It’s great to be back at Brandeis and in school-mode (although I had forgotten how busy and exhausting the first few weeks of school are), but I’m sad to be done with my summer internship with Company One Theatre— even if the last few weeks consisted of a lot more office work than it had been earlier in the summer (although I’m actually really proud to have finished a massive headshot reorganization project in which I re-categorized about 20 giant binders of head shots and resumes we keep to have records of every actor that has auditioned for us. I wish I had taken a picture I was so proud of it). 

My second to last week I got to sit in on a staff meeting, which was a great experience. Every member of Company One gets together once a week to connect, discuss different projects, etc.. We talked about what was going on in each department, discussed a potential play for the upcoming season and the pros and cons of it, talked about other theaters and their seasons, the benefits of joining certain organizations, etc.. It was very cool getting to see how a small non-profit theater organizes and runs things, and it was especially awesome to see how invested each member of Company One is in engaging the community and adhering to the core values of the company (making theater more accessible and producing theater that is diverse). It was also one member’s last week, so we celebrated her time with the company with cake, etc.. 

Overall, I had a great time this summer at Company One and learned a lot. I learned a lot about contemporary playwrights that I didn’t know about before, I learned what dramaturgy is (I think), I learned the ins and outs of a professional fringe theater in Boston, I even learned about Boston and its’ history.

Flashback to the LMDA conference

Flashback to the LMDA conference

I gained a sense of the incredible amount of work that goes into creating and producing thought-provoking theater— and with that I also came away more frustrated than I usually am at the lack of funding that goes into arts. These people who create this wonderful form of art are under-appreciated and underfunded in our society. It’s really something to see people working so hard to create art, to change the world, and to also see how hard it is to get funded, to get paid, in the theater world. And meanwhile public school are still cutting funds for music, theater, the fine arts, and all these art forms that are near and dear to so many peoples’ hearts. 

But I also came away inspired to know that there are people out there working this hard to produce diverse, inclusive, and provocative theater that talks about topics we don’t generally talk about in our day-to-day lives. I cannot wait to continue to explore all the different types of theater the world has to offer, and all the different ways theater can be created. Many thanks to Company One and the Brandeis WOW fellowship grant for giving me this awesome opportunity (and go check out their upcoming season!). 

Astro Boy and the God of Comics

Astro Boy and the God of Comics

Alison Thvedt ’15

My lovely work space

 

For my time at World Vision, I had hoped to gain experience in helping facilitate organizational communication. My learning in this case was achieved mostly through observing my supervisor who deals with day to day employee needs; from handling internal relationships to communication between the various offices in different Brazilian cities. Furthermore, because I am passionate about cross-cultural dialogue and interaction in this increasingly globalized world, which requires us to understand other cultures in order to operate successfully, during my time at World Vision I wanted to explore aspects of what I learned in regards to global understanding in Organizational Behavior(OB), which is an area of business that deeply intrigues me. This summer my goal was achieved because as an intern at World Vision Brazil, I was able to gain an understanding of a new country alongside learning very specific cultural norms which translate to the work place environment.

Having the opportunity to work in an organization that focuses on international development and the alleviation of poverty, especially the experience of going to an ADP (Area Development Program), where I had the opportunity to meet with the children that the organization supports afforded me great insight. I learned important lessons, such as, the fact that it is crucial and beneficial to have a clear understanding of an organization’s core mission when you work there. Though I was an intern for the human resources department, going to visit a community development project was a source of motivation. My work experience changed after being at the project because  I saw that what connects all the employees is a passion for people and changing lives for the better. And as I seek to become a more effective communicator within organizations, such insight will be of use in my future. Also, through the internship experience my Portuguese language skills were significantly improved.

In my WOW application I mentioned how at an early age I became passionate in advocating for a break down in communicative barriers among people of different backgrounds. I then attended a United World College which provided training in facilitating multicultural dialogue as a force for peace in the world. These experiences enable me to easily integrate into new environments and engage with people from varying backgrounds; being an intern allowed me to test and improve these skills at a different stage in my life where I am older. Additionally, instead of using my interpersonal skills in an academic setting, I got to practice them in a professional environment.

