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WTCI Youth Diplomats Program: A student’s heartfelt advice on pursuing an internship

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Written by: Yunling Ying

Edited by, Adrian Tabije & Autumn Young

August 11, 2022

Recently, KwF’s Executive Director and Founder, Princess Aliyah Pandolfi was invited to conduct a seminar at the 2022 WTCI Youth Diplomats Program to a room of talented and driven young leaders. On this week’s blog, our new Graphic Design and Global Relations intern Yunling Ying speaks on her experience as a program participant.

Yunling is a rising senior based in Maryland who is interested in pursuing a career in international business and marketing. She is from Shanghai, China, and is fluent in Chinese with a basic understanding of Spanish. In addition to her fellowship at the WTCI and her internship with KwF, she is an active youth leader with Hopeworks, an advocacy center for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence, where she serves as a community engagement liaison and receives training to recognize harmful interpersonal interactions. In school, Yunling has created the Clothing Collective, a passion project of hers that focuses on supporting sustainable fashion choices and creating a safe school community for self-expression.

In the heart of Baltimore City’s Inner Harbor, next to the National Aquarium and the Columbus Center, lies the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI), where I have been spending one Saturday a month since January 2022.

How did I end up with such an opportunity as a junior in high school? By gaining acceptance into the Youth Diplomats Program, a fantastic program hosted by the WTCI. Every month, students hear from multiple guest speakers and participate in hands-on activities and discussions to understand the multifaceted approaches of diplomacy. We discuss public speaking, conflict resolution, technology, and sustainability. The program aims to jumpstart high school students' careers by familiarizing them with the knowledge, tools, and applications in addressing the world's most pressing social issues and global challenges.

International wall of flags located in the lobby of the World Trade Center Institute building.

I discovered the Youth Diplomats Program, open to all sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the greater Baltimore area, through an interest in international business. While scouting for information about the industry during my sophomore summer, I contacted Aisha Jones of the Baltimore Trade Commission. She answered many industry questions that I had over a Zoom meeting as we were in the peak of COVID quarantine. Aisha referred me to consider the program as she felt it would benefit me. I looked into the program details, and although it was too late to apply for my sophomore year, I made a mental note to apply the following year.

The application required basic details such as school, class, address, and extracurriculars. Furthermore, there were creative essay questions that explored your interests and personality. One thing I appreciated about the application was the lack of word limits. I took full advantage of that golden opportunity to write without limitations because I am someone who can't seem to stop writing once I've started. The board truly wants to hear everything you have to say, even if that means sifting through longer responses.

In my eight months with the WTCI, I have learned about many new topics that are not covered in my school’s curriculum, and have refined my knowledge on some topics that I have had experience with. Some who really stood out to me include:

  • Dr. Laura Sicola, who taught me about Public Speaking and Communication in a Cross-Cultural Context

  • Nick Brooks, director of Soccer Without Borders, who taught me about Refugee Migration and Reintegration

  • Princess Aliyah Pandolfi, founder of the Kashmir World Foundation (KwF), along with her student panel, who taught me about Leveraging Technology as a Catalyst for Change

Aliyah Pandolfi, Executive Director and Founder of KwF, spoke with WTCI participants on how to leverage technology as a catalyst of change.

Aliyah and her student interns did such an exceptional job with their presentation that it has brought me here, to this organization, writing this article. WTCI not only provided me with an opportunity for in-depth learning, but the program has also allowed me to connect with professionals in the field.

Learning about KwF’s mission to protect wildlife using drone technology, I was immediately drawn in to the innovation. I was amazed at the student intern teams who work tirelessly on their projects. During Aliyah's lecture, she split us into groups to pitch solutions to problems her KwF interns were facing when incorporating AI technology in their wildlife conservation projects. During the intern panel with some of the members of the different teams at KwF, I heard statements from interns such as Daan Eeltink, leader of the A.I team; Mariana Ierardi, project manager of the snow leopard activity book; and Taran Srikonda, member of the app development and aerospace engineering teams.

Yunling’s team working on their project proposal in regards to protecting sea turtle nests with Drone technology

Here is what they had to say about their experience, speaking to our cohort:

Mariana Ierardi - Brazil: “I was really impressed by other interns' thoughts and surprised to be meeting people from other teams that I had never met. After hearing from the other interns, I felt more confident to share my experience and show the students that anyone can be part of the [KwF] institution.”

Taran Srikonda - United States: “Personally, the panel was a great experience to share our experiences to other high school students and effectively portray the importance of internships to them! I think the collaboration between KwF and WTCI was a wonderful one as KwF is an internship that serves as a great example to other high school students as it allows for a great community to learn in and help our environment/society.”

Daan Eeltink - The Netherlands: “I enjoyed seeing how inspired the students were to get started with the challenges we posed to them. Within only ten minutes they had come up with innovative solutions and made posters to pitch them. I think KwF was able to provide the WTCI students with a unique insight into the advantages and endless possibilities associated with internships. They saw our enthusiasm and dedicated involvement with the projects and reported back to have been inspired to start looking for internships themselves. For many KwF interns it was an honor to be asked for the intern panel and an amazing opportunity to practice public speaking.”

KwF’s extraordinary AI and technology experts Malini, Daan and Lucas presented a challenge which required the young minds in the room to ideate solutions around some of KwF’s current projects.

A network of interns spoke from different continents to share great insights on navigating their KwF internships. Featured (from top to bottom): Malini, Daan Eeltink, Lucas Gewehr, Berit Syltebo, Quinn Wakefield, Adrian Tabije, Elise Markle, Rohan Magesh, Abimalek Mekuriya, Andrew Jordan, Arjun Bakhale, and Mariana Ierardi.

The student panel, while allowing for collaboration and cross-organization communication, also persuaded me to reach out to Aliyah, and become a KwF intern myself. The enthusiasm and dedication of Aliyah's interns coming together from different continents via Zoom to share a collective message of support pierced through the Zoom screen. What I gathered from hearing the interns speak were two key themes:

  1. Real-world experience has greatly influenced their learning, whether as high school or college students.

  2. The interns at KwF don't approach their tasks for the sake of doing their job properly; but rather, they firmly believe their assigned projects make a significant impact.

Graphic Design and Global Relations specialist Adrian Tabije spoke all the way from the University of Canberra in Australia on the importance of seeing internships as a milestone for your dream career.

These two themes come together in searching for an internship that also values your self-worth. Everyone has valuable skills, though, and you will eventually find that perfect opportunity. Disappointment and rejection can also be expected, too (believe me, I definitely felt discouraged after plenty of no-reply emails and rejections). But I learned that finding an internship is also about finding a good fit for you. I carry this philosophy with me in my work as an intern, because doing something for the sake of a resume or application will not enable you the same personal growth as working towards something you are passionate about, as all the interns in the panel demonstrated.

Internships are such a valuable experience to people entering the workforce, whether that be high school or college students. They provide real-world experiences in fields that young, rising professionals may want to explore or pursue. I hope my story inspires you to ask questions, network, and participate in everything the community around you has to offer. You will reap the benefits of your hard work within your community or, perhaps like me, in unexpected places. Reaching out to professionals who may provide you with guidance or opportunities in your desired field might lead you to a better understanding of yourself and your future pursuits.

Please research aspirational companies, organizations, fields, and industries which interest you. Contact professionals and network through adults you already know. If you are interested in either of the programs mentioned in this article, check out the links below to help you get started. You are just a few clicks away from paving your way to a more informed future.

If you are located in the Baltimore area and have an interest in international relations, consider applying to WTCI’s Youth Diplomats at

If you would like to know more about KwF’s internship program, please email

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