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.

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.

Miki – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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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.