After this experience, I would like experience in the for-profit sector to get a sense of the environment in order to compare and contrast my experiences. I would also like to get experience in more of the field work in international development. In order to learn how to be strategic and create proposals for plans to alleviate poverty sustainably, it is important to understand the field work.

Students interested in an internship at World Vision should know that there are many opportunities for volunteers available, especially for individuals such as Brandeis University students who believe in social justice. Also, it is an organization with operations in 100 different countries, meaning there are opportunities in many areas of the world. Importantly, what I learned spending time in a non-profit organization is that passion for world change is at the core of all operations. To make an impact you have to deeply care about what it is the organization is trying to achieve. It is also an industry that needs forward thinking people to innovate and create new strategies

Just to reiterate what I have mentioned before. By seeing the systems in place with the sponsorship program that World Vision runs, I have been reminded that anyone can be a positive change maker in this world. My primary philosophy when it comes to development is that I believe in sustainable poverty alleviation. I feel that everyone has the right to reach their full potential on this earth and that the inequality that exists in this world is something which can and should be fixed. Working at World Vision has reinforced this conviction and allowed me to realize the many ways in which I can be an agent of change every day and in the larger scheme of things. Social justice boils down to one concept in my opinion: “Love” as a verb, love for yourself which you can then translate into the world; when we love those we are helping we do not act out of selfish ambition but rather by the passion for what we know the world can be, only then does true change take place even when things are not easy. Lastly, as an intern, I have been challenged to think outside of the box in the development field. I now understand that there is no ‘formula’ to changing a community, each place has its own specific needs, and so does each organization.

A cycling event held in Recife Brazil.

A cycling event campaigning against “Trabalho infantil” meaning Child Labour. held by World Vision in Recife Brazil, July 2014.

 

At the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my internship at Boston Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t 100% set on whether a career in the medical profession was what I wanted to pursue or whether this opportunity was going to teach me things beyond what Brandeis had already given me. Upon entering Children’s on my first day back in early June, all doubts I’d had vanished as I was immediately submerged into the hustle and bustle of a hospital work environment. There was never a dull moment over the summer, but rather a constant stream of interesting work to be done and knowledge to be gained.

From my work on the Female Athlete Triad screening survey to analyzing data in the retrospective chart review, working at Boston Children’s Hospital enabled me to fulfill all my anticipated goals. Although most of my work was centered primarily around research, I was still able to participate in patient care and even serve as a test dummy for a few clinical tasks that needed to be done. Being able to experience multiple facets of the medical career not only helped me visualize my future goals and dreams but provided me with a deepened view of how research can be conducted. Although my main supervisor was a doctor, I made connections with nurses, physician assistants and research coordinators, all of whom aided in my success over the summer. Working with all these different types of people allowed me to get many different prospectives on how the medical system works and how it requires a great deal of coordination and balance between each sector for things to run smoothly. All the tasks I had to complete this summer broadened the knowledge I’d gained from Brandeis as I finally got to put theory into practice.

I believe that my experiences at Boston Children’s Hospital will directly translate into furthering my Brandeis education. I now have a grasp on research in a clinical setting and can begin to explore my own ideas for research in the future. At the midpoint this summer I had begun working on my own project to get the Female Athlete Triad into the forefront of Brandeis Athletics and have since been in contact with the athletic director to get the gears in motion. Using Brandeis as a launch site, I hope to be able to expand awareness of the Triad into other colleges and athletic programs in the area.

My biggest advice to a future Boston Children’s intern is to never be afraid to ask questions and always have a notebook available to jot down notes. When I first began my internship, I was always nervous to ask questions but I slowly became more comfortable with my supervisors and the questions began to naturally flow. Having a notebook was also a large component to my success as I would typically review what I had learned that day every night just to make sure there wasn’t anything I needed to get clarified.

I absolutely loved every minute of working at Boston Children’s Hospital. The staff I worked with and the patients I got to meet made a huge impact on me and my future aspirations. I hope to continue with the connections I made and thank Brandeis and Hiatt for the amazing opportunity I was given.

