Mid-Point with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

It is hard to believe that I have already been in Kenya for four weeks and that I will be back at Brandeis in less than a month. My time with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project has been extremely rewarding so far.

 

After completing the arduous selection process I have settled into teaching classes to help the students improve on the SAT, TOEFL and writing. As a prospective law student I plan to take the LSAT this fall. Teaching the skills required to succeed on the critical reading portion of the SAT has improved my ability to perform similar tasks that are required on the LSAT. As I prepare for the LSAT in my free time I encounter difficulties that are similar to those that my student’s face. This has helped me improve as a teacher and a test-taker.

 

Students at work in the classroom

One of my main goals with this internship was to immerse myself in an entirely new culture. I have been able to achieve this with more success than I had previously imagined. Whether it is shopping in the local market or sharing meals with students I feel like I have begun to truly understand and appreciate this unique society. The students in the program actually live at the camp with me for the duration of the program which allows for me to get to know them particularly well. This consistent interaction has been invaluable for me and will undoubtedly help the students’ transition into life in an America when they arrive at college.

 

I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed teaching. I had little experience with teaching before I arrived, but have adjusted quickly. The class is a teacher’s dream. It is made up of fourteen highly intelligent and motivated individuals who participate readily. The students respect each other’s ideas and ask pertinent questions about the lessons. Outside of class the students can often be found with a book in hand going over the notes from the day’s lectures. I have found it enormously gratifying to see the students incorporate methods and ideas from my lectures into their work. It has only been a short time, but this internship has certainly sparked an interest in pursuing teaching for a career. The skills and experience I will acquire from this internship will certainly benefit my future academic and professional endeavors.

 

View from a nearby tea farm

Working with such a small program has given me the opportunity to see everything that goes into a program for improving social justice. I have often written idealistic papers in support of various social justice projects. This internship has given me insight into the realities of this type of program. My experience so far has reinforced my conviction that social justice can be improved through programs like KenSAP.

I am very excited to see what the next few weeks hold. The internship has already gone by too quickly, but I feel like I am making the most of it.  -Alex Kramer ’13

 

Nuclear Accidents, Moldova, and Elton John: My Summer so far with the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine

It’s hard to believe that the summer is half-way over. I have been having a fantastic time, and I feel like I’m really doing something, which, I guess, is the hallmark of a good internship.

Finding the STCU was a home-run for me. I’m interested in the post-Cold War world and nuclear issues (from nuclear weapon security to non-proliferation to nuclear energy), and spending the summer in Kiev working at the STCU covers all of that. From talking to colleagues about East European politics to sitting in on meetings with weapons experts to traveling through Transnistria, I have learned so much.

A big focus of my department at the STCU at the moment is collecting proposals from CIS scientists for suggested projects to mitigate the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. It makes a lot of sense that Japan would contact Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics for such advice. If you just suffered the second worst nuclear accident in history, who else would you call but the country that suffered the worst? The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 was the world’s worst nuclear accident, covering over a million hectares of Eurasia with radiation. Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Georgia were hit the hardest, and so the scientists from those countries have several decades of experience in the monitoring and rehabilitation of contaminated lands. It’s been very interesting for me to read the proposals, and I’m learning a lot about cleaning up after nuclear accidents.

A few weeks ago I attended the STCU Governing Board meeting in Moldova. In addition to it being a chance to travel to a new country, it was an incredible opportunity to talk to U.S. government officials who are working in careers I am interested in. At the final dinner, I somehow ended up sitting next to a State Department official who followed a similar career path to the one that I wish to take, and next to her was the STCU Executive Director, who had worked for the State Department for 30 years. He had been an ambassador in Eastern Europe in the eighties and nineties and had some neat Cold War stories. I spent an incredible evening talking to them about working for the government and in the Foreign Service.

I think something that I am most proud of is the fact that I have friends in Kiev now. There have been lunches at work where we have laughed so much that the STCU director told us having that much fun at work was not allowed. We spent an amazing night twenty feet from Elton John, Queen, and Adam Lambert in Independence Square at the concert that concluded the Euro2012. The people I have met have been so great, and my summer would have been very different without them.

