Sarah Rabke

Display Date
June 7, 2021
Biography Paragraphs
Sarah Rabke
Sarah Rabke

Sarah is finishing her PhD in Spanish at the School of Arts & Sciences. Her dissertation focuses on theatrical representations in Spain of the last two decades that look at migration and immigrant characters. The works she studies attempt to go beyond stereotypical portrayals or harmful necropolitical narratives and instead open up the identity construction process as multifaceted, beautiful, complicated, and never-ending. Sarah participated in Foundations series, Career Design, Teaching, Consulting and Community Impact core modules of PhD Plus. 

Sarah was a PhD Plus intern for Gazelle International from summer 2020 to May 2021, under the mentorship of Nancy Ruther.

Q. What are your career aspirations?

As I finish up my degree, I look forward to my future and am open to many possibilities. I know to what city I will be moving and have chosen flexibility and open-mindedness as I explore the many options for employment in the area. I have always loved teaching and would enjoy continuing my development as an educator at any level, and I am especially interested in working for community colleges. After this internship, I also am open to exploring non-profit opportunities and feel confident applying to jobs in what I’ll call academia-adjacent positions. In the ideal position, I would combine my love of languages, international and intercultural education, and working with students in a job that strives to incorporate inclusive learning practices and to increase student access to these experiences, cultivating a sense of belonging for student on-campus experiences.

Please summarize your PhD Plus internship experience

I applied for this PhD Plus internship because I had attended several events led by the sponsor and had spoken with the former interns about their experiences. I discovered that the mission of the organization, Gazelle International, aligned with many of my values and passions. As a Spanish teacher, I highly value intercultural and international education, learning multiple languages, study abroad opportunities, and more. Gazelle International’s work appealed to me because it aims to break down the significant barriers separating a large population of students from international educational experiences. Not all students can travel, but through virtual exchange, they can explore new parts of the world, meet people from different countries and backgrounds, and gain valuable skills for a global workforce. I knew that through this internship I would learn new tools, methods, and technologies to connect with underserved student populations around the globe in order to integrate them into a nontraditional classroom environment with innovative pedagogies. Furthermore, based on my conversations with previous interns, I knew that this work was not only important but joyful. Gazelle International creates a community of educators that support one another and push each other toward creative excellence.

Working with Gazelle International seemed to me to be the perfect foundation to position me more strongly in the job market so I could continue to be involved in this type of work. My internship with Gazelle International has allowed for my involvement in a number of projects. When I started, the organization was in a moment of transition as it moved into its fourth year of coordinating virtual exchange projects between international teaching teams. Because the organization was looking to grow significantly in the following year, I have had the opportunity to contribute to a variety of projects, and my internship description has changed and adapted to situations that arose. I worked with teachers in workshops to introduce them to virtual exchange principles and practices and to design, from start to finish, their student-centered virtual exchange project syllabi. I provided guidance and feedback throughout the duration of the projects.

I attended conferences both to present and to network for the organization and for myself. I participated in potential client meetings and worked with the team to refine our offerings to attract more business and better serve our current teachers and institutions. From writing blog posts for diverse readers to designing and planning marketing posts on social media, to co-authoring a journal article on the promise and pedagogy of virtual exchange, I have honed my communication skills for different audiences as I contributed to the mission of the non-profit to support the international education community in its shared pursuit of knowledge. Gazelle International incorporated me into the everyday life of the organization, and I cherish the experiences I have had in each project.

Q.What professional skills did you develop during this internship?

My internship with Gazelle International has helped me develop new skills as well as practice translating the skills I already had to new contexts. Regarding communication skills, I explored new areas and fields of research. Coming from a humanities background, I learned a lot about the social sciences through the research and writing required to write articles, briefings, and blog posts. I adjusted information to be able to communicate to different contexts, including diverse audiences, other language speakers, and varying cultural contexts. Being an effective leader involves a number of skills. I learned how important it was for the non-profit organization to be a leader in industry; it was necessary to be on the cutting edge of research in the field and always look for ways to improve our services. Networking is not just for personal gain but also essential for organizational growth. Through networking, my colleagues and I were able to meet new clients as well as potential partners who pushed us to be creative, innovative, and collaborative in our joint ventures. With greater knowledge and confidence, I was able to build trust with my supervisor, amongst my coworkers, and with the teachers and administrators with whom we currently work or hope to work. I learned how to effectively motivate a group of people into taking the first step toward incorporating international education experiences into their courses and their schools’ curricula, and they trusted me to support them in those efforts. Finally, I made great progress in taking initiatives on my own. Parts of my internship were flexible and open-ended, and I pushed myself to seek opportunities for continuous learning and improvement.

Related to project management is time management, which is a skill I have used in my PhD program that transferred into my internship. We frequently worked across multiple time zones in the U.S. and across the Atlantic. I also progressed significantly in efficiency and prioritizing. I have not always had to be efficient with my time during projects in graduate school; time spent thinking and brainstorming is time well spent, even if no words go directly on the page. In a work setting similar to that of Gazelle International, some tasks do not need deep meditation and painstaking perfection. Some tasks can and should be done quickly but effectively so you can prioritize the tasks that take more careful contemplation. This is especially true in a team context where sometimes just an idea, a first run-through, or brainstorm is needed to get the ball rolling on the project.

My time in the humanities has not led to many opportunities for teamwork or collaboration on research or other tasks. Gazelle International always works as a team, and team meetings were incorporated into every week so that each party knew what the other was working on. This interdepartmental coordination improved my organizational and communication skills tenfold. I worked effectively in diverse teams not only with my coworkers, but also with the teachers and administrators who attended our workshops. The design process of the virtual exchange projects required interdisciplinary collaboration, creativity, and, most critically, flexibility and toleration for ambiguity. We cannot expect our teachers to demonstrate these qualities if we do not also exhibit them.

Q. How has this internship assisted in your career development and planning?

This internship has, of course, given me the opportunity to hone many skills necessary or preferred in the fields in which I hope to work. It has given me a great community of teachers and administrators in the U.S. and abroad, especially in the community college system. I understand the community college sector and have better insight into how things work and the specific passions and interests cultivated at these campuses. It has also allowed me to cultivate my own passion in international education and expanding access to these types of international experiences to more students at more junctures in the curriculum. Working with Gazelle International has given me more confidence in my abilities and my capacity to contribute to society in a meaningful way, and it has been a great boon to my daily excitement and enthusiasm during a very difficult year of COVID-19.

Q.What advice would you give your peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development?

My advice to peers looking into PhD Plus internships would be to start brainstorming and thinking creatively about what you might want to do after your time in your program. Look at job listings and ask for informational interviews with people in positions that interest you and figure out the skills and experience the job requires or prefers. Analyze your own skillset and ask yourself if you have cultivated these abilities and if you have specific examples and anecdotes to which you can point as evidence of that cultivation. Try to find an internship that aligns with your interests and skill development needs. I believe that, ideally, the internship would add a new dimension to your previous training. These internships can boost your professional development through experiences you would not normally have within your PhD program, but they can also provide opportunities to show the transferability of the skills you have developed through your PhD program. You can use these internships as an exploration of a new field or as a pivot into it. The experience can be what you make it! Stay flexible and curious.

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