-Ally Parziale

Having reached the halfway point of my internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, I have successfully completed the patient survey and have begun to work on implementing it into a clinical setting. Through the use of this survey, patients will be prescreened for Female Athlete Triad, enabling doctors to provide better care to their patients. Having completed the survey, I have progressed into seeking IRB approval for a retrospective chart review study on female dancers to see how Female Athlete Triad affects their health. In gaining approval, I have had to use a great deal of my Brandeis knowledge, as being able to write scientifically plays a vital role in the process. Although my scientific background has provided me a firm basis for a lot of the work I’ve done at Children’s, my internship has taught me so much to this point. I have become much more comfortable interacting with professional medical staff through asking lots of questions and by taking their feedback on the projects I work on. I also have learned a great deal about doctor-patient interaction and how to best serve individuals in a professional manner. Many of the experiences I have had at Children’s are unlike anything I would be able to have on my own, so each day is a learning opportunity. I’m proud of my ability to use the knowledge I’ve gained at Brandeis in a real-world hospital setting. Compared to the other interns who work with me, it’s clear that Brandeis has given me a step up in many aspects including the efficiency and quality of my work as well as my ability to work in a professional setting.

My internship at Boston Children’s Hospital has thus far solidified my interests in pursing a career in the medical field that encompasses both patient interaction and research. Through working with my supervisor I’ve begun to develop my own ideas on research that I could pursue on my own after my internship at Children’s is over. I’ve also started a discussion with my supervisor on trying to implement a Female Athlete Triad program within the Brandeis Athletic Program to educate athletes on the issue and hopefully aid in prevention.

Upon completing my time at AVODAH I began to think about what made me come to this organization in the first place, and beyond that, if I got out of this experience all that I had hoped for. AVODAH is an organization which upholds ideals which are important to me. My father worked in international human rights and refugee law, and my grandparents dedicated their lives to immigrant aid and preventing poverty amongst Jewish immigrants to Canada. Consequently, I grew up imbued with ideas of social justice, helping others, and understanding that my world is affected by all those in it. There was huge emphasis on the importance of ensuring social welfare and justice. That’s why I applied to work at AVODAH. I, as a product of my environment, felt a responsibility for others and valued my Jewish experience: AVODAH looked like the perfect blend of both.

I had two main goals coming into AVODAH: to experience social justice, and to learn about not for profit work. I’d be hard pressed to say that the day-to-day administrative work at a not for profit is exhilarating, but there were constantly valuable learning opportunities. All organisations have different departments that interact with one another, but at AVODAH most of these departments were staffed by one individual. Being present at staff wide meetings, and participating in conversations about strategy and how to proceed was fascinating. Every individual brought to the discussion not only their department’s goals, but their perspectives as unique individuals trying to accomplish those goals. It taught me that differently minded individuals create productive environments.

Aside from the work I did for AVODAH in the office, I was also able to experience firsthand some projects that the organisation undertook. One of my supervisors began to teach at a two week program called JUSTCity which was a project of List College (the joint program between the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Columbia University). Through this program eighteen high school students came together to discuss issues of social justice and inequality in New York City through a Jewish lens. It was first quite empowering to learn about Jewish attitudes to communal service, and the responsibility to contribute to the pursuit of justice. A particularly amazing experience I had in this program was hearing the thoughts and questions asked by the young high school students who participated in this program. I have been conditioned to this larger conversation in my personal upbringing and my time at Brandeis. Hearing this conversation through a different lens was enlightening and refreshing.

As I return to Brandeis I bring with me these conversations, these questions, and most importantly the lack of answers. I think that something that most people hope to get out of a summer internship is a potential career path, or some enlightened view on your life’s goal. I don’t think that’s what I got out of my time at AVODAH, I’m actually unsure if Jewish not for profit work is really for me. I did however garner a profound respect for the work that has to be done. I hope that I can translate that respect into this coming year at Brandeis by observing the world through not a new lenses, but various lenses.