I take the metro to work every day, and in the beginning of the summer I would go to great lengths to make sure I had something to hold onto, as the metro is very crowded during rush hour. But now I don’t need to hold on to anything, and that ties into the fact that I think one of the greatest things I will gain from this summer will be confidence. I was scared at the beginning and felt very self-conscious walking around Kiev, but now that fear is gone. I think I’ll be able to walk into my next internship or job with a certain degree of self-assurance, with the mindset that I successfully spent eight weeks in Kiev and I’m ready for anything now. – Jennifer Ginsburg ’14

Midpoint at Conflict Kitchen

The summer has been progressing and I have been learning a lot through my time at Conflict Kitchen. I’m finding it very useful to journal in order to track what I learn and be able to reference my thoughts later in discussions.

I have been busy doing research for Conflict Kitchen, which switched to its Cuba iteration in June. My various tasks have included finding articles for the kitchen staff to read so that they are informed about Cuba and revising the food wrapper that features interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States. I have also helped with preparations for future iterations by finding contacts who can help with research and developing questions to interview the contacts. I have also been working at the kitchen and interacting with customers, engaging them in dialogue about Cuban culture and US- Cuba relations.

Cocina Cubana, the Cuban iteration of Conflict Kitchen
The food wrapper for the Cuban iteration

Keeping to my learning goals, I have learned that successful facilitation of cross-cultural education should provide a means for the education to continue. I’ve realized through this internship that there tends to be a backup of knowledge between the information we gather on the country and what we can share while interacting with customers. The interactions with customers can be so short that there is hardly any time to truly engage in dialogue or share an interesting piece of information. I felt like the kitchen should offer some way for people to continue educating themselves, and therefore dispelling stereotypes, after they leave the restaurant.  I suggested that I could develop a recommended reading list of books about Cuba and novels by Cuban authors. My supervisor liked the idea and it became my project. I partnered with the local branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh down the block from the Conflict Kitchen to learn how to make an effective booklist.  The library was excited about the project and agreed to display the featured books and to work with the Conflict Kitchen in the future. This project is the part of my internship of which I am most proud. It has truly been my own project to develop and implement. It has not only allowed me to work towards my learning goals but also taught me new skills. Being able to put together a list of recommended reading will be useful in future jobs that deal with cultural education. Furthermore, developing a partnership with another community organization is important for any non-profit position.

With only a few weeks left of my internship,  I know that I have learned many things and look forward to the remainder of it while finishing research and putting everything in place so the partnership with  the library continues after I leave.

 

-G. Killian, ’14

Learning to Teach: Midway point at the SJDS Biblioteca

It’s funny to remember how before I left for Nicaragua two months seemed like a long time.  Now that I’m here, I’d do anything to have more time.  A week after I arrived, another volunteer came down who was also interested in teaching English.  Together, we have set up English classes and are currently teaching three classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced that are each offered twice a week.  English classes are provided in the schools in town; however because there is only one teacher for all of the schools the children do not end up getting a lot of English instruction.

Within the past twenty years or so, San Juan del Sur’s primary revenue has shifted from fishing to tourism so now more than ever learning English is an incredibly useful skill for students to have.  In the beginning, the English teacher recommended students for our English class.  Students were recommended based on the fact that they were struggling in school; however as word spread, students brought their friends or others who wished to learn English.

One of my main internship goals was to improve my Spanish.  It’s one thing to stumble over your words when speaking with your host family and another doing it in a classroom full of your students.  This made the first couple of days of teaching a bit overwhelming.  However, I soon realized that it doesn’t matter if I have perfect Spanish because the students are all here to learn English.  Plus some of my students really got a kick out of getting to correct me, their teacher.

We are now starting our fourth week of class, and I can really feel my confidence growing.  At this point, I have no problem speaking Spanish in front of a classroom full of 25 students.  Whether explaining instructions, grammatical rules, or simply asking the students to quiet down, I really feel like I am able to lead a class.  I try to speak English as much as I can with the students, but there are some students who need extra help and often require information to be repeated in Spanish.

Helping a student in the intermediate class

I’m most proud of developing my leadership skills and with the trust I have begun to build with many of the students.  At the beginning of classes, many of them were too shy or embarrassed to admit they needed help but now students have no problem asking their questions.  I have worked very hard to make sure students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom.  Now seeing them feel comfortable joking around or just talking to me is very rewarding.  With each class, I get to know more about each of the students and their individual learning needs.  I only wish that I had more time to spend with them.  Since this is such a small town I often see students outside of the classroom.  I love it when one of them takes the time to shout to me and say hello.

