Forget what you think you know about summer internships: two weeks at the Centre for Effective Altruism is quite unlike any other work experience. From the get-go you are immersed into a dynamic, startup environment brimming with intellectual excitement and a sense of community. If you are looking for the freedom to pursue interesting work, the guidance to make it as impactful as possible, and the opportunity to make lasting friendships along the way - then get writing that application.
Before I began my internship with Giving What We Can I was asked to reflect on my skillset and select a project from a wide range of possibilities. I was encouraged to discuss projects with relevant staff members, reshape them to suit my background, and even design a new one from scratch if I so desired. I was given the freedom to innovate and organise my own schedule, running contrary to my standard model of internships as micro-managed drudgery. In the end, I decided to capitalise on my experience founding and running an Effective Altruist society by working on a project to create and grow university chapters.
Depending on the nature of your personal project, you are allocated a supervising member of staff and a team of fellow interns working on related tasks. This really is the premier design feature of the internship; by having a close-knit team to share ideas with and generate instant feedback, your learning cycle is much faster. You don’t have to wait for someone more senior to validate your work constantly. Plus, by working in teams, you quickly build up friendships with smart, insightful people. If I had to single out the most significant belief I updated on because of the internship, it would be this: the importance of growing your network of effective altruist contacts, and sharing knowledge within that network, is hard to overestimate.
I have only scratched the surface of what the internship has to offer: outside of working hours is where the real fun begins. Lunchtimes start with the renowned wrap buffet, courtesy of CEA, designed to overwhelm you with a smorgasbord of wrap fillings. Any altruist worth their iodised salt will demonstrate their wrapmanship at the lunchtime table. Can you navigate the paradox of choice? Minimise decision fatigue? Be warned: your strategic sauce selection skills are being scrutinised.
The Giving What We Can team go to impressive lengths to ensure your time outside the office is just as engaging as that spent in it. We had the ominous ‘Bill Spectre’ conduct us on a horrifying yet hilariously tongue-in-cheek ghost tour of Oxford’s charming cobbled lanes. We paid a visit to the board game café ‘Thirsty Meeples’ and were - yet again - overwhelmed with choice. One standout game was ‘Pandemic’: a cooperative strategy game where each player is a specialist member of the Centre for Disease Control. You have to leverage your unique skills and coordinate with your team to save the world from viral annihilation. If CEA ever pivot into board game design, the outcome would look a lot like Pandemic. Other activities include picturesque picnics in Christ Church meadow and super-stimulating, pint-fuelled conversations at pubs all over Oxford. I can recall one occasion when a hedonist philosopher - who wrote a paper on how to have a girlfriend in another universe - generously bought rounds for all present.
I really could go on for long, long time about how exhilarating the internship experience was. If what I’ve said so far has sparked an interest, then feel free to get in contact with me to ask more questions. Or, if you are already sold, go ahead and apply - the application process is quick and straightforward.
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