At Brandeis I often hear the question “What does Social Justice really even mean?” asked a lot. Many friends of mine are often frustrated with the answers given or even the lack of any answer at all. I’ve realised that answering this question is not necessary. What’s most important is that we keep asking the question. As long as it’s being asked, we will strive to answer it, and as long as we strive to answer it, we will pursue social justice.

I am a little over halfway through my internship at the Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights and I am amazed at how much I am learning! I went into this internship hoping to primarily advance my research skills, and the Consortium has definitely provided an opportunity to do just that. I have been assigned to the Masculinities and Armed Conflict annotated bibliography . I have been locating recent articles on hegemonic and alternative masculinities, on peacekeeping operations and sexual exploitation, and the role of masculinity in military trainings. We also spent a day learning about research techniques, including Boolean Operations, and other ways of better utilizing resources such as JStor and Academic Search Premier. The Consortium also recently brought in a speaker to discuss his work on masculinity in armed conflict with the interns, and I was able to connect with him afterwards to discuss resources on this topic. I am grateful that the Consortium puts us in contact with such interesting speakers and valuable organizations!


I find that research is not the only skill I have been developing here, as I have learned a ton about organization and team leadership. I have been placed as team manager on the Syllabus Collection project, which gives me the opportunity to research academic programs regarding gender, politics, armed conflict, and international relations, and practice writing professional correspondence. The best part about it, however, is that I am getting leadership experience in managing a team, which is something I find I enjoy much more than I thought I would!

The work I am most proud of, however, is the work I have done on the Country Profile and Thematic Reports for the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security. The NGO WG draws on these profiles and reports that we draft to write their Monthly Action Plan (MAP) Reports, used to bring issues of women, peace and security to the United Nations Security Council. I have been researching the ways the mandates and resolutions of the UN Security Council adequately (or, often, not) address issues of women, gender, gender equality, women’s political participation in the peace negotiation process, etc. I was assigned to draft reports for South Sudan, Syria, and Israel/Palestine, which gave me a chance to read up on what is currently happening in these areas with histories of brutal and deadly conflicts. The works I am reading are both informative and disheartening, but I am glad that this internship is a motivator for keeping up-to-date on international news and events.

Looking forward to this upcoming week: our associate director will be leading us in a yoga class on the green by the bay outside of the office!

whoopie

We had a lot of fun throughout the summer, especially when trying to finish a giant Whoopie Pie (see above via Instagram).

As the hours ticked by on my last day of work at ISlide, I noticed several things running through my mind. The first was relief. I knew that after this day I would be able to go home and see my family and that 45-hour work weeks were a thing of the past (for now at least). The second, however, was sadness. Throughout my time as a summer intern for ISlide, I grew extremely close with my coworkers, my boss, and the company itself, and the day had come where I would be leaving it. I had fallen in love with everything the company stood for, the product, and how we went about our business day in and day out. I started to realize how much I would miss that hot, old, amazing mill. But my time had come to move on and to allow another batch of young, intelligent, hard-working interns to come in and give it everything they had.

slides

Here is a picture of the slides I had made for a CrossFit Gym in Dallas (via Instagram).

During the months that I worked at ISlide, I had tasks and activities that helped me move towards my learning goals everyday. My main job was in sales. I worked day in and day out trying to add accounts for the company and manage the ones that I was able to sign. This task allowed me to build communication skills, confidence on the phone and in emails, and bolstered my Microsoft Office abilities. On top of that, we all worked very closely with Justin (ISlide’s CEO) in meetings where the topics included real world sales and operations reports, cash flow sheets, and investor decks that were used to pitch the company to outside venture capitalists and angel investors. These activities gave me background on all the things I had learned in the classroom and showed me how they are relevant in the business world. My tasks and activities at ISlide boosted my real-world business experience, taught me new skills and techniques, and showed me what it truly takes to run a successful start-up company.

