As an Egyptian-American Muslim by heritage, and a joint Government and Middle-Eastern Studies major at Harvard University, I have always had a particular interest in the various ways that Arab culture and American society interact and intersect. Given the vitriolic rhetoric and negative stereotypes that have come to define our mainstream media’s presentation of Arab-Americans, Al-Bustan’s mission to present and celebrate Arab culture through arts is especially significant in shaping the nature and impact of these interactions. Thus, from my very first experience working with Al-Bustan, as a volunteer camp counselor in 2014, I was inspired by the prospect of contributing to the cross-cultural awareness and understanding that Al-Bustan promotes through its arts programming and outreach initiatives.
When I decided to apply for an internship with Al-Bustan for the summer of 2016, I intended to dive headfirst into a completely new working environment and hopefully gain a basic familiarity with the inner workings of a non-profit organization. However, what I gained from my three weeks with Al-Bustan surpassed every expectation I had, both in terms of the skills and knowledge I gained, as well as the daily working environment that I was a part of. I hit the ground running with a wide range of complex and engaging tasks from my very first day, which allowed me to gain a nuanced understanding of the day-to-day operations of a non-profit in my short time with the organization.
I spent much of my first week performing tasks related to data entry and organization, which also served as a crash-course in such essential data management programs as SalesForce and Excel. Although tedious, these tasks forced me to become facile with the basic functions of the applications, and allowed me to explore in-detail some of the more powerful tools necessary to complete my specific tasks. My time was split with other tasks such as creating charts for Hazami to present at the upcoming Board/Staff Retreat, coordinating equipment rentals for the weekend concert, and helping Lindsey select posts for Al-Bustan’s social media.
While initially slightly overwhelming, I quickly grew accustomed to the fast-paced and dynamic work environment of the Al-Bustan office, and by my second week, I was able to effectively manage my work of documenting the Board/Staff Retreat which I assisted at, while simultaneously responding to any urgent needs or tasks of my coworkers and participating in the office-wide meetings and debriefing sessions. Through these experiences, I found myself becoming more detail-oriented and efficient, while also learning to organize and manage multiple projects or tasks simultaneously — skills that will be incredibly useful in my future academic and professional endeavors.
– Adam Mohsen-Breen, Al-Bustan Intern, Summer 2016