Research and Policy Internship at the ITF

Lessons learnt from an internship at the ITF

March 03 2023

Last year, I decided to apply for and undertake a 6-month internship at the International Transport Forum (ITF) which started in October and is expected to end in March.

The ITF is an intergovernmental organisation administratively integrated (yet, politically autonomous) with the OECD, which acts as a think tank for transport policy. It is also the only global body that covers all transport modes.

The main aim is to work for transport policies that contribute towards societal goals such as economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion. To this end, the ITF acts as a platform for discussion and pre-negotiation of policy issues across ALL transport modes. The organisation analyses trends share knowledge and promote exchange among transport decision-makers and civil society.

Internship duties and work

I applied as an intern at the Sustainable Accessibility for All Working Group. This group considers how governments can best ensure that all users of mobility have adequate physical transport access in the context of a sustainable mobility future. This includes a focus on the needs of the elderly, disabled people, low-income groups, and people living in urban peripheries, regional towns, and remote areas. As a PhD student researching the impacts (e.g.: potential accessibility benefits) of having a regional Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and an avid advocate for the accessibility of sustainable transport, I felt instantaneously motivated to apply!

The main tasks included desk research on relevant literature on the above-mentioned topics, preparing case studies and analysing submissions for a call for evidence, as well as participating in and preparing materials for working group meetings.

My internship supervisor (Orla McCarthy) always made sure I had things to work on and that I felt supported and not overwhelmed.  Moreover, besides teaching me how the ITF is organised and incentivising me to attend important and useful meetings on other ITF ongoing projects, she was always mindful of the work I was producing and ensured that I would have tangible outcomes from that, leading to the chance of actively contributing in one of the group meetings as well as to one of the chapters in the final report.

Throughout the internship, I got to know the amazing people working at the ITF and the different and demanding tasks they have been working on. Everyone was welcoming and passionate about what they do, and there is a huge variety of backgrounds which only highlights the interdisciplinary nature required for solving the multiple challenges in mobility.

Visiting Paris

The internship required me to move to Paris for 6-months, however, due to my ongoing PhD and other commitments I ended up undertaking the internship in a hybrid format, requiring me to travel twice to Paris:

  • One week (Saturday to Saturday) in November.
  • One week and a half (Wednesday to Saturday) in February.

These visits were mostly for work and there was not a lot of time to look around. However, I did get a weekend off during the last time I travelled and had the chance to do some sightseeing and visit the city. Since it was only for a weekend, I decided to walk around instead of going to museums and ended up visiting a lot of places, my favourite being the Sainte-Chapelle du Palais and the Montmartre hill (where you can have an amazing view over the city).

Although I did not go all the way up to the Eiffel tower, it was almost as if it was always with me, since everywhere I looked, there it was!

Lessons learnt.

These past months have been very fast-paced and it took a lot of self and efficient time management to be able to balance everything. However, if you are working on something you believe in, you can usually find the motivation to do it.

I highly recommend that students find an internship such as this one (by the way the ITF has a few being announced at the moment) or embrace a project outside their PhD or studies, not just for the experience but also for the change of scenery and mindset and to get to know people in your area (or not) that you would have not otherwise.

Besides having to thank my internship supervisor and all the people that I have met at the ITF, I have to thank the CDT for sharing and encouraging us to embrace these opportunities and for providing us with a robust reference, placing us as strong candidates for internships/projects such as this one.

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