Meet ISDP’s fall 2021/22 semester interns

Elin Bergner, Peter Adolfsson and Viola Pulkkinen, fall semester 2021/22 interns at the Institute for Security and Development Policy

Every semester ISDP runs an internship program which is open to university students and recent graduates and that offers the interns work experience in an international environment, encourages them to write and publish with staff members, and shoulder progressive responsibilities within the organization. 

Peter Adolfsson (ISDP’s Stockholm Japan Center), Elin Bergner (ISDP’s Stockholm Korea Center) and Viola Pulkkinen (ISDP’s Asia Program), interns from the fall semester 2021/22, are now looking back at their experience at ISDP, giving interested students an opportunity to find out more about what it is like to work as research intern. 

ISDP: To give interested students an idea – what do you work with as an intern at ISDP? 

Peter: “I had some regular tasks that I worked on every week, which included reading the news and writing reports. But I also engaged with other projects, where I helped researching and developing projects and co-authored with another intern.” 

Elin: “I also had regular tasks such as monitoring the news, editing our external newsletter, and conducting weekly analyses on developments on the Korean Peninsula. In addition to this, I conducted joint research with senior staff and assisted in live events and forums. I also worked on individual research projects and developed a webinar idea.” 

Viola: “My tasks would vary on an ad hoc basis. I followed news with a more topic-specific focus, shifting from one region to another. My tasks were focused on doing research and writing briefs for our director, co-coordinating events, writing my own publications and assisting in applications, to name a few. As an intern for the Asia Program, you get a good view on all the different things that are happening in a think tank. 

What does your typical day look like? 

This group of interns had the opportunity to meet in person at the office, even though there were restrictions due to the pandemic and some days were spent working from home. 

Peter: “I would say that a typical day is 50% small tasks, research and meetings, and 50% report writing.” 

Viola and Elin describe that a typical day usually starts with going through e-mails and monitoring the news, tackling urgent tasks before lunch and then making space for long-term projects in the afternoon.  

“I think it is a lot about finding your own rhythm to work”, says Viola. 

What are the key insights you will take with you from the internship? 

“Key insights are understanding how a think tank works and getting a deeper understanding of geopolitical developments”, says Peter.  

“The importance of keeping up to date with all the news related to your area of expertise on a daily basis, it really makes all the difference if you want to produce relevant policy-oriented research, I have also gained an understanding for fundraising”, explains Elin. 

Viola agrees: “At a think tank, you’re more concerned over recent and current developments, as we gather evidence that aims to support decision-making processes. At the university, our focus is perhaps less strategic. Research comes in different forms, that’s what’s great about it. But I also gained a deeper understanding of how policymaking works.” 

The interns were able to learn a lot about the writing process in a think tank. The three agree that the switch from writing academic essays to policy-oriented research was a big change.  

“What is great with ISDP is that you are never alone when you write – you will get a lot of support and feedback for your writing and ideas”, explains Viola. 

Peter: “I also got to know the benefits of working in a small organization with an international team where you can connect with everyone and be encouraged.” 

Any advice to students interested in doing an internship in the research field? 

Elin: “Do it! Having the opportunity to work with an organization that addresses the topics that you are interested in is a great opportunity.” 

Peter: “Take charge and have a clear idea: What do you want to get out of your internship experience? Don’t be afraid to have frank conversations, to receive feedback and to network. You will meet people who can give you valuable insights into possible careers. And of course: Have fun!” 

Viola: “I agree, be proactive and systematic about what you want to achieve and use the possibility to learn from your colleagues and supervisor.” 


Thank you very much, Elin, Peter, and Viola! 


Are you interested in doing an internship at ISDP? Here you can find more information about our internship program. Calls for applications for the fall semester will be announced in March/April. If you have any questions about the internship program, please reach out to the Outreach Coordinator, Anna Jarmuth.