Romina – UBELONG (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

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This past May, I taught English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for four weeks through a non-profit called UBELONG. This was my second time volunteering through UBELONG because I sincerely ascribe to its service philosophy, with its deep commitment to long term initiatives, for a lasting impact that is achieved through a sustained stream of temporary volunteers collaborating with local agencies, in full respect of the local cultures. In addition, I value education, cultural exchange and opportunities to practice leadership, which is what led me to experience them in a new context. I had learned about Cambodia’s recent dark history during the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal rule before, but we also learned about it again during the volunteer orientation. As a foreigner, it felt necessary and even humbling to learn about the history that has affected everyone in Cambodia and has left lingering effects on the country’s economy, healthcare and education. I felt I was interacting with a vulnerable population but I was happy to learn from my students and allow them to interact with someone unlike themselves. It taught me the importance of having context when getting involved with something I am unfamiliar with so I can better understand what my role should be.  Therefore, humility was an important trait for me to have while I interacted with the local population, in addition to having compassion and empathy for those I interacted with.

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The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, more commonly known as S-21, used to be a high school but was converted into a secret prison where (usually innocent) prisoners were tortured and killed during the Khmer Rouge. Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned here, there were only seven known survivors. The plaque reads “Never will we forget the crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.”

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The Khmer Rouge would take prisoners and innocent civilians to the Killing Fields to execute them. Collectively, over a million people were killed between 1975 and 1979. On the outskirts of Phnom Penh, this monument at Choeung Ek is filled with 5,000 skulls of the Khmer Rouge’s victims.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I was the primary English teacher at a family and church-run school where I taught for two hours in the morning where I had a multiage class of 15 students—ages 6 through 12—and two hours in the afternoon with five more advanced students.

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I was responsible for planning and executing my own lessons each day. In between the classes during the lunch break, I would either play with the family’s children and other children who did not go home during the break, or help set up for lunch. I volunteered in a poor neighborhood and the family ran their small school and free lunch program for the local children in need. I look back on my own childhood and feel privileged for the services and resources I had access to in comparison to my students who live in run-down homes, often came to school in the same clothes, and have poor health and few toys.  Having said that, the people were some of the friendliest and most grateful people I have ever met, showing me the power of a welcoming culture. Cambodians call those who are close to them “brothers” and “sisters” and I felt special and included in this larger idea of family. In the future, I will strive to make others feel as welcomed or needed as I felt with the local community.

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The biggest challenge overall was the language barrier since it made keeping the attention and respect of my students in class difficult. The second was realizing that my students did not know the alphabet and due to the large age range, students had varying ability in English. This encouraged me to have engaging lesson plans that would familiarize them with the content and cater towards their energy levels. I eventually learned what realistic goals were for my younger students and how to challenge the older ones. However, in addition to humility and creativity, adaptability and patience were the two most important traits to have while being a leader and teacher abroad. Classroom dynamics would change on a day-to-day basis so even if I had a schedule planned, I would have to adapt a lesson on the spot; with the communication challenges and challenges my students had learning the language, I learned to be adaptable and patient in order to remain calm in stressful or aggravating situations. I was exhausted at the end of the day and have a whole new appreciation for teachers and their dedication to their work. It takes an incredible amount of time, energy and passion to be a good teacher and I believe I lived up to those standards during my time in Phnom Penh.

My students loved dancing to the Macarena so we’d often end the day with it. This video makes me miss them so much!

 


 

Also, I cannot leave out that I definitely took advantage of exploring the country on the weekends. Some other volunteers and I visited Sihanoukville, a beautiful beach town, Siem Reap, a touristy but culturally rich city where you can see the famous temples like Angkor Wat, and Mondulkiri, which was in the peaceful country side.

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Brian – Institute for Economics and Peace (Sydney, Australia)

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I was interning for the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). They are a not for profit think tank that tries to measure peace in the world by developing a global peace index. In the organization, I was doing some in-house consulting for a philanthropist that wanted to measure the cost-effectiveness of peacebuilding activities around the world. Initially it was a very research intensive project. I must’ve read over 500 pages of literature on the subject and ended up creating a literature review of the highlights and how we can move forward from here. We next moved onto the methodology stage where we compared the different methodologies against each other. By the time I left, we had not finished the project, but I am hoping to keep working with them until the project closes.

