked about what an internship at CYB would look like, my prior experience working in such an environment, and my schedule. She invited me to attend one of their projects, for me to see if I would like the organisation. I attended this day on October 18th, and sinceI was enthused, I called Flore to accept the position of intern at CYB. Lastly, I was also offered an internship at the Dutch Central Organ care Asylum Seekers (COA) after doing an interview with them. However, this internship would also take around six months, and since I was already offered a position at CYB, I turned this internship down.
1.3. The Placement at Cross Your Borders and Preparation
After accepting the internship at CYB, I had a call with another employee, Anne. She informed me on all technicalities for the internship. I would be working five days a week for CYB, starting from November 28th and ending January 27th. Since my period at CYB would be rather short, Anne asked if it would be possible to start with the internship before this time. As I was still finishing my thesis and working three days a week for my part-time job during November, I proposed that I could do this the other two days a week, starting November 15th. Since the internship requires me to travel a lot throughout the country, I informed Anne that I still had my student public transit card, and that travelling would therefore be free for me. There was no monetary compensation during the internship. Since I live in Harderwijk which is located fairly close to the big cities of the Netherlands, I did not have to make any new arrangements on my living situation. I accepted the internship and signed the contract from both CYB and the university.
After having completed the official documentation of the internship, I was assigned a placement coordinator from CYB. This was Madelon Roosendaal, a CYB-employee. I had my first
introductory meeting with her on November 8th via Google Meets. Here we discussed the content of my internship and how I could prepare for the first days. Madelon added me and guided me through the CYB documents on Google Drive. Each different project of CYB has its own file with a complete run-down on the content of the projects. In order to prepare myself for the first days, I read these documents very thoroughly.
My tasks would consist of the following: since my internship would be full time, I would spend half of the time (2/3 days per week) working on the projects at secondary schools, and I would spend the other half of the time (2/3 days per week) working in a small team on creating a new educational program for CYB. Madelon proposed that I work on the new educational program 'Serious Games', a game-based program in which topics would be discussed such as innovation, animal abuse and slums. The following chapter will further explain what the tasks for this programme consisted of.
Lastly, Madelon and I discussed my learning objectives. I became excited about the internship after learning that I would be talking about the topics which relate to my studies, and I would be presenting a lot. These were competencies which I wanted to improve, and which I felt that I didn't learn during my studies. Therefore my first learning objectives were this:
I firstly wanted to improve my presentation skills. Although I did have to present on some occasions during the courses of my Master’s, I would always become extremely nervous beforehand and I would stumble on my words. Since this internship would hold that I would be presenting in front of large groups multiple times per week, I could use this time to improve this skill. In addition, I wanted to improve my ability to talk about political topics in a clear and simple way. During my studies I felt that I was great at writing academically, but I found it difficult to put my thoughts into words, and to do so in a way that would be easy to understand for all people. Since I would explain political subjects to children, I could therefore really improve my ability to do this as well. Lastly, I wanted to improve my assertiveness. I could be really insecure with proposing my ideas when working in groups. I could improve this skill since I would also be working in a small team for the new educational program. Before starting the placement, I expected that I would spend a lot of time on achieving these learning objectives. As I will explain further in this document, I advanced quite fast with these skills and therefore also had to make a second set of learning objectives, which I will talk about in chapter four.
3. About The Organisation
Cross Your Borders (CYB) is a non-profit organisation based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. It was founded in 2004 by Geert Brugmans and Michel Vossenberg, who form the managing board to this day. The CYB-team is further composed of ten permanent employees, with each their own tasks. These employees are supported by a team of interns. The interns are divided into teams with their own tasks: team Logistics, team Fairaway, team Translation, team Game-development, team Design, team Marketing, team Promotion, and team Communication. Next to executing the citizenship-projects at secondary schools, each intern was assigned a secondary task, based on their interest and specialisation. An organisational chart is available at the end of this document.
The purpose of the organisation is to incentivise the youth to think outside their own social bubble and learn about the world around them. They do this by organising interactive citizenship projects and worldly school trips. These citizenship projects are organised at schools in the Netherlands for students from all levels of basic secondary education to vocational education, and usually take two to three days per school. The projects are led by a number of CYB
employees and a team of interns, and are presented in the form of interactive games in which the students receive points and can earn a prize. There are currently four interactive projects hosted by CYB: The Globaland project, the Globaland XL project (similar to the Globaland project, but more challenging and digitalised), the Company FunFair project, and the Cross Your Borders project. During these projects, students play educational games, watch videos, attend workshops, and have discussions on global issues.