Part of my internship learning goals include improving my communication and leadership skills within a classroom setting and to practice my Spanish language skills.  So far, almost every day has provided an opportunity for me to hone these skills.  Since I am living with a Nicaraguan family and most of my co-workers only speak Spanish, I feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the language.  Considering I intend to use my Spanish language skills in whichever career path I end up choosing, the practice I am getting now is extremely beneficial.

My co-teacher and I have been responsible for creating our own lesson plans in which we try to provide a mix of vocabulary, grammar, and conversational skills that are appropriate for the ability level in each class.  Being an Education major, learning how to construct a lesson plan and thinking about the types of activities that are feasible and effective in the classroom will help me if I choose to pursue a career in teaching.

The independent nature of this internship has given me a lot of freedom to explore my interests and grow as both a teacher and an individual.  As I continue teaching, I look forward to discovering what other surprises and challenges the remainder of the summer will bring.

The verb of the day. During each class, students learn a new verb and practice conjugating it into different sentences.

 

 

Commission Update

The interns from the commission come from all kinds of backgrounds, some are local Rhode Islanders but there are quite a few out of staters or local students some in undergrad RI schools, and Law students. Everyone is very friendly and motivated to work.

My first few weeks were difficult, I had some struggles with my workload at the commission. There seems to be a high expectation of self sufficiency that I had conflicts with, for example Interns are responsible for reviewing cases of discrimination that are filed with the commission as they progress or reach a conclusion. This means that I can either receive a fresh new case that needs investigation or a case that has been going on for years and requires final review for closure. Whatever the case may be along the way interns are responsible for finding out what is missing in order to progress in the case and sending out those requests for information to all parties involved. We write our correspondence using few templates that are saved on USB drives and the rest comes through comes as you go through asking questions and getting exposure to legal language in your interactions with other investigators at the commission.

 

Interns also get access to what are called PDC’s, which refer to pre-determination conferences. PDC’s occur when an investigator is having difficulty reaching a recommendation as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence suggesting the legitimacy of the claims that the complainant alleges. All parties involved are invited to attend a hearing in which they can explain both sides of the story and it is the only time we get to meet the people involved in each case. I really enjoy the PDC’s because it brings each case to life and makes your work feel more validating. At the end of the PDC the commissioner usually stays for a few more minutes to give the interns law advice, for those who might be thinking of attending law school after college. There are about 10 commissioners appointed and so far I’ve met about 7. I find it interesting that some of the results of our involvement in these cases as interns will most likely never reach us seeing as they will outlive our internship stay.

 

The work can be very intimidating at first, but I noticed that the long work days provide interns with lots of practice and soon one gets used to the workload. It’s very reassuring when it comes to thinking of future work experience. For now it’s got me thinking of law school, since the majority of interns at the commission are currently enrolled in law programs.  Here’s a link to the commission website 

here’s also a link about attorney Cordona, an appointed commissioner who advised us about law school.

Midpoint Evaluation at Family Violence Law Center

Working with Family Violence Law Center has certainly been a tremendous experience thus far. Not only have I had the opportunity to learn about California Family Law, but this kind of work inherently includes a constant reminder for personal reflection. When working with individuals in crisis, it is imperative that one puts aside one’s own personal biases or primary reactions. If a client says their partner is physically abusive but they do not want to leave the house they share, it is not my job to tell them that they’re wrong, but rather to safety plan and meet them where they are emotionally. I can offer to help them find a domestic violence shelter or a program that will help them financially to relocate, but ultimately their subsequent actions are solely their decisions. This can be frustrating, but it also fuels a fascinating internal dialogue that I have noticed emerge not only in myself but also in my coworkers: that which we say aloud and that which we wish we could say. Occasionally the two diverge when a client decides to take part of one of our services (restraining orders, counseling).
Answering crisis calls!
My position entails taking them through these first steps towards recovery, by removing the client from contact with their abuser (e.g., restraining orders). In my learning goals, I had included a wish to challenge myself, which I have certainly found here. Each client provides a different unique challenge, with each challenge posing a new entanglement that keeps everyone on their toes. I can see my own growth by virtue of how others in my office treat me. My supervisor has been increasing my workload; other co-workers let me answer the crisis hotline without supervision; they have begun to give me new volunteers to train, who shadow me on the hotline or when doing legal screenings (intakes).
One of our past clients sells tacos to the entire office building every Wednesday. She’s lovely and a wonderful chef!
My coworker/professor of the hotline arts Becki, enjoying tacos!
I am most proud that I can actively feel myself learning how better to help others in traumatic situations. In the past month, I have begun to rely less on advice of other advocates in the office because I am able to problem-solve given the facts available. Clearly I still have a lot to learn, but it’s exciting to be in this relatively fast-paced environment of California family law and I am excited for the opportunity to continue growing in this field.
Ashley Lynette, ’13

Mid-way at Centro Presente

Hi All!!!

