Jessica – Amristar, India

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to go to India to learn from such amazing people and the inspiring institution that Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) is. I am indebted to the Temple for all of the knowledge that I acquired while there. I did not know that working with hundreds of other people to cook a meal for thousands of people could be so cohesive and easygoing. Stress and chaos is nonexistent in the Temple even though they are accomplishing near-impossible tasks daily. This taught me that there really never is reason to stress out because it only inhibits one from performing at his or her best level.

The Golden Temple is the best example of sustainability that I have ever seen and I am enthusiastic to implement what I learned from being there. They have nearly zero food waste because what is served there is considered to be “God’s food” so it is shameful to throw any of it away. Viewing all food as holy would be a great way to help curb waste here in the United States. Additionally, the only utensil that is used at the Temple is a spoon. Here in the U.S. we usually provide forks, knives, spoons, and napkins without making the effort to think about if they are necessary or not. I am definitely going to incorporate this thinking when I make decisions about planning events with food.

Something that really surprised me is that Hindus consider the Harmandir Sahib their second home. Many poor Hindus slept at the Temple for up to a few months and it is not common in American culture to feel so welcomed in a religious place that is not of your own faith. One thing that I really wish I could explain to my family and friends is that all religious facilities here should be as open and welcoming to those of other faiths are in India. The poor would be much better off if free community meals were not contingent upon being a part of the religion or hearing a sermon. Recognizing everyone as a child of God and treating them accordingly is an aspect of most world religions, yet practice of this idea in Western religious spaces is shaky.

Alison – Accra and Kumasi, Ghana

The Barger scholarship helped facilitate my trip to Ghana this summer with the International Programs in Engineering project, Design for Global Development. Along with two other students, I spent a total of 8 weeks this summer at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra as well as the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

The first five weeks in Ghana were spent in Accra. The three of us worked with three University of Ghana biomedical engineering students to complete the preliminary steps of a senior design project. The overall goal was to immerse ourselves into the daily lives of the doctors and nurses at the hospital and do a “deep dive” with the hopes of learning more about maternal health and identifying a challenge that could be addressed with an engineering design project. The first two weeks were spent doing general observations in various parts of the obstetrics and gynecology department of the hospital. We spent time on the labor ward, the recovery ward, the outpatient department, the gynecology emergency room, both the labor and gynecology operating rooms and the family planning center. There were also other international students at the hospital, but most all of them were doing exchanges as medical students. It was a challenge to explain to nurses and doctors what our goals were for the project. One of our struggles was to help them understand why we wanted to simply watch what they were doing and explain that we were unfortunately unable to assist in any sort of procedure. It also took us some time to master the art of observing and understanding what were simply differences in the way things were done versus true challenges. Also, some things that we perceived to be challenges were not necessarily problems in the eyes of the doctors and nurses.

The third week we continued to observe, and created a down selection rubric to begin narrowing down the over 60 needs statements that we had created to a top ten. We scored the needs on categories such as doctor interest, market size, existing solutions, and if it fit within the scope of the senior design class that would be taking in the fall. We presented to the staff at the daily morning meeting to gather more of their feedback on the things we had identified to be the top challenges the obstetrics and gynecology department faced. Ultimately, we decided to focus on post partum hemorrhage based on the need for a device to treat primary post partum hemorrhage in cases of uterine atony.

The following week we began to gather information for our user requirements. We started to interview doctors and nurses that would potentially be the future users of this device to try and uncover features that this device needed to have as well as features that would be nice to have. Furthermore, we tried to gather even more information so that we would be able to quantify these requirements during the design process in the class. It was again challenging to help the doctors understand the kind of information that we wanted. When we asked them what they considered desirable features of this hypothetical device, they often would resort to explaining something that already existed but that they wanted, or they would begin just talking about post partum hemorrhage itself and how it occurs. We had to learn how to phrase our questions to get the information that we wanted, and it still sometimes did not work. Another thing we learned was that sometimes it was better to focus on one feature of the device and try to get as much information from that person on that specific feature. Instead of asking about all the things we thought might be important, we might press them to truly understand what it meant for a device to be portable. What physical size should it be? How much should it weigh? Does it need to have wheels? What about a handle to carry it? Asking these questions to doctors and nurses in between patients or right after a meeting was another challenge. We had gone into this experience thinking we would be able to sit down and conduct focused interviews with staff, when in reality we had to illicit the information whenever we had the chance.