My main reason for going abroad was to look for places to potentially live and work after graduating from college. As an international student, it is not always up to me to decide where I want to work. Getting sponsored is a hard and you’re pretty much going wherever the world will take you. I think that living and working in Sydney has greatly informed me on the conditions I need to work here. There was not too much of a culture shock but I’ve grown quite fond of this place. I’ve come to learn that there are so many places that one can live and work and Sydney is among my top.

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I am part of a consulting group at the University of Michigan called 180 Degrees Consulting. It is the largest consultancy for non-profits and social enterprises. Through my internship I was able to acquire the organization as a client for my consulting group. We will be working together on the project that I had started and hopefully will be able to finish it together. I’m studying development within the international studies major at UM and this project is directly in-line with the field, as peacebuilding activities often overlap with development activities. I hope that through this joint initiative, I will be able to produce literature on the subject and methodology to measure whether or not peacebuilding activities are cost-effective.

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During my time abroad I was able to reaffirm my determination to work for development. I was originally assigned to work in the finance department of one of the fortune 500 companies in Sydney. I went in with an open mind to the internship, thinking maybe I would like it and it would teach me more than I would think. However, after 1 week at the internship I realized that I was not doing what I wanted to do, that I was working with a purpose that was not aligned with mine. I decided to resign from the company and look for another internship. Thankfully, I was able to find my current internship through help of a third party. I didn’t learn anything new about myself, but my resignation was a good reminder of what I believed in.

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My experience abroad has definitely instilled a sense of wanderlust in me. I’ve always had a little bit of wanderlust but this internship want me to pursue a career in which I am relocated every few years to be able to experience a new culture and work in a different place. If I could’ve done anything differently, it would be to properly account for all the personal expenses I would have living here. I had many excursions into different cities and countries from Sydney and I think properly accounting for that and preparing for it financially would’ve benefited in the long run. Not that it would’ve saved me a large amount of costs, but better prepare me for what was to come.

Lastly, this internship abroad has definitely allowed me to practice some leadership skills. To me, being a leader partially means being able to recognize an opportunity and capitilizing on it. I knew that the non-profit I was working for was doing good work and I really believe in their mission statement to try and quantify peace. I thought it would be a good idea to try and create a partnership between IEP and my pro-bono consulting group back at Michigan, 180 Degrees Consulting. I was able to acquire them as a client this upcoming semester and now I’m going to be the project manager in charge of leading a team to help consult with IEP. Through this opportunity, I was able to hone and develop my leadership skills abroad.

Kate – Squirrel Financial Wellbeing (London, England)

Exploring the sights in London.

This summer I was an employer engagement intern at a financial technology startup company called Squirrel in London, England for two months. The team consisted of about 10 people which was very unique in that I had direct contact with every ‘department’ of the company within one room. I was given large responsibility from the CEO to brainstorm, plan, and execute new plans on the marketing and sales fronts. My professional skills were tested in each of these areas for projects I worked on for the company. I was able to successfully bring on new customers and companies to the platform through my growth plans. The environment of my internship was conducive to my ideas and projects and I’m grateful for the experience to be able to play such a crucial role in a company at my age. My leadership skills expanded much more that I could have imagined as well. From holding company meetings to present my projects and reporting on my research of competitors and growth strategies, I have matured and am confident in my abilities to conduct myself appropriately in a professional setting.

I learned so much at Squirrel in the fast paced environment of the financial technology startup world. My team was knowledgeable and welcoming that it motivated me to push myself to produce the highest quality of work for the company. I have grown tremendously professionally and personally through the experience of immersing myself in a completely new city, home, job, and culture.