The projects most commonly done in the classes are the ‘Cross Your Borders’-project and the
‘Globaland’-project. During the Cross Your Borders project, the students are divided into teams of around 3 to 6 people, and are assigned a country which they will study for those days. They will first study the attractive aspects of those countries, such as their tourist attractions and national dances, after which they will also study those aspects which need improvement. At the end of the three day project, the team of students will present their founded solutions for one such aspect to the rest of the class in a creative fashion. For instance, one presentation would include information on the eradication of indigenous people in Guatemala and how to solve this problem, presented in a ‘talk show’-style.
Since this project is quite intensive and requires a basis of analytical skills, the project most often executed is ‘Globaland’. Globaland is a game-based education project in which students, also divided into groups of 3 to 6 people, run their own imaginary country. They do this by multiple rounds where they can earn money (earn ‘Globas’, the currency for Globaland), and where they have to divide this money over the ministries of their country. They earn money by playing various games, in which the teams with the most points earned also receive the most money to spend. During these ‘earning-rounds’, the students learn about subjects such as refugees, the clothing industry, the meat industry, and child labour, among others. During the
‘dividing-rounds’, the students learn about taxes, ministries, international cooperation, and policy choices.
The main objective about CYB is that they are not trying to force their own opinion on the students, nor does the information presented to them do so. Instead, the students are informed about what is happening, and are then encouraged to start forming their own opinions. This is also clearly communicated to the interns who are guiding these students.
Next to these citizenship-projects at secondary schools, CYB also organises worldly school trips:
Fairaway. When the students of one school express that they are very interested and inspired by the topics that we have discussed, CYB also provides the opportunity for the students to
experience these topics firsthand as a school trip. CYB currently organises trips of around 9-11 days to Nepal, Suriname, India, Ghana, the Philippines, Tanzania and Kenya, and South-Africa.
At the end of each project, the students were informed about these trips and had the chance to express their interest.
4. During the Internship
3.1. Description Of My Tasks
As mentioned, my tasks as intern were twofold: I would spend half of the time conducting the projects at secondary schools, and I would spend the other half of the time on the creation of the new educational program ‘Serious Games’.
As for conducting the projects, my tasks were mainly to guide the students into thinking about the worldly topics of discussion. This means that I would stand in front of a classroom during these days, and guide them through the game-based educational programmes, discuss the topics with them, and answer all their questions. The intensity of this depended on the educational level of these students. Some students followed ‘havo/vwo’-levels, which meant that they needed less guidance than the students of ‘praktijkonderwijs’. In addition, the extent to which I needed to make sure the students were listening and concentrated also depended on this educational level and of course the individual students themselves. Sometimes this required that I was only talking about the topics at hand, but other times this required me having to act as a teacher and talking to students about their behaviour.
For my other task, the creation of ‘Serious Games’, I was part of a small team of three other interns under the guidance of CYB-employee Roel. For their new educational game, Roel asked us to gather information on various worldly topics to be discussed during the projects, which included topics such as animal abuse, slums, and innovation. For these topics, it was our task to find information on the topic and its different components and to translate this information into text and images suited for the educational level of the students. In addition, we also inquired experts on these topics, such as professors and employees of companies working with these topics, to get their take on these topics and verify the information that we found. I either worked on this task at the CYB-office in Nijmegen, or I did this at home. The latter was most frequent, since I lived quite far from the office.
3.2. My Learning Objectives
Prior to starting the internship, I had made a list of my learning objectives and discussed these with Madelon, my internship coordinator. My first learning objective was to improve my presentation skills. During presentations for courses at the RUG, I would get extremely nervous and mess up my words. Therefore, this internship would force me to start presenting to big groups often and allow me to try out different presentation styles. My second learning objective was to be able to apply my knowledge on these worldly topics in practical situations, and talk about them in language that is easy to understand. I felt as though I was really strong in writing academically during my studies, but this internship would allow me to apply my knowledge orally. Lastly, my third learning objective was to become more assertive when pitching my ideas.