The last week we continued to develop our user requirements as well as begin to sketch ideas for our solutions to be able to show these same stakeholders. The hope was to be able to gather even more information about what they thought about these designs and how we should change them or what they liked or disliked about them. It was again not as easy as we would have hoped, but we were able to get some helpful information. The last day at Korle Bu, we presented once again at the morning meeting to inform the staff of our topic and the information that we had gathered so far, and that we would be returning to school to work on the project and generate a prototype. We said that we would share our design report and prototype with them upon completion of the project and that we would most likely be seeking more information from them about the design.

The last three weeks were spent in Kumasi, a city farther north that was a little quieter, a little smaller, and much greener than Accra. We went through the same process, but without the first two weeks of observations. Because other groups had already gone in the past to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, we compiled all of their needs statements into one document and then narrowed that down to a top thirty. Our first week there we completed general observations, while also down selecting the previously identified needs. With the help of one of the senior doctors, we further narrowed down our thirty needs, and with the help of our professor, narrowed it down to a top ten. We then consulted 4 senior doctors to help us select our one project topic, based on their interest and perceived priority of the needs we had identified. We then selected the project topic as a way to convert labor beds into delivery beds. This was based on information the doctors had given us along with our own observations. The next week we spent doing focused observations in the labor ward, witnessing deliveries as well as talking to the midwives, nurses, and doctors that spent a lot of time there. During this week, we again were trying to gather similar information to Korle Bu, which was information to help us develop user requirements for our device once we got back to school. The final week we were there we began sketching ideas and showing them to people, trying to help them to understand what we were thinking and hoping to get feedback from them. We presented our findings on the very last day we were there at the morning meeting, and informed them of what they could expect from our project.

From this experience, I learned many different things. I learned the difficulties and challenges faced when not only working in a new culture, but in attempting to navigate a fragile atmosphere while trying to be the least intrusive as possible. I learned how to practice patience and how to adapt to situations when they did not go as we expected. I learned how to work with students of different backgrounds and with different work ethics than myself. I was challenged mentally both by the actual work we were completing and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Traveling to Ghana this summer proved to be quite difficult, but also rather rewarding in the end. This was an invaluable experience that I would not have had the opportunity to complete without this scholarship.

Miki – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I spent my childhood frequently moving between Tokyo and an underdeveloped region of China. This experience made me realize that many social issues, including poverty and human rights, are greatly correlated with commercial systems and business operations. Ever since, I have been active in exploring ways to practice business principles that would bring out positive social changes throughout my education. This intern opportunity is where I can further develop my skills and understanding of social entrepreneurship, as well as a platform an experience, to turn my passion and knowledge into impact.

The Cambodian government recognizes the importance of diversifying the economy and stimulating entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty. However, it is challenging to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that are economically sustainable and socially responsible at the same time. One of the most effective tools to create opportunity for the poorest is to extend credit to poor entrepreneurs. When carried out as part of a well planned campaign, microfinance can be the difference between an unstable temporary job and sustainable self-employment. The business development project let me contribute my knowledge and talent to microfinance initiatives in Phnom Penh. Not only I was utilizing my skills, I was also training the locals to effectively use the funds when managing their business, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the projects.

The organization I work at is called Farmer Livelihood Development (FLD). Under it, there are subsidiary social enterprises that contribute to different aspect of developing lives of rural Cambodian farmers. The subsidiary I worked for was called Khmer Farmer Product (KFP). KFP serves as the medium between the commercial market and the poor farmer in rural area of Cambodia with little or no knowledge or business skills. KFP is a social enterprise that packages, trades and markets products on behalf of farm businesses and small­scale handicraft and food processor groups, all of whom were trained by FLD. It allows former trainees to gain commercial confidence in their new skills, and facilitate them entering the commercial market.