From this point forward I will be looking to build off of my experience at ISlide. When it comes to my time in the classroom at Brandeis, I will use the experience I have gained and the new facets of business that I have learned to put the material into context as to how it could be important in future jobs. I think that this will allow me to focus more because what I am learning will have more meaning. I will also take my experience beyond to levels that reach outside of the classroom. Without a doubt in my mind, I will put to use the skills I learned at ISlide in my future internships, jobs, applications, and in life in general. I want to learn so much more and what I learned this summer will serve as excellent background knowledge for all of my future endeavors. I would love to explore more and more facets of business. I have experienced the start up world and the positions as a sales rep and I loved it. However, I would also like to look into advertising, marketing, and finance. These three things are experiences that I would like to take on in the future so that my knowledge can become as well-rounded as possible.

If I were to advise a future intern at ISlide or one in the sales/business field in general, I would tell them one thing: work hard. Work harder than you think you should. Don’t go into this internship thinking you have good work ethic; look to improve it. When I arrived at ISlide, I thought that I had top-notch work ethic, but then I watched Justin day in and day out. He is so diligent and so passionate and is willing to put in the hours for his company, for his child, so to speak. This rubbed off on me and before I knew it the nine hour days were flying by, I was working on emails when I got home from work, and I was thinking about ISlide all the time. The fact that I pushed myself to new limits when it came to my work ethic allowed me to experience success, and there is no better feeling than when the grind pays off. Here is a link to the website of an MMA apparel brand that I signed. I advise to work your tail off because in the end, it will make it exponentially more rewarding and you will be proud of the body of work you put together.

I loved my time at ISlide and wouldn’t change it for anything. It was an amazing summer, I learned more than I could have ever expected to, and it was a ride that I will never forget. Here is the “Meet the Interns” video that one of my fellow interns made about our summer with ISlide.

-Max Hart

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My internship has come to a close! Unlike in my other posts, I feel at a loss for words. This experience at Lava Bear was everything I had hoped it would be. In my exit interview, I pretty much delivered heaps upon heaps of effusive praise. Lava Bear is a great company – it was sheer serendipity that this place was perfect for me. The last few days have been rough, acclimating to the responsibilities of “real life” and accepting that my time in Los Angeles has come to a close (or at least a hiatus).

The viewof Lava Bear through the garage

The view of Lava Bear through the garage

Spending these last few days reflecting, I feel that I accomplished my many goals. I now know that I could happily live in LA. I now know that I could work in development. I now know that I could read scripts for a living. This summer was not necessarily revelatory (it was too lifelike for that) but it was an incredibly important step in my career. I now know that I want to learn more about film budgeting and the Massachusetts Film Commission (potential future internship site?). I have developed a deeper love of screenwriting that I cannot really expound upon; again, my confidentiality agreement heeds, but I must say that one of the highlights of my summer was sorting through tens of fascinating and individualistic scripts that I cannot tell you about.

I was just discussing with a friend whether I thought reading such a dense volume of scripts improved my writing. While I don’t think it stoked my creative side, I feel my analytical work will be much stronger now. My wit is definitely more acerbic, that’s for sure! I will definitely be able to apply these skills during my final year at Brandeis. On the way out, one of the higher-ups told me I should start a blog. What a thought! I discussed with my coworkers the possibility of moving out here; all of them seemed willing (even eager) to help me locate a job. Writing thank-you notes was easy. I feel blessed and happy that I was able to make this dream a reality (with the help of others). Moreover, I made contact with a bevy of independent artists in the community. The friends I have made in California have been wonderful. I feel satisfied with the networking I did, and furthermore, I believe I developed my skills in networking.

I walked past this street art every day on the day to work

I walked past this street art every day on the day to work

My thoughts on film have shifted, particularly my thoughts on screenwriting. I feel pretty confident that I could work various vocations, from a suit to a creative. Now I have this year to make some decisions about the niche I want to occupy. Thanks to the WOW, I feel certain that I could compete in this landscape. I encourage anyone looking to work in film to simply start networking immediately. Networking is vital and you cannot make film without the assistance of others. That is what I love about film art, that it requires collaboration. I took particular joy in showing the work of Brandeis Television, a club I’m on the E-board of, to my employers and artistic friends. This is also not a shill, but I strongly recommend taking advantage of the resources the Hiatt Career Center has to offer. I used Hiatt offices to conduct my multiple phone interviews, have my resume checked, and the advice of my Hiatt liaison has been vital throughout the process. Keep working, keep pushing, because really, what else is there to life besides kindness and art-making?