I can’t believe it’s been four weeks already since I started my internship at Centro Presente. Time has gone by so fast!!! In these four weeks, however, I have learned so much  and participated in so many activities that I feel I have exceeded my expectation for this internship.  During these four weeks, we have been working in many different events. One of these events was to inform people about the deferred action that President Obama gave to the Dreamers.  The rest of the events have been more concentrated to inform people about the Secure Communities Program implemented in Massachusetts since May 15, 2012.

Two weeks ago, we went to the State House to present the statewide commission to monitor the implementation of Secure Communities.  At this event, we had people from many different organizations in Massachusetts who support the creation of this commission. We had the presence of Somerville Representative Denise Provost, who told the stories of so many children who are being separated from their families because of secure communities and how there is need to stop the implementation of this program in our state. This past Friday, we went to Waltham where we talked to people about the effects of this program and how people can protect from it.

 

My days at Centro Presente have been different every day, something that I really enjoy.  Some days I spend time doing translations and planning events including creating the fliers, contacting people to reserve the place, and calling allies and members to invite them to the events. Other days, I spend time organizing the events that we have for the week.  Occasionally, I am in charge of the reception where I answer the phone and help the people who have appointments for the day.

Something that I feel very proud of is the time I have been teaching English to adults in Centro Presente.  Teaching is something that I thought I would never be able to do, however, when I was asked by the organizer of classes at Centro Presente to teach, I did not hesitate to say yes. This experience has taught me how hard a teacher’s job is since they have to spend so much time outside of teaching time to prepare classes. I think teachers deserve more value than what society gives them.

Reflecting on the goals that I set for this summer, I feel that I have been able to accomplish them thus far. Working with people and listening to their stories, I have been able to give them a different perspective. I think that because I have taken Psychology and Sociology courses, I am more able to listen to people and to find way to assist them in the best way that I find suitable.  Another goal that I have been able to accomplish is to acquire more work experience. Being a full-time intern at Centro Presente has been a way for me to learn what it is like to be in a work setting; experience that I did not have before so I am very thankful to the WOW committee for this opportunity.

I. Moreno, ’13

 

 

Something’s Cooking at the Katz Lab

At the beginning of the summer I began work on an exciting project in the Katz lab at BrandeisUniversityon a specific aspect of taste memory. For the sake of brevity it’ll suffice to say that the project is looking at a well-founded behavior in rodents in which the animals learn that a taste is “safe” over the course of a few days  (interested in knowing more? Click here!). Recently it has been suggested by data in the lab that this behavior can show itself in a faster time course if the behavior is measured using different techniques. At the beginning of summer I began collecting data to verify the claims of the past study, and had figured that this would be a quick task and that by this time I would have started on the next leg of the project. Like many things in life, however, science does not work on the timescale that you expect. We are now halfway through my internship and we are very close, just now, to being confident in the presence of this behavior. But don’t take that as a complaint; even though the timing has showed itself to be longer than expected, I am very proud to know that with the data I gathered and the additional analysis we are on the precipice of finishing and submitting my first data paper. Also, life in the lab has been incredibly enjoyable and very, very rewarding.

Whenever I’m not working with data at my desk, I am getting hands-on experience by shadowing my co-workers to learn and perfect certain techniques that will greatly assist me when it comes time to manage my own project.  These techniques, it should be noted, are incredibly important to my future career plans as the skills I am currently learning are easily transferable to post-college studies and work. Additionally with certain techniques it is difficult to tell if I have actually improved, but I have noticed that I am asking for less confirmation and help as my hands and mind become steadier. It’s impossible to explain the immense amount of gratitude I feel to my labmates as they have walked me through virtually every step with a smile. Because of the experience I’ve had so far, I feel very confident and excited to proceed to the next step of my project.