I lived in west London with two roommates who both attend different colleges across the US. When I arrived on the first day, I was slightly nervous to meet the friends I’d be living with for two months. It was a very unsettling feeling to know I’d be in a city, essentially alone, unless I made friends and made the most of my time and internship. Not only was I able to adapt to the cultural aspects of London, but I was able to explore beyond this city to different countries nearby. 

Through this experience of going abroad to intern at a fintech startup company, I have gained more knowledge about the world I live in. I have gained a sense of independence knowing I am able to live on my own and thrive in a completely new environment and country. I have also become more socially and culturally aware. I have learned how to research different cultures and be appropriate in conversations and professional situations. I have learned to adapt and keep an open mind in new situations that I was immersed in almost every single day. 

Being so far away from family, friends, and home it was difficult to adjust at times, but I have learned a lot about being independent and self-sufficient across the world.

Through having constant access to the CEO to bounce ideas off of and innovate new growth practices, I was able to see his critical thinking as the leader of Squirrel. By observing and interacting in this environment, I was able to see how to motivate people to do better.  Successfully delegating tasks, handling multiple personalities, applauding work, and criticizing practices in an approachable are examples of leadership skills I observed. Working under great leadership taught me skills I want to emulate as a leader.

The personal and professional experience I gained from this summer is priceless. I am extremely grateful to have earned this opportunity and am proud to bring my skills back to the University of Michigan.

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My visit to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships!

Enjoying some traditional British tea!

Enjoying some traditional British tea!

Exploring the sights in London.

Exploring the sights in London.

Sabrina – Novotech (Sydney, Australia)

Our class partnered with a non-profit organization and we volunteered at one of their pop-up shops for a day.

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to study and intern abroad in Sydney, Australia for almost 11 weeks through the Ross Global Initiatives program. With the help of the BLI Global Internship Award, I was able to experience one of the best summers, immersing myself into a new environment where I learned to adapt and broaden both my educational and global horizon.

During my time in Sydney, I had a two-week course at the University of Technology Sydney learning about Australia’s economy and exporting sector. Prior to this study abroad and internship program, I was nervous because the rest of the 40 U of M students who were going on this trip were all people I have never met before. However during this short course, I was challenged to reach out of my comfort zone to meet my new classmates and work together in many small group projects and assignments. Despite the difference in age gaps or majors, we were able to find a common ground in which we could all relate to and were able to pull from our individual strengths in order to produce the best outcome for the projects we were assigned to. In just a span of two weeks, I felt comfortable around my classmates and developed many new friendships.

After studying for two weeks, I began my internship at Novotech, working with the accounting and finance team. Because our company’s year-end audits are on the 30th of June, I came at the perfect time to help Novotech prepare the financial statements for the FY 2016 for its auditors- Grant Thorton. For Novotech, this time of year is the busiest because all the accounts on file must be cleared or closed so the finance team has many projects and assignments to complete. As a student who has only taken two basic accounting classes, I felt unprepared dealing with actual financial statements and accounts for the company. I was constantly assigned to projects before my other projects were even completed, but I learned to become organized with the work that was assigned to me, pace myself and find every opportunity to ask questions. Though I felt like a burden toward my managers and my team when I interrupted their work to ask them questions, I have learned to find more interest in the projects that I am working on when I understand the process and purpose behind the tasks that I do. On the other hand, my coworkers or managers who explain the projects or concepts are always so willing to spend the time, whether it takes them 30 minutes or 3 hours to fully explain the process. Although I have gained much exposure toward the accounting field from working on the projects, I have also developed personal relationships with my team, whether it is my boss, managers, or other coworkers. I have learned to appreciate the amount of time they invested into me regardless of their busy schedule or strict deadlines that they need to meet.

After living in Australia for almost 11 weeks, I have noticed a difference in the work life culture compared to the US. Even though my company is currently in a busy season, my coworkers learn to take everything one at a time and not get too overwhelmed by the hard deadlines. My boss understands not to overwork his employees and creates a decentralized working environment, making it more stress-free and easy for all employees to approach him. I really appreciate the friendly working environment that Australia encourages and that is something that I will want to look for in a company.