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog posts, my intermittent Carrie-moments. Bonne chance, Brandesians and future WOW’ers!

-Alex Weick, Brandeis 2015

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At the tallest point on Bioko Island- El Pico.

At the tallest point on Bioko Island- El Pico.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since my internship ended. I’ve been putting off writing this last blog for a while now due to a busy schedule and ongoing self-reflection.  Before my internship, I had a set of learning goals that I wished to, and did, accomplish: I spoke Spanish on a daily basis and continued to challenge myself throughout each day of my summer.  I learned the basics behind a data-collecting program and worked with various medical professionals in the clinical trial setting.  However, I also accomplished many tasks that I didn’t set goals for: I learned the difference between three species of mosquitoes and the difference between a male and female mosquito.  I learned what a good Standard Operating Procedure looks like. I also grew more comfortable expressing my ideas to my colleagues.

In the last few weeks I’ve been asked countless times what I did over the summer.  Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my summer experience I now know how great of an opportunity this was for me.  I am determined to pursue a career in the public health area and have looked at classes at Brandeis I can apply my new knowledge to.  I also recently met another CA that is a part of a Nothing but Nets chapter on campus that I hope to join this year.  I’m very excited to keep in touch with my summer colleagues and to learn about the progress that is happening in Malabo.  I know now that even the little things that I did were a part of a great cause.  It’s very motivating to think that I was a part of a clinical trial for a potential malaria vaccine.

My advice for other interns is to be flexible! There were multiple times during my internship that I felt like my expectations of myself and my internship were not being met.  It is during these times that you will learn something new about yourself and about “the working life.” MCDI was a great organization to work with and I encourage all interested people to apply to be an intern at one of their various sites.  Working in a country that you are not accustomed to and in a field where the territory is new (like implementing a vaccine trial) can be frustrating at times.  However, it is important to always carry a positive attitude and an open mind.  I met some amazing and inspiring people during my internship that will continue to motivate me throughout my career.

In Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, MCDI concentrates on preventing malaria transmission through indoor spraying, bed net distribution and education as well as implementing a malaria vaccine trial with the PfSPZ vaccine created by Sanaria.  During my internship, I had a chance to accompany the spray team to one of the remote villages that they visit.  It was then that I learned that malaria, although a huge issue, was not as important to the community members of this village as it was to MCDI. Many members complained of their lack of clean water, electricity and stable houses and protested MCDI’s attempt to spray the houses because they lacked more essential items.  It is difficult to pursue social justice in one area when there are other areas that need help too.  It is important that we as individuals work together to provide social justice in all areas.  All aspects of social justice are as equally as important as others.  I know that I won’t be able to help everyone in the world, but I am determined to help in whatever area I specialize in and strive to understand and listen to those that I work with and for.  Before I started writing this blog I felt as if it would be the end of my internship experience; however I am now more excited than ever to see where this experience will take me next.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get here.

Last staff photo!

Last staff photo!

– Jesse Knowles

The summer is all but done, I’m back in the US, and the temperature is already dropping here at Brandeis. Considering that the heat in Dakar is only just hitting its stride, I’m pretty happy that the northeast is cooling off sooner than usual. It’s a little strange to be speaking English almost exclusively and I’ll miss the homemade Senegalese dishes that I’d gotten used to, but it’s also been nice to see my family and be surrounded by green trees again. There’s nothing wrong with the Sahel,  but greenery is nice after 6 months of sand, sandy wind, and the occasional baobab tree thrown into the mix.