I felt as though working on the new educational programme would be a great situation in which I could practise this, as I would always get insecure with presenting my ideas.
After some weeks into the placement, I had my midterm evaluation with Madelon, my internship coordinator from CYB. Here, I received some feedback on my work so far, and since I felt like I already reached my goals with the first three learning objectives, I made new learning objectives for the remainder of the internship. My second set of objectives consisted of the following:
Firstly, I wanted to be more straightforward and strict with the students. For instance, it would often happen that some students would continue to talk when I began explaining some topic, or they would not listen to the answers of their peers. I found it hard to be strict with those students who would just not listen, but strategised this goal by either talking to these students individually or talking with their teacher about possible repercussions. Second, my learning objective was to further improve my ability to adapt explanations and language to the educational level of the students. This was because I had gotten some comments from students and teachers that I oftentimes used words and terms that were too complicated. Lastly, my third learning objective was to manage my time more effectively. I have the bad habit of assuming that I will be able to fit a lot of tasks into a small amount of time. This meant that I oftentimes had to hurry to finish on time or keep on working during my break. Improving this skill meant that I would have to stop my explanation when I did not have time left. After finishing the internship, I still had some trouble with these last objectives. I found it tough to be hard on students if they were not
listening, and although I did become a little more strict, I preferred a more positive mode of teaching. Although this learning objective was not fully reached, I was not discouraged by this since I do not plan on being a teacher later on in my career. In addition, time management remained a struggle, although it did not negatively affect my work since I would find more innovative ways to fit my explanations into the schedule.
3.3. Reflection Of My Expectations
Reflecting back on what I learned during the internship, I would say that I got everything out of the internship that I planned. Although I expected to spend more time on achieving my learning objectives, I advanced quicker than anticipated, and I even got to make a second set of learning objectives since I succeeded in accomplishing my first set.
Especially at the start of my internship, I did receive some feedback that the words I was using were still too complicated for the level of the students. Therefore, I practised using more
easy-to-understand terms and explaining using contemporary examples. I certainly saw a drastic improvement in this ability over the weeks. Over the course of the internship, I gained a lot of practical knowledge. My presentation skills have improved drastically, and I am no longer nervous to be presenting in front of large crowds. In addition, because I worked very frequently in a small team on topics of which I am very passionate, I feel more confident during group work and am able to express my ideas more easily.
I also learned a lot about myself during the internship, and which role I take on during work situations in which I have to act as the leader. The feedback I received most often is that I have a really relaxed way of talking and guiding the group, and that the students feel comfortable with me. I did not act as a dominant leader, but more as someone who guided the class with use of positive feedback, such as compliments. I felt that this method was just as effective, made the students feel more comfortable to share their ideas and that it left a more positive impression on the class. Only when students went over my limits, I would be stern and tell them individually that I did not appreciate their attitude, and ask them why they behaved in this way.
4.1. The Connection to International Relations
I feel as though the connection between the tasks at CYB and the IR Master is strong. CYB is an organisation which informs the youth on worldly topics such as refugees, environmentalism, war, terrorism, and more. During my Master’s courses and thesis in International Relations, I studied and conducted research on these topics to the fullest extent. Therefore, this internship allowed me to apply my knowledge in practice. Because of my educational background, I was able to present a lot of information on these topics, and I was able to answer the questions from the students fairly quickly. It forced me to apply my knowledge and transform it into information suitable for people of all ages and educational levels.
The IR Master prepared me for presenting my knowledge to a big group of people. Since I had to present certain research information a few times in seminars during the Master's, this allowed me to have the background knowledge on how to do this most effectively for the students at CYB as well. Lastly, my knowledge from the IR Master also greatly helped in researching these topics for the creation of the new educational programme. Doing research on these worldly topics is something I am quite skilled at, and I therefore felt like I could put my skills to use and really contribute to this new programme. There was not one task in particular that I preferred, and I enjoyed doing the research and guiding the projects in front of the classrooms equally.
4.2. My Career Plans
Something that I was already aware of when starting this internship, is that I am not actively pursuing a career in education. Despite this, that does not mean that I did not learn some valuable lessons during this internship.