Overall, I absolutely loved my summer experience in Australia. I will always remember the examples my coworkers set for me- mentoring and guiding me throughout my time at Novotech. I will treasure the memories I have made throughout the trip as I continue my journey through college and into my future career. Thanks again to the generous donation, which provided me the privilege to study and intern abroad in Sydney, Australia, a summer that I will never forget.

Our class partnered with a non-profit organization and we volunteered at one of their pop-up shops for a day.

Our class partnered with a non-profit organization and we volunteered at one of their pop-up shops for a day.

A few of us went to the Vivid Lights Show and took a picture at the Opera House.

A few of us went to the Vivid Lights Show and took a picture at the Opera House.

Shalini – Community Development Research in Washington (Washington, D.C.)

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My first day as an intern at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. surprised me in the degree to which it fulfilled intern stereotypes: my ‘office’ was an emptied storage closet (cleared out just for me–should I feel honored?) with no windows, limited connectivity to wifi, and a quiet hum from the electrical unit located behind me. However, this seating arrangement did entice lots of people to come visit me and chat as they were curious as to what this new intern room was, so it wasn’t all that bad.

 

Despite my lonely intern room, the office was a very open, friendly environment where I could learn about relevant issues. I loved attending our team meetings where the economists and project managers talked about the team’s latest projects. I worked for the Consumer and Community Development Research Team, and our goal was to research financial issues concerning low and middle income communities and how economic policy affects communities as a whole. People researched mobile banking–does it benefit those who can’t reach a bank physically? How does the informal ‘gig’ economy work? We had seminars with experts on discriminatory lending, minority banking, and the landlord-tenant dynamic in inner-city Milwaukee.

 

What inspired me the most from these discussions was the accountability everyone showed to these communities we researched. The economists did not limit their work to looking at the numbers presented to them, making some charts, and calling it a day. They constantly asked each other, is our research question asking the right thing to get the information we need about these populations? How can we refocus our survey questions to come back to the populations we’re supposed to be focusing on? How can we work with and learn from other organizations that are asking similar questions?

 

Leaders hold each other accountable not only to themselves, but also to their followers. Working at the Fed exposed me to the level of leadership in the public sector–the work they do is for the public benefit, and I saw first-hand how passionate these people are at making sure they don’t lose this accountability. Working in D.C. reinforced my goals to work and study public policy, and I owe it to the wonderful team that taught, inspired, and pushed me to be my best professional self.

Melissa–Rural Women New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand)

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For two months this summer, I worked as a research intern at Rural Women New Zealand in Wellington, NZ. It would take a great amount of explaining for someone to fully understand the research project, but basically the goal was to discover what modern rural communities in New Zealand are (their composition, wellbeing, resilience, etc.) and where the gaps in the knowledge are.

Before I left for NZ, my boss and contract stated that I would work as a Special Research Project Manager. However, when I arrived in Wellington, it turned out that she had hired another employee to work on the project with me as the head report writer. This was a little disappointing, as I had imagined being able to utilize my leadership skills much more. However, I was still able to use my skills in various ways. I led our conversations with researchers and took charge in explaining our research status during meetings with our boss. I explained our project to a new employee and found a way for her to contribute. Whenever she had questions, she came to me and I was always able to help.

In one particular instance, my coworker became a bit overwhelmed and lost control for a moment. He cursed and threw some papers, but instead of allowing this to affect me, I told him words of encouragement and offered to complete the assignment that had overwhelmed him. This experience taught me that stress can sometimes get the best of us, but maintaining a positive attitude is always beneficial. It is important to raise the spirits of those around you and to help out in any way possible. In my case, I was able to help lessen his workload. It just so happens that this particular coworker is triple my age. While he certainly served as a mentor to me, I discovered that being older than someone does not necessarily mean they must lead you.

In general, my time at RWNZ has helped me realize how I can apply my leadership skills at any time and in small ways. People often think that being a leader is about leading a huge group of people, but that is not always the case. I was able to be a leader to just one person at times. This way of thinking has not only changed the way I think about leadership, but has helped me grow into a more effective leader, as I now know how to apply my leadership skills during times when I did not even think it was necessary.

