AN INNER FOCUS ON VOLUNTEERS' AND INTERNS' LIFE.
- How did you get to know the volunteering program at FBQ?
Rama: I learned about the volunteering program during a guided tour on September 4th, 2021. My father enquired with the staff if there were any opportunities to collaborate within the museum to enhance my skills in a professional environment. The odds were in my favor because the museum was looking for someone passionate about natural history to help them with the forthcoming fossils section.
Jacky: I read about the program announced in the December 2021 Newsletter, and I applied right away!
Soleyma: I am someone who enjoys finding out answers to questions. A few months ago, I began looking into volunteering opportunities at museums in Qatar. However, the best information came by chance. When visiting FBQ Museum, my dad mentioned to the receptionist that I was interested in volunteering. Before I knew it, I was talking with Mr. Claudio, the Museum Director. I learned that the FBQ had internship positions available for this summer. Upon further research and discussion with my parents, I decided to take on such a fantastic opportunity.
- What were the insights and the circumstances that triggered you to apply for the program?
Rama: The combination of my enthusiasm for exploration, discovery, and curiosity was my first drive. Secondly, my willingness to have a more direct approach to fossils that I had only studied at University pushed me to apply.
Jacky: It had been a while since I was looking for opportunities to serve and give back to the community. Then my passion for culture and museums dictated my choice to apply for FBQ Museum to contribute to the country. Working as an assistant teacher and dealing with children, I found that the FBQ Museum represented an excellent opportunity to interact with visitors of all ages, learn more skills and expand my career aspiration.
Soleyma: I'm a recent graduate from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, with a BA in Classical Studies. I was interested in expanding my knowledge regarding museums as in September I'll begin a Museum Curatorship and Management certificate program at Sir Sanford Fleming College. Having grown up in Qatar and attending the American School of Doha, frequent visits to FBQ was essential. Therefore, an internship where I would work and learn from the staff was inspiring.
- What are the main differences between the student's or professional life and the intern's?
Rama: As an undergraduate environmental science major at Qatar University, and a volunteer at FBQ museum, the differences are substantial. As a student, one solely focuses on certain, minimal sections of knowledge delivered by an instructor. And the timeframe to improve upon subject-related techniques is often limited. However, as an intern, you are requested to develop new ideas and improve your skills both in the theoretical side of the work (research) and the practical aspect of the job (i.e., examination of objects).
Soleyma: I'd say that there are three main differences between a student's and an intern's life. Most of my work came from my required program courses as a student. Conversely, as an intern, I rely more on transferable skills like research, creativity, and collaboration. While at University, my marks and work only affected me, and I had multiple opportunities to improve my skills through assignments and tests. In contrast, my work as an intern has to be excellent from the start as it affects the whole team. Finally, campus life includes many informal events to attend throughout the week. As an intern, work and personal life do not merge.
- What tasks have you been doing that most excite you?
Rama: Some of the most exciting tasks relate to object handling. Holding a fossil, such as a piece of petrifying wood or a million-year-old ammonite, is exceptionally satisfying and gratifying. It is still hard to believe I can hold 'a piece of history' at my fingertips.' Research is even more thrilling, as it translates into the pursuit of knowledge with newer information that often instills incredible curiosity and leaves me craving more.
Jacky: A gallery facilitator must interact with visitors, providing them with the necessary information to understand the exhibits and other available resources. This requires working with other FBQ facilitators to deliver information and short tours. Also, the interaction with parents and kids during the Family Map Treasure Hunt always turns surprising and highly enjoyable. It is rewarding to see kids engaging with the artifacts on display.
Soleyma: One of the exciting tasks I've been doing is undertaking some research on Palestinian embroidery aimed at the curation of the Palestinian room. I learned new things about the topic, which I wouldn't have otherwise without the internship program. Another task is identifying the Latin names for some of the fossils in the museum.
- What did you find challenging during your first weeks?
Rama: To comprehend some particular fossilized objects at the first look was pretty challenging. I then used a step-by-step process to achieve the correct identification. In addition, I also found that uploading the photographs of fossilized objects into the online collection system was cumbersome at the beginning. Furthermore, some fossilized items often present a problematic form to carry and handle, requiring extreme handling care.
Jacky: In the beginning, I didn't know enough about the museum and its exhibits to provide visitors with satisfactory explanations for their visits. Also, some customers do not feel confident asking a volunteer for information. However, over time, I learned how to cope with visitors' uneasiness by showing more confidence in the first place and approaching them with genuine consideration.
Soleyma: One thing I found challenging at first was relying more on my transferable skills than my degree. An example of that would be researching the history of Palestinian embroidery. While the historical aspect is related to my minor, I knew very little about Palestinian embroidery. Another challenge was identifying fossils, as I had never worked with them before. Nevertheless, I relied on my research skills to help me out and fill the gaps along the way.
- How do you think the program may help you as a student and professional in your future career?
Rama: The volunteer program will help me develop my observational skills. In particular, specific visualization would help me analyze and examine fossilized objects in more detail, which is paramount in a researcher's career path.
Jacky: So far, I have learned extensively about Qatar and other countries through the objects on display. On a social level, the program has enabled me to meet and interact with different people, shared ideas, and made me look at my life from a broader perspective. Although career specialization is good, being flexible and open to change is rewarding, especially with technological advancement and the diverse lessons we had to learn during the pandemic. Hence this program has and is helping me be more considerate.
Soleyma: As a student, I think the program will give me a reference point for museum work. It also allows me to apply context to my learning and get practical experience in the field. On a professional level, the program has allowed me to see the work I'll do in the future, with work-related expectations first hand. In particular, also with things like collaboration and office protocols, ex. how to present myself, or be part of the communication chain, etc.
- Any suggestions, advice, or quotes you'd recommend to your peers willing to undertake an internship?
Rama: To obtain an internship, the baseline that my peers should follow is to learn more details about the program, specifically on the training required skills. Secondly, peers should estimate their time availability because the program requires commitment and time allocation to deliver the projects.
Jacky: Life is not just about receiving but also giving, and you can only give what you are able and willing to. Time is one of the most unique and valuable gifts. And working as a volunteer is probably the most significant investment of time one can make, as the rewards are many, emotionally, socially, and culturally. My advice is: "if you have extra free time, give it back to the community through volunteer programs. FBQ Museum can help you find the right opportunity".
Soleyma: I would suggest researching if any of the museums near you offer volunteering or internship programs. If they do, reach out to them to see if they'd be willing to have you on board. Even if they don't have vacant positions, you could still investigate any possibility of volunteering collaborations. In museums, there is always a need for extra support in archive-related tasks, such as photo repertoire or customer care service, like gallery facilitators. Check it out, and you might find what you're genuinely passionate about.