Something I found during the internship are the benefits of working for a non-profit organisation.
This is definitely something that I would like to do during my career, since I am not interested in
‘for-profit’ organisations. Non-profit organisations would allow me to work towards the best possible solution to certain problems instead of the solution most profitable. I always thought that I wanted to work for a big non-profit organisation, because there are often more possibilities to grow in these places. However, something that I learned for CYB is that in the small
organisations I could really make a difference and have the freedom to pursue those things in which I am interested. Because of this, I am now also interested in working for a smaller
organisation, which really broadens my career opportunities. I clearly noticed that the employees of CYB were very passionate about the cause of the organisation and the information presented to the students. This is also something that I would like to see in future jobs, as passionate employees are the ones most interested in finding the best possible solutions. Finally, the topics of discussion in the educational programmes of CYB (refugees, climate change, wars) are what I am most passionate about and what I would like to work with in the future.
In addition to learning what I do want in a future job, I also learned what I do not want.
This internship required me to travel a lot. Most days in which I needed to travel to the
secondary schools, I was travelling around 4-6 hours per day. This also meant waking up at five in the morning and getting home at six in the evening. A job that would require me to travel throughout the country is therefore not something that I would like to do. Furthermore, the projects at the schools became repetitive fairly quickly to me. Since the ‘earning’- and
‘dividing’-rounds were mostly the same throughout the different projects, my explanation and the questions I had to ask were also the same. Therefore, I felt a lack of challenge for these projects after a few weeks.
Lastly, during the projects I often had to act as the regular: making sure that everyone was quiet, correcting those students who distracted others, constantly motivating the students, etcetera. This is something that I would rather not be doing during my workdays, and I found this one of the downsides of the internship. I realise that is something that will often happen when working with children. Therefore, I found out that I would rather work with adults during my career, rather than with children.
After having concluded my internship at non-profit organisation Cross Your Borders, I look back very positively on the experience. It has been a very educational experience in which I got to apply my knowledge on global topics into the real world. It has been especially rewarding to improve my skills on presenting in front of large groups, translating my academic knowledge into easy-to-understand language, and to become more assertive when working together in a group. Moreover, it also taught me a lot about how I work as a leader. It is very rewarding to hear how positive my CYB internship coordinator was on my work, which taught me that I learn quite fast when working in new environments. This knowledge could be very helpful with my career plans. Since this internship is the final part of me graduating, I am very grateful to have this very positive internship as my last experience studying. I would recommend CYB to all students as an organisation to do your internship. Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to both my internship coordinators, Madelon and Lies, for their help and guidance throughout the internship.
4.3. Tips For Other Students
There are a couple of tips which I would like to share with other students looking for an
internship and possible new career. I either did these tips and they helped me, or heard them from others and found them worthwhile to pass along.
It is important to have a number of letters of recommendation. These are often asked during job/internship interviews and will always come in handy in the future. In the courses where I excelled and I found most interesting, I emailed my professors if they were willing to write me a letter of recommendation. After 6 years of studying, I now have about 5 letters of
recommendation from RUG-professors and professors of foreign universities (minor abroad) from all kinds of fields. These will always come in handy whenever a job interviewer requests one. I always requested these immediately after a course ended to make sure that the professor would still remember me.
In addition, I found that the labour market, although very tight overall, is quite competitive in the field of IR/politics. Therefore, if you really want to stand out during an interview from other candidates, build your CV with extracurricular activities, such as committees and voluntary work. In addition, make sure you know what you stand for. So, what are your values, what are you passionate about and how do you stand out from other candidates for that function? This is especially important for our field of work. For me, it helped a lot that I already had some
experience with political writing from my committee-year at study-association CLIO, since I had no relevant work-experience from my part-time jobs. Apart from that, joining a committee is also really fun! Additionally, try to attend as many workshops and seminars from the Career platform as possible. They are really helpful and the knowledge you obtain from them is applicable throughout your entire career. Attend them while they are still free as a student!
Lastly, start searching in advance. Very cliché but also very true. I would also recommend asking your friends/family/acquaintances for help when searching for an internship, either in person or via social media (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin).
Organisational Chart of Cross Your Borders1
1This organisational chart has been derived from the organisational chart of non-profit organisation Cross Your