I had the best two months of my entire life. I miss RWNZ and NZ more and more every day.

Heres a photo from my last day of work with my boss and coworkers.

Here’s a photo from my last day of work with my boss and coworkers. They all took me out for a drink!

 

Katey – ANKURI (Dehradun, India)

Me and a few of my summer camp students
Hi everyone! I’m Katey, a senior studying in LSA’s Program in the Environment and Urban Studies. Earlier this summer, I was very fortunate to spend two months outside of Dehradun, India, as a teaching intern at the non-governmental organization (NGO) ANKURI (Agency for Non Konventional Urban Rural Initiatives). Along with three other college students from the US, I taught English to students of all ages in a few different villages outside of Dehradun at their government schools, ANKURI’s Literacy Center, and at a three-week summer camp filled with crafts and games.

An afternoon at the Literacy Center

As the lead teacher for the second to fifth grade students, I learned how to think on my feet and lead our teaching team through transitional moments in an organized way. In all three teaching locations, we were often under-resourced and our enrollment numbers fluctuated frequently, so we had to adapt the lessons we’d planned depending on how many students and materials we had each day. Additionally, depending on how the teaching sessions progressed, we had to totally scrap our original lesson plans and go with an alternative set of activities and games. Therefore, I developed an arsenal of games, books, and activities that could be used at a moment’s notice and communicate to my American and Indian co-teachers the change of plans in a calm way. I became a more flexible leader and also came to enjoy the challenge and nature of working in an ever-changing environment. I believe I developed really important leadership skills through this experience because the only constant in any work environment is change – in future jobs and internships, I’ll feel more comfortable navigating a team through situations in which we have to alter our original plans. I also enjoyed adjusting our lessons based on which students were present and which resources were available on a given day because I felt like we were addressing the individual needs of the students more accurately, rather than rigidly sticking to the lessons we planned.
Summer camp project

A class project from summer camp

Additionally, with the Indian government school teachers and students I learned how to lead activities and create relationships using forms of communication outside of language. I don’t speak Hindi and the level of English comprehension varied greatly among those we met, so often, we communicated through song, dance, crafts, and movement instead of language. It was a beautiful experience to form close connections with others despite not being able to speak the same language. This alternative form of communication will also help my leadership abilities back on campus because, although I can communicate with most people in Ann Arbor using English, these other forms of communication are deeply personal and have helped me create closer emotional connections with others than I would have if I’d only been using language.
This internship has also allowed me to rethink leadership in terms of how leaders function in a team. Through this experience, each member of our team of American college students, Indian school teachers, and NGO workers had a different role. For example, I taught and developed lessons for the second through fifth grade students and coordinated the arts and crafts activities for summer camp. Other team members taught and choreographed the song and dance activities for summer camp, and another created lessons for the older group of students. We were all able to serve as leaders in different areas, at different times. In future teams and projects, I hope to continue this format of leadership because it made the group function in a more egalitarian manner and gave each of us a sense of pride and autonomy over our area of expertise, rather than having one or two people lead the entire group in a hierarchical structure.
My fellow American interns

My fellow American interns

On an organizational scale, this experience gave me new insights on NGO and non-profit leadership, which is a field that I’m interested in exploring after graduation. Our internship supervisor founded ANKURI, an NGO that aims to empower rural women through income generation, alleviate poverty, and promote health,
education and the full participation of women and children in Uttarakhand society (adapted from ankuri.org). Although initially I didn’t have a clear idea of the background and intentions of those operating ANKURI and was thus slightly skeptical of the organization, once I met Rachna – the founder and director of ANKURI – I felt more confident about the work ANKURI is doing in the area. Rachna is from a much higher social and economic class than most of the women and children ANKURI is intended to serve and she has funded most of the organization’s operations out of her own pocket; however, despite her many differences with those ANKURI serves, she lives among the community and has gained their trust and created close relationships with them over the years. Most importantly, Rachna wants the women and children to have autonomy over the decisions and functioning of the organization: rather than Rachna being the “face of ANKURI,” she wants to help establish a strong base for the operations of the organization and eventually transfer control of ANKURI to the village women. She has also established a local and international network of ANKURI supporters, utilizing a combination of different funding sources and resources to keep the organization functioning. As someone who wants to work with non-profits and grassroots organizations after college, learning about Rachna’s different approaches to funding, resourcing, operating an NGO, and the theory of change behind ANKURI will be valuable when thinking about the various ways organizations can function in the non-profit world.
I’m immensely grateful for the financial support of the Barger Leadership Institute and Kelly and Mary Jean Jecklin – without them, I wouldn’t have been able to have such an influential and memorable experience interning abroad. I thank Rachna and her family for being such wonderful hosts and mentors. Lastly, thank you to the women and children of ANKURI and all of our students and co-teachers for welcoming us into their community.