My learning goals were definitely skills that I improved during the summer. In the wake of the Ebola spread happening in West and North Africa, sanitation and disease have been keywords popping up in more conversations than I can count. One of my goals was to link my classroom knowledge of West Africa and its history to a more in-depth, on the ground perspective. One of my main tasks at GRAG during my last month was to complete a preliminary evaluation of a sanitation project done by UNICEF and a few other big-name international NGOs. I learned a lot about some of the smaller issues that affect the success of sanitation programs in the region in complex ways. For example, hand washing isn’t necessarily something taught in a lot of rural schools or focused on in households. And without a culture of focusing on small sanitation acts like that, any large companies coming in to spread messages about them can seem like just more of the same Western aid programs that might mean well but don’t end up benefiting the population in any meaningful way. The key to successfully impacting communities like the ones targeted by the UNICEF program isn’t anything difficult or impossible, it just requires careful listening to those populations. Community involvement does much more in the long-run than programs that only involve the population in secondary roles.

This example is relevant for my career goal, too. I had wanted to gain more experience with crafting NGO publications and reports and community involvement is important for that as well. Some of my translation work required translation of publications from English to French, which is one of the languages spoken in the area. But there are several other languages spoken by people in the area who don’t have access to the French education system. Sometimes another GRAG member fluent in those languages would have to take my translations and translate them again into local languages. And community engagement was important for the questionnaires to be used for research projects — we would occasionally have to bring in a consultant to handle parts of the project regarding a specific region or ethnic group and their traditions. This was in addition to hiring research teams from the targeted populations to be overseen by a supervisor from GRAG. All of this served to engage the communities better and achieve more of a grassroots, long-lasting impact.

My personal goal, learning more coping mechanisms for this line of work, generally went well. I’d become attached to some of the projects that I helped with or evaluated, so any failures I heard about could hit hard. But you learn how to deal with these kinds of emotional twists while working on so many things at once. It’s important that I remind myself that everyone will be trying harder on the next project and all I can really do is continue to perfect my section of it all. The team atmosphere at GRAG helped me to realize this philosophy and I think I can go forward knowing that those kinds of workplace bonds can be helpful in any kind of emotional situation.

My experience has given me a lot more confidence in my ability to work in an industry that I’m interested in. From here on I’m hoping to jump into even more experiences in line with research and NGO work and possibly including travel. I’ve looked into internships in the Brandeis area that do public health research or deal with sustainable tourism.

I would advise anyone wanting to work at GRAG to make sure to look for opportunities outside of the given tasks. After about a month and a half the pace got pretty erratic. There would be some weeks with pages and pages of proposals to work on and others when days went by with only simple tasks or almost nothing to do. In the end I would come up with tasks to add onto, like helping other GRAG members on their projects, or I would ask my supervisor for more things to do. I think the pace of my internship is pretty similar to that at other international aid organizations since I helped my boss do some work for a UNAID office at their headquarters in Dakar once and the setup was much the same. In general it’s necessary to be aware of the differences in activity day-to-day and not to let the fast pace or a dragging day dishearten you.

My thoughts about social justice have been reinforced as a result of my experience this summer. My internship helped me to focus on the fact that there are many different ways that I can help people in far-flung locations…but also many ways in which I can’t. I’m not fluent in any local languages in the Dakar region or fully knowledgeable of the cultures that exist there. I could pick almost any point on the globe outside of the northeast United States and the same would be true. I think that many times our vision of social justice becomes patronizing and very paternalistic to some of the people we think we are “helping.” An important part of social justice abroad is standing up for your corner of the globe and realizing that you are not the expert on any others. For me this means that I will look for opportunities in the future that partner me with people who have grown up in these places and have a deeper understanding of the forces at play there. Organizations like UNICEF or UNAID can do a lot of good, but doing so takes some stepping forward from people like me and also some stepping back. Maybe the gap between classroom education and real-world experience can never be fully filled in and that’s fine. We all have to do what good we can in the ways that we can, adding onto others and eventually creating an even better network of specialized change agents.

The summer was everything that I needed in my career and personal lives and more. I’ll miss Dakar for a while but for now it’s back to Brandeis, back to formal academics, and back to figuring out the future as it comes.

 

-Natasha Gordon ’15

 

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