“I Engaged the World…Literally!”

A small grant from the BLI and a FABULOUS access opportunity allowed me to go on a chance of lifetime-six weeks in England, talking about the “beautiful game” of football ~ British English for American soccer.

Something that many people do not think about is the process to study or intern abroad. For this international internship in Manchester, England with the National Football Museum (thank you, London Access Opportunity!) I had to apply for a visa. This was something I had never done before but was reminded time and time again that even if I booked my plane tickets, I could not get on that plane until I had that visa stamped in my passport booked. That process? Rather lengthy for sure, but I was so concerned that I could not get it in time. And who knows if the Embassy was even going to give me the OK!? I would hate to be that person who is the bearer of bad news and tell my supervisor in England that I could not come over because my visa did not process in time.

However, after some waiting and receiving my passport in the mail, I saw that beautiful visa and knew that it was time to pack my bags to get ready for a trip I will never forget.

I really have to thank BLI and the LSA Opportunity Hub for this amazing opportunity, because I would have never imagined that I would go abroad, not once, but TWICE in a year and the year is not even over yet!

Who knows where I’ll be next…

By Jessica Selzer

Vinita – Virya Mobility 5.0 (Bangalore, India)

The Start-Up Environment

Interning at a start-up has been a completely new experience for me. The work culture is very much how one would expect a start-up to be – quiet, small and scenic. In fact, my first day was also the first day of the first employees they hired, and it was the first day of the new office. It has been a busy first two weeks. The work pressure is high; it’s all-hands-on-deck where everyone is helping out with each other’s roles. Everyone works 6 days a week, and most people stay back till quite late in the evening. It leaves me with little time after work, but I’m hoping this will improve in the coming weeks as everyone gets settled in.

Bangalore in synonymously known as the City of Gardens, of which the location of my office is a living example. Replacing two walls are two large window panes showcasing the famous palm trees, sunny skies and colorful flowers Bangalore is famous for. The greenery provides a calming effect, allowing creativity to flow and brighten the atmosphere. I personally really enjoy the casual atmosphere – be it the dressing attires, the friendliness or our daily debates on which restaurant to order from. Plus, everyday there is some new addition to the office, from the coffee machine to paintings and plants. It’s interesting to witness the company and office being constructed piece by piece.

While there is still an element of hierarchy within the company, I have really bonded well with some of the new employees. We’ve even planned to go to an escape room this week, and soon go on a scuba diving trip nearby! I’m excited to build friendships alongside learn from my co-workers.

Mid-Point Reflection

It has been three and a half weeks into my internship, and it’s been a steep learning curve. I had hoped to get exposure to the fields I would be working in after graduation. With interests in Business/Economics and Computer Science, I wanted tasks that covered all these 3 subject areas so that the experience would solidify my decision to pursue these areas, through a more informed decision on where it would lead my future. As I progress through the internship, I think this goal still accurately describes my experience.

Goat 1The tasks I have been given are very interesting and varied, giving me exposure on different avenues of business. I have been involved in things from market research, to consumer in-sighting and developing job descriptions. Currently I am working on developing financial models to provide a recommendation whether they should full own or franchise the product, and this is something I am particularly enjoying. I have never been exposed to financial data and to dive into modelling has been a fun, steep learning curve. The experience is creating a growing interest in finance that I want to further explore academically. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.

My co-workers all have an engineering background, which does make me stand apart – I do not have an engineering background. Occasionally while it does create a drift that I do not necessarily understand their discussions, I am slowly overcoming my hesitancy to ask questions and clarifications. I am increasingly being more questioning, and I have learned exponentially on the physics behind systems and how that can be applied to daily life. Our differences turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

I would be able to explore the Indian work culture and gain a better understanding on how leadership skills can be transferred between different types of projects. This would allow me to both develop my skills and also gain a deeper understanding on how to employ leadership skills effectively in a global context. In an organization that will scale up alongside the emerging economy, I look forward to learning how leaders adapt to an evolving economic climate, in order to have the most impact and be successful. Especially in the technology hub of the country, this experience will provide valuable and a unique insight into the electric vehicle market in a developing country.

The month has been a phenomenal learning experience, where I have grown in both knowledge and also as an individual and my leadership skills. I’m excited to see what the next month have in store for me!

Overcoming Obstacles

One of the most valuable experiences I have had in the internship was conducting financial modelling. The final goal was to provide my recommendation on whether the company should own or franchise their large-scale product. While it was my most favorite task, it has simultaneously been my hardest task.

What made this such a phenomenal experience is the fact that prior to this internship, I have never been exposed to financial data nor any form of financial modelling. When given my task and goal, it initially felt quite overwhelming and a monumental challenge to carry out. Where do I even begin to build a financial model?  What does it comprise of? What do I even model to derive results and an eventual recommendation? It seemed that I had more questions than answers. And yet, after a week, I managed to achieve a conclusionBangalore

As I began to attempt this large task, I initially strived to study financial models previously
developed by the firm and understand them thoroughly. Asking more questions from the models, I employed online resources and started to self-teach the basics of financial modelling. Before I knew, I was progressing through my modelling, learning exponentially about how to build them – but more importantly, how they were relevant and would help reach and prove my recommendation.

Although learning through YouTube and Google has left gaps in my understanding, I’m excited to explore this new-found interest. As I take a class on these very concepts next semester, I look forward to being able to apply my modelling experiences to class and develop a thorough understanding of the field. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.

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


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.


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.


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.


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)

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.

Wimbledon Tennis Championships

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.

Nabiha – Dhaka, Mirpur, and Chittagong, Bangladesh

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

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

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!

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.