During the Spring Break of my junior year, I had the opportunity to spend three days as a Princetern at the World Monuments Fund (WMF) office on the twenty-fourth floor of the Empire State building.
Upon arriving at the WMF office, I was greeted by a warm, comfortable atmosphere and a hot cup of tea to help me recover from the harsh winds that gusted through the city streets that morning. I first made the acquaintance of Yiannis Avramides, a colleague of my Princeternship host and, coincidentally, a member of the Princeton Class of 2008. After enjoying a brief introduction into the general background of WMF’s mission and current projects, we were joined by my charismatic host and the organization’s VP of Strategic and International Affairs, George McNeely of the Princeton Class of 1983. Though I did my research beforehand and was already fairly familiar with the goals of WMF as a private, international, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world, it was fascinating to talk to George and Yiannis about their particular roles in the organization and how they got to where they are today. With the completion of my short orientation for the Princeternship, I was led on a tour of the rest of the well-designed and welcoming office, meeting and greeting the rest of my “colleagues” for the duration of my time at WMF.
Several hours into the day, I was given a few interesting assignments that I would be tackling over those three days. The list of brief assignments included a research project on the Old Summer Palace built during the Qing dynasty in China, the summarization and outline of a text on international cultural preservation organizations, and conducting a short investigation into Russian media coverage dealing with the potential destruction of the Shukhov radio tower in Moscow. Overall, I found the completion of my assignments to be extremely rewarding because I could see first-hand how my efforts were relevant to the tasks being undertaken by various professionals at the World Monuments Fund; each of them was extremely appreciative of my minor contributions and it was generally a pleasure to assist them in any way possible.
To comment on my experience at the World Monument Fund as a whole – I must say that I genuinely enjoyed it and benefitted from it. It was an incredible and rare opportunity to glimpse into the professional environment of people that are so passionate about and dedicated to the cause that they work for and to be so hospitably taken in and introduced to their everyday life. My goal coming into the Princeternship was to get a feel for what it would be like to work at a non-profit office like WMF, and though I remain unsure of where exactly I see myself after Princeton, the experience and insight I have gained by simply being around such a professional environment will definitely help me further along my journey to discovering my place in the world.
I would absolutely recommend participating in a Princeternship to all Princeton undergraduate students because I believe that experience is a great one to carry while continuing along our professional paths and making the decisions that will shape our futures. I would also like to take another opportunity to thank George, Yiannis, Katie, and everyone else I had the pleasure of meeting at WMF for making my Spring Break such a memorable, enjoyable, and productive time of my sophomore year.