Nabiha – Dhaka, Mirpur, and Chittagong, Bangladesh

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I worked with OBAT Helpers, an NGO in Bangladesh, conducting ethnographic research on maternal care in Urdu-speaking minority camps in Bangladesh. I explored how women in these camps accessed and used maternal care and whether their status as minorities affected their access to care. I informally interviewed several pregnant women and mothers across the various camps located in the cities of Dhaka, Mirpur, and Chittagong. I observed the interactions between dais (traditional birth attendants), ayahs (nursemaids) and biomedical physicians with their patients. Also, I observed births in clinics and in homes. I will share the data I collected over the summer with OBAT Helpers in order to help them build a maternal care program.

My trip has completely altered how I look at the growing presence of biomedicine in developing nations and how that has affected maternal care access and use. The ubiquitous advertisements advising against the use of traditional birth attendants has majorly affected women in the camps. There is a stark difference in how women give birth within the last fifteen years in Bangladesh due to the growing emphasis that has been put on maternal care. This was evident in how women who had recently given birth talked about pregnancy and birth and how their mothers talked about it. However, the larger use of biomedical clinics brought its own set of problems and discrimination. Due to the poverty these women faced, it was difficult for them to find clinics they could afford and often had impending loans from deliveries. Prenatal appointments were few and far between and due to the unhealthy environment, there were often more complications in the birth which would entail a (expensive) cesarean section.

Sitting down with women, allowing them to relay their stories, struggles and joy was an awe-inspiring experience. It was something I truly enjoyed and felt fortunate to be given a chance to relay their stories. However, the reality of the world of research and nonprofits became quickly apparent to me. The conditions and struggles of the women were incredibly difficult to hear especially without actively being able to alleviate those struggles. It required me to keep my emotions in check so I would not startle the women or move the attention away from them. The workers of OBAT Helpers would often echo my feelings and made me realize that patience and compassion required to work in their fields. They helped me understand that even when everything seems bleak, you have to take it one step at a time. They taught me what true leadership meant. In the face of complex problems, leaders relied on their passion, optimism, and dedication to eventually reach their goals. This experience gave me even more respect for the workers of non-governmental organizations. I hope I can continue to work for the benefit of others and to take my lessons with me on my future endeavors.

Pauline – Cape Town, South Africa

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This summer I ventured to South Africa to indulge myself in this country’s healthcare system in order to learn as much as I could in a short 6 weeks. I first interned at the South African Christian Leadership Assembly, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on public health projects. More specifically, SACLA specializes in home-based care in Nyanga, a township on the outskirts of the city of Cape Town. Most of the home-based care patients suffer from chronic illnesses, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and TB being the most prevalent, so a large part of my internship was shadowing and assisting the nurses with checking patient’s vitals, such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Another large aspect of my internship with SACLA was preparing community integrated health workshops for the chronically ill and assisting the home-based care nurses with presenting them to the patient’s within the community. These workshops were focused solely on primary prevention for those who have yet to be diagnosed with a chronic disease, but also treatment and explaining healthy living for those who had already been diagnosed.

