A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

Tear-gassed in Turkey: START intern reflects on an interesting study abroad experience

Tear-gassed in Turkey: START intern reflects on an interesting study abroad experience

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Annemarie Brinkman Incident Locations and Geospatial Intelligence Intern

Spring 2016

American University, 2016

Throughout my childhood and teen years, I had the opportunity to meet various people from around the world, and participate in “study abroad” sessions. Those experiences were the catalyst for my interest in international studies. And while I knew I wanted to pursue international studies, I was never sure which facet of it I was most interested in. I became interested in terrorism as a second semester sophomore at American University in a class on peace and conflict resolution. After spending only two classes on terrorism, I knew I wanted to pursue this vast topic even further. I had the chance to do so the following semester during my study abroad in Amman, Jordan. In addition to the classes I took in Jordan, our time was supplemented with speakers on terrorism and visits to the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC), just outside the capital.

From there, my interest in terrorism studies only grew. In the fall of 2014, while visiting tourist attractions in Istanbul with friends, I ran into a Kurdish protest. As the siege of Kobani was intensifying during this time, the Kurds were urging to Turkish government to join more fully in the fight against ISIS. Being the curious college students we were, we attempted to find out exactly what was happening through an Arab journalist we met there. As she was explaining what was transpiring, there was a sudden release of tear gas and the crowd quickly dispersed and took off running in all directions. Tear gas lived up to its name. It took us hours to regroup. We considered it an isolated, one-time event and went on with our day.  Little did we know that the next night we would feel the burning in our eyes again. We were just outside our apartment when we saw a crowd running toward us and we felt the now-familiar swell of tears in our eyes. We quickly ducked inside, willing the tears to stop soon. Though it was unclear where exactly the tear gas originated, it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

Reflecting on my internship at START thus far, I have benefitted greatly from many networking events, professional speakers, and a great team who are willing to help me with many of my questions. When I began my internship at START working on the Incident Locations and Geospatial Intelligence team for the Global Terrorism Database, I was apprehensive about the type of work I would be doing. I had never worked with any type of coding or maps, outside of the random Google Earth searches I would do in my free time. I was concerned that I would struggle to understand the concepts and techniques that were used in my program. During orientation, our team received an in-depth two hour training session on how to code the incidents, which helped ease my apprehension and made me much more comfortable with the tasks at-hand.

One of my favorite aspects of this internship has been the excellent networking and employment opportunities START offers weekly through its vast network. I have enjoyed getting to know interns from other projects too. Because we are all interested in different facets of the same topic, it is easy to discuss our views and share our interests in a professional manner. Similarly, the doors of START’s employees are always open for the interns to come in and discuss their career goals

I am very excited to continue the rest of my semester at START, as time already seems to be flying by so fast! I look forward to new challenges, continued networking and the endless opportunities for professional growth.