Here’s an example slice of a brain – the large gash on the right side is the tract made by the stainless steel cannula used to directly infuse pharmaceuticals into the brain.

 

It goes without saying that the atmosphere in the lab is incredibly conducive to learning; each person is willing to help one another in times of need. Recently, a post-doctoral fellow needed help finishing up the final parts of her project before she left the country. Virtually everyone in lab spent their free time helping to make sure that things were completed. As the thought of graduate school and additional research work weigh on my mind, it is a relief to know that a lab can not only exist but thrive with this sort of group mentality.

 

A small sampling of Katz Lab scientists

As we go into the latter half of summer, my days will likely be filled with similar activities as the first half. There are still many techniques to learn and perfect, and as the elusive behavior becomes more and more apparent there will come the next step of writing and submitting the final manuscript. Additionally, with the stronger evidence that the behavior exists, I will be presenting a poster at the Brandeis Summer Science Poster Session in early August. The technical skills I have gained and the knowledge I’ve learned about the research process are both goals that I had wanted to obtain during my internship. With these learning goals already started, there is little doubt in my mind that the next half of my internship will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than the first. – Kevin Monk  ‘ 13

 

SCAMP: Science Camp And Marine Programs (Part I)

Why go to camp, when you can go to SCAMP??  Although this is the chorus to our camp song, it also poses a great question. Why would you go to a normal, run-of-the-mill day camp when you can come exploring the world of science with SCAMP (Science Camp And Marine Programs) at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats.  As one of the program’s counselors and coordinators, I am fortunate that some children seek to find the answer throughout their summers.

Being in my position, the answer is as clear as a tide pool on a nice summer day: SCAMP is awesome!  Where else can you walk through a muddy salt marsh up to your waist? Cruise down the Merrimack river looking at salt marshes?  Crawl through amazing tide pools and touch live animals? Take an adventure on a whale watch? Or even visit a butterfly garden?  As you may have guessed by now, the only answer is SCAMP!

SCAMP is a camp that is composed of hands-on science, live animals, fun games, and craft projects for children aged 6-9. Each four-day session is a fun-filled learning adventure created to increase awareness and inspire stewardship of the natural world.  Also, a child can attend either one or multiple camp sessions, depending on their scientific interests!  This year, we have the following weekly themes: salt marshes, the rocky shore and tide pools, oceans, insects, and birds.

The kids making their own tide pool animals from recyclables!

So far, we have only completed two of the SCAMP weeks (salt marshes and rocky shore) but they have been so much fun for both the counselors and campers!  As a summer camp intern, we have to plan the entire camp schedule and come up with the creative games/activities to keep the kids’ attention on a daily basis (harder than it seems!).  I really love how all of the interns are completely responsible for choosing what constitutes a day at camp.  This is where being a diverse group of college interns really comes into play.  For example, I can use my passion for theater and improv to help the kids make their own puppet shows using puppets we made earlier in the day.  The first week, we made paper horseshoe crab puppets and for week two, we made tide pool animal puppets from recyclables!  The kids are so creative that they can write and act out a play, and the results are rather adorable to watch!  The puppet plays have been so successful already that they will be a weekly activity at SCAMP for this summer and into the future.  It’s amazing how quickly the interns’ ideas are accepted and implemented into the immediate curriculum of SCAMP!

SCAMPers performing their plays with their personalized tide pool animals made from recyclables

 

The most convenient aspects of having a marine science camp at Joppa Flats are its useful location and features.  The Joppa Flats Education Center is complete with a children’s education room, a 110-gallon interactive touch tank, and a bird viewing room that overlooks a beautiful salt marsh of the Merrimack River.  Additionally, the Joppa Flats Education Center is located at the gateway to one of the country’s most productive year-round wildlife viewing areas, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Plum Island estuary.

So far, the campers have just loved their experience with SCAMP.  Although it is mostly fun games/activities, we also make sure to have educational stations and we always have a science lesson behind our games!  Most of my planning time is dedicated to finding the best way to learn while having fun; I love thinking of classic fun games (obstacle courses, relay races, tag, rock-paper-scissors) but building them upon a new, scientific foundation.  Another great aspect of SCAMP is that all of the cool arts and crafts we make are taken home by the campers!  Finally, the great staff-camper ratio lets us all get to know every camper on a personal basis.  This is great because we have options for all the campers so they can all participate in certain activities that fit their personal interests!