Unfortunately, my time at SACLA was short-lived because of a safety issue, so I was relocated to a health clinic in Retreat to continue my observations of South African health care and my education of their system. At my internship with Retreat Day Hospital I became a clinical observer and was able to interact with the doctors and nurses as well as have conversations with them about South Africa’s healthcare policies and get their personal opinions about their system. Through my internship with Retreat Day Hospital, I was able to observe nurses and doctors in multiple different departments, including ARV, Injections, Psychology, Trauma and Maternal Obstetric Unit. Rotating through these different departments widen my perspective of how the clinic functions when handling a variety of health circumstances.

After this experience, I really hope to take what I have learned about South African public health tendencies and healthcare policies and combine that with what I already know about these topics in America. In addition, I hope to assess the tendencies in both countries on a deeper level to gain a personal understanding of what flaws are within each system as well as the pros to be able to produce an ideal healthcare system for future communities all over the globe. Though I am obviously not a policy maker or do not yet hold the power to do this, I think it is valuable for me to keep this in mind when I eventually go into public health and nursing, which I plan to do after undergrad. Having both of these very different perspectives and experiences under my belt, I believe this will makesme a valuable employee within the health field. I feel as though I will be able to bring innovative public health ideas and practices from my experiences in both countries in order to better address global health disparities.

In addition, my time in South Africa allowed me to develop and grow personally to an extent I would have never imagined. South Africa allowed me to be my best and most exciting self; not only in terms of the activities and fun things I did, but also in terms of my internship experiences. Some of the activities I did abroad, like shark cage diving and walking with lions, were things I would have never in my wildest dreams foresaw me doing. In addition, things like seeing a man’s head wound get cleaned and sutured by a nurse or seeing a live childbirth were also not experiences I was anticipating on this trip. That being said, all these opportunities led me to being a much more open-minded and experienced person in the most amazing way. Thinking back to these experiences, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

After my summer in South Africa, I see the world much differently. I see the world as a place I wish to travel and explore, but also a place where I want to build mutual understanding with. I desire to travel but only in an appropriate way, which is with respect and an open mind in order to gain the most valuable perspectives.

Michael – Anchorage, Alaska

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This summer, with the support of the Barger Leadership Institute, I had the opportunity to intern for Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) in Anchorage, Alaska. ICC is a nonprofit that advocates for the Inuit, the native people who have inhabited the Arctic regions of Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland for untold generations. My internship was a tremendous learning experience that exposed me to a new culture, a spectacular land, and new ways of thinking about leadership and sustainability.

My internship was run through the Program in International and Comparative Studies Arctic Internships Program, which has an ongoing relationship with ICC. As a double major in economics and environmental studies, I was eager to learn from Inuit leaders, who need to think about the economic, cultural, and social well-being of their people, as well as the rich Arctic environment upon which every element of this well-being is fundamentally based. The Inuit are a hunting people who traditionally lived by hunting marine mammals, fish, and game. Many Inuit live in isolated villages with no road access to the outside world and lead subsistence lifestyles closely tied to the land. Therefore, environmental sustainability is a critical issue for Inuit leaders. At the same time, when gas and milk cost ten dollars a gallon in remote communities with few opportunities for employment and little infrastructure to create such opportunities, economic development is just as critical. I was interested to see how Inuit leaders from the community to the international level balanced environmental protection and economic development.

My main project during the internship was the creation of a first-draft proposal for an Inuit economic development summit in Alaska in 2017. The summit comes from the vision of ICC President Jimmy Stotts, with whom I was lucky enough to work closely throughout the internship. Jimmy is charismatic, wise, funny, and instantly commanding of respect. He is Inupiaq Inuit from Barrow, Alaska’s northernmost town, and has worked for Inuit corporations on circumpolar Inuit issues for over 40 years. Jimmy told me to give him and the ICC executive board a starting point to work from in the planning of the summit, which will be the first to bring together Inuit from across the Arctic to discuss common matters of economic policy in their communities and boardrooms. My final proposal included a list of invited organizations, an essay on three broad topics of discussion (Industry- Emerging Opportunities, Emerging Threats; Circumpolar Cooperation; and Community Infrastructure), and a review of potential funding sources. I loved this project because it let me think independently and get a broad base of knowledge through my own research on the Alaskan economy, economics in isolated Northern communities, and subsistence practices.