Though it may sound like an opportunity where I contributed to the community I worked with, it is actually an amazing chance for self-development. With this chance to explore what I am passionate about , I can now take every step following in life with firm faith and unstoppable belief. The ones who march on a path that has never been visited before are the ones who truly inspire. And those people are true leaders who make a difference in the world.

Iliria – Tirana, Albania

Going into this experience, I did not know exactly what to expect, but I did know that I would make the most of the amazing opportunity to intern for the US Department of State and use my time in Albania to grow academically and professionally. Originally I was an intern for the Management section of the Embassy as I reported in my proposal, but after consulting with the Management Officer and sharing my academic interests with him, he recommended that I move to the Regional Security Office. I was extremely appreciative of this consideration and advice, and it was clear that the personnel at post wanted to provide me with the best experience possible that catered to my academic pursuits and potential career paths.

I worked in the Regional Security Office (RSO) of the Embassy, so my section actually belonged to the US Diplomatic Security Service rather than strictly the Foreign Service such as the Consular, Public Affairs, Management, Political and Economic personnel. The RSO Administrative Assistant left Post around the time I arrived in Albania, and her replacement was not able to begin work yet so I was able to fill the role of RSO Administrative Assistant during my time, which left me with a lot of procedures, responsibilities, rules, office politics and names to learn quickly. My bosses, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) and Assistant Regional Security Officer (ARSO), oftentimes requested that I do something with the assumption that I already knew how, which was difficult at first because I felt a bit like a child asking to be walked through procedures. In hindsight however, I am happy that I did ask because instead of just telling them I could not do the task, I learned the steps to complete that given task in a proper and professional manner. The RSO and ARSO were phenomenal mentors, and they trusted me with responsibilities beyond those of an intern. I believe that our work relationships transcended that of “boss-student intern” into the realm of a respectful and enjoyable coworker dynamic. Because of the function of the RSO, I was able to see how the law enforcement side of a post collaborates and merges with bureaucratic side. On a daily basis I interacted with personnel in our section, which consisted of the US Marine Security Guards, the Local Guard Force, vetting investigators, and others. I was held to a high standard of maturity and professionalism especially for intra/inter office communication and information. Due to the nature of my internship, I cannot disclose all details of my experience, but below is a brief summary of what I did at post:

  • Approved access and after-hours access requests to Embassy and housing compounds
  • Actively observed and participated in various training and a Crisis Management Exercise for Post personnel
  • Logged weekly radio check roster and travel locators for personnel on leave or vacation
  • Greeted visitors and Temporary Duty staff and directed or addressed questions appropriately
  • Facilitated the completion of administrative and vetting tasks
  • Filed/e-filed Badge Applications, Security Briefings, Country Clearances
  • Created security badges for Embassy personnel, prepared Security briefing information for direct hires
  • Updated Post’s Emergency Action Plan (learned to use CEPA system) especially in regards to Mission Security
  • Drafted and revised Security Notices, Directives, Announcements, Cables and Memorandums for distribution to Post personnel and updated to RSO’s site

In addition to working for RSO, I was able to “sample” other career paths at the Embassy. Because I developed relationships with personnel in other offices, I was offered to work in their offices for a short bit of time or sit in on their activities. By simply building rapport and showing interest, I was given the opportunity to work in the Public Affairs Office for one week, participate in a goat donation event with USAID, and assist in organizing then attending a three-day conference on human trafficking in the Balkans with the Department of Justice.

The Barger Leadership Institute Global Internship Award and CRIF Program Grant through Weiser funded my leadership experience overseas, which I would not have been able to cover myself whatsoever, as this internship was unpaid and overseas. I am grateful beyond words to the Barger Leadership Institute and WCEE for investing in my academic aspirations beyond the classroom this summer, and I am confident in saying that my internship at the US Embassy in Albania opened my eyes to likely future career options. I will be declaring on September 12th because this internship solidified my interest in security, law, crime and service in a global community.