There is also a new, one-week program for older children (10-12) called Young Scientists.  This is the first year in which this program is being held, but we’re very excited to start!  This in-depth program is meant to let the kids become actual naturalists and develop an individual project or research question, and spend time in two tide pools (Plum Island and Beverly) to gather two separate data sets.

But what is the real answer why kids should spend their summers at SCAMP?  Well, it has to be our camp mascots, Piper and Pippen, the piping plover chicks (of course, they are stuffed animals).  Each day, two campers take home both Piper and Pippen and can write or draw what they did with the birds in their own journals.  From tanning on the beach to lounging by the pool to watching jeopardy, these birds get to have awesome summers with the campers that display excellent behavior throughout the day!  Piping plovers are federally threatened birds that are protected on Plum Island’s critical habitat at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Although I’m a leader of SCAMP, I absolutely love participating in the activities we create.  I think we do such a great job at planning because we are really just kids at heart (we know what’s fun!).  I’m very excited to continue to meet new kids every week and I just hope that I inspire them to never stop loving the natural world.  For me, that’s something that always continues to grow, even as I get older.

Personally, I have found out that my favorite part of the day is teaching the kids something new.   As leaders, we frequently choose our own mini lesson plans and create a 10-minute station on anything we want!  For example, during camp today (ocean week) I led a discussion on shark anatomy.  It was so fun to teach them something that I am very knowledgeable and passionate about.  I love having the ability to educate them and also let them be a participating audience.  The ability to create a lesson in which my audience is interacting and thus having fun is something that I have greatly improved upon this summer.  I am very proud of the fact that I am an effective educator of biology to both college sophomores (as I am a bio lab TA) and to a 6-year old.  Although the difficulty of biology is vastly different, I approach teaching the two age groups the exact same way; keep the science simple, relatable, and fun.  If I am being silly, enthusiastic, and clearly having a fun time teaching then I guarantee that my students will take something valuable out of my lesson.  As a science student myself, only the teachers that are able to make science fun have had a positive influence on my education.  If I am to be an inspirational science professor someday, then mastering this ability is something that I need to always be working on.

Matthew Eames ’13

SCAMP field trip to tide pools at Rye Beach, NH

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Midpoint of My Summer in the Tea Industry

I have almost finished my summer internship with the Asia Tea Company. This is incredible. I have learned so much from my internship program that I love every day at work. People are so friendly and understanding. They always give me valuable advice and guide me through work carefully. My job is primarily to collect and analyze data about foreign tea markets. During the first weeks, I was not used to the analytical method used by the company. By this time, my number-crunching skill is much better. I have almost mastered the XLSTAT-PRO software besides traditional applications like Excel and STATA. Writing weekly reports has sharpened my writing and analytic skill and increased my understanding of the tea markets.

Vietnamese Sidewalk Tea Culture
Last week, I accompanied my supervisor on a trip to tea manufacturing factories in the provinces of Phu Tho and Yen Bai. These two provinces provide the best tea leaves, from which we can make the best black tea for domestic consumption as well as exportation. I really enjoyed the trip because I was exposed to a whole new different world. I learned how to sort different types of tea and examine tea quality. I also learned to negotiate prices and create network. My boss told all his friends that I am an excellent employee and that I have the potential to become a future CEO. His compliments not only made me so happy, but also helped me attract more attention from managers of tea companies during my time in the highland. After the trip, I have a few good contacts in the tea industry.

The tea hills that I saw on my trip to the province of Phu Tho

I am very proud of being the administrative assistant for the CEO when he meets with foreign partners. I take notes and write an analysis of the meeting afterward. Based on my notes and analysis, the CEO will have more idea about future contracts with his foreign partners. Being his secretary is supposed to be part of my education experience in the summer internship program. But I am very glad to have a chance to show my English proficiency as well as analytic skill, which I gain from my college education in America.

Most Popular Types of Tea in Vietnam

After every day at work, I feel that I learn more about the business world. My number-crunching, analytic, and writing skills have been much improved. I have also gained tremendous knowledge about the Vietnamese tea industry. Being a Market Analyst, I have acquainted myself with foreign markets in the Middle East and North America. Those markets have a great potential for being the primary future markets for Vietnamese tea. Thanks to my trip to tea manufacturing factories in the highland area, I realize how tea is actually made from raw tea leaves. Thus, my understanding of the supply of tea is much better. After this summer, I realize that the business world is not always fun. However, I believe that after my experience in Asia Tea Co., Ltd this summer, I am fully prepared for a career in the tea industry and have acquired many transferable skills that will help me regardless of my ultimate pate. I hope to become the CEO of a tea company in the future and contribute to the development of the Vietnamese tea industry as well as the promotion of Vietnamese tea culture abroad.