The summit proposal project also gave me the chance to go along with Jimmy to meet high-level leaders at several Inuit corporations based in Anchorage. For example, I once found myself in a room with Jimmy, himself one of the world’s most influential Inuit leaders, and Wayne Westlake, the CEO and President of NANA Corporation, which represents Inuit in an area the size of Oregon and has over one billion dollars in annual revenue. I was very fortunate to get this chance as an undergraduate intern. The meetings exposed me to perspectives I could not have heard elsewhere, such as Bering Straits Corporation CEO Gail Schubert’s assertion that in the event of an offshore Arctic drilling spill that gets into the narrow strait, the villages in her area are “done” culturally and economically. My proposal was presented at the ICC executive council meeting, attended by Inuit leaders from Russia, Canada, and Greenland as well as Alaska, that I was able attend at the end of August, in Bethel, a tundra town with no road access. That was quite a surreal experience to wrap up my time in the North.

My internship taught me a great deal about leadership. I learned directly from my coworkers, including Jimmy Stotts. He taught me how to bring my ideas forward without seeming pushy by involving others and sharing credit for successes, and that “you never get what you deserve, only what you negotiate,” among countless other lessons. In meetings at Inuit corporations, I learned of the importance of working with other organizations, even those who might seem to be enemies, such as the Arctic Slope Corporation’s involvement with oil development companies. Finally, I learned from many leaders of nonprofits that leadership can mean a career of endless work against better-funded, more politically connected opponents, with little tangible gain, but still be extremely rewarding and important to society.

My Alaskan experience outside of the internship was just as valuable to my development. Alaska is often forgotten in the lower 48 states, and when discussed it is often thought of as the end of the road, a repository for loners who want to escape society. On the contrary, I found that Alaskans are unbelievably welcoming people with a strong sense of community. In a practice that probably comes from Inuit culture, Alaskans love to share food. I regularly found myself savoring freshly caught wild salmon or succulent raspberries brought over by a neighbor. I was constantly amazed by this generosity, but everyone was confused by my effusive gratitude. For Alaskans, it’s just a normal part of life to catch thirty salmon on a Saturday, eating a couple that night, throwing some in the freezer, and distributing the rest to friends, relatives, neighbors, and even strangers; I was once handed a barbecued salmon fillet while strolling through a downtown park. In addition to their generosity, I was impressed by the adventurous nature of Alaskans, who all seem to have a story about the time they narrowly escaped an encounter with an angry moose while backcountry climbing, or the time they moved to Hawaii to surf but missed Alaska too much to stay long.

Another central element of my time in Alaska was the land. At first I wasn’t sure why so many Inuit continue to live in tiny, isolated villages on the tundra, where winters bring months without the sun. Although as an outsider I’ll never be able to fully understand the Inuit connection to their lands, I began why they have such respect for the Alaskan environment. It is truly indescribable; words like vast, spectacular, unique, and pristine convey some of the qualities of the land but do not do it justice. While hiking massive scree ridges in Denali, swimming in impossibly blue glacial lakes in the Chugach mountains near Anchorage, and watching the salmon run in their millions up ice-colored rivers on the Kenai Peninsula, I perhaps saw the world as it was long before my birth: not untouched by humans, but used lightly enough to absorb the impact and retain its full majesty. I count myself extremely lucky to have experienced this true nature, which few people ever get the chance to see and feel.

Reflecting on my time in Alaska, I can only say that I was given much. I tried to take advantage of every second I was there, and I gained a great deal of personal development from the experience. I cannot recommend working in Alaska, and with ICC, enough, and I hope that the relationship between Michigan and ICC can continue forever. In a university where many students want to work and study abroad, too many forget that our own country has areas which are truly different, culturally and physically. To those who gave me this opportunity, I say, in Inupiaq, Yup’ik, and English: Quyanaqpak! Quyana! Thank you very much!

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