 

Seeing Music and Hearing what’s on your mind: Midpoint at The Sold Project

Hello All!

Having fully adjusted to the Thai work ethic of ‘sabai sabai’ (which roughly translates to: chill! relax!) I have quite a few weeks of art class under my belt, and loads to report!

In the developing stages of my project (recap: teaching art as a method of creative emotional expression for at risk youth in northern Thailand), I was told by mentors, peers and fellow travelers to keep my expectations low. Between the vast cultural differences, trials and tribulations of monsoon season in Thailand, and a lack of previous exposure to creative thinking, most people I spoke to before starting off were skeptical that my plans would carry through as expected. That being said, I entered into this project with the lowest expectations I could muster, and I have been beyond rewarded as a result. Not only do the kids leap at the opportunity to start new projects and share their work, but the depth of the meaning and communicative quality of the art is astounding.

The way my internship is scheduled, I get a few hours every day to lead an after school program, unfolding small tips and tricks for translating thoughts and feelings into color and form. So far the kids have completed the first part of the curriculum “Exploring the self”, which included collages on the cover of their ‘artist journals’, using patterns to explain their personalities on their ‘magic wish boxes’ (a small box where they keep written reminders of their wishes, hopes and dreams for a rainy day), and most importantly their symbloist+expressionist self portraits, where they had to combine a portrait like Frida Kahlo (showing ‘things I like’) and Picasso (showing ‘things I feel’). The outcome of this last project was extraordinarily rewarding for both the kids and myself. Many of them talk around after school carrying the portraits around to show their friends and whatever visitors and volunteers stop by. We’ll be sending the portraits over to Sold’s gallery in San Francisco to raise awareness for the project.

Now we’re knee deep into the second area of curriculum ‘Express Yourself!’ Last weekend we learned about different music genres and the ‘colors and shapes’ different kinds of music can generate. The kids were divided into groups and had to paint their feet the ‘colors’ of the music and dance on giant sheets of paper. At the end of the day, every smiling face was covered with paint, but there’s no better evidence of a good art project than a big mess!

In my Wow application, most of my learning goals and hopes for the summer revolved around developing a way to communicate with the children I was working with, and to get my purpose across in a culture to which my lessons are entirely foreign. So far, between my growing connections with the students and staff members, the marvelous work the kids are creating with me and on their own, and the (often heartbreaking) stories that are beginning to unfold themselves, I’ve discovered that cultural barriers don’t stand a chance against the inherent ability to express creative thought. I can’t wait to keep this train going as I think up more ways in which to share the gift of creativity with those who need it most!

This student was in the first dancing group. Their assigned genre was ‘classical’, which many of them found ‘sad’ and ‘like a heartbreak’. The song was WATERMARK by Enya, and most of the kids’ feet featured various shades of blue.

– Zoey Hart ’13

 

Midpoint at United for a Fair Economy

These first few weeks at United for a Fair Economy have been incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Having not really come from a background in economics, one of my main goals was to become more well-rounded and educated on various issues and topics such as progressive taxes, responsible wealth, and the fundamental tasks associated with fundraising and development in order to sustain a non-profit. My supervisor has been really helpful with all this, as she often has great articles and other various readings to share and help educate me on the greater goal of working towards a fair economy. 
I have had the opportunity to work on many very different projects, which has helped to shape the full picture of development and fundraising. I have conducted grant research as we enter a new fiscal year and hope to find some new prospects for potential funding sources.  I am also currently working on the design for a postcard to be sent out to past donors. [Fun fact: 71% of our funds come not from other foundations and organizations, but from individual donors!] That, I thought, is astounding! So if I had to pick one thing I have learned about most it would be the role of stewardship and maintaining positive donor relations, though I have found that it seems one of the trickiest, but most important factors. Thinking about it logically, why would anyone want to donate to an organization if they only heard from the organization when they were asking for money? This brings me back to the current project of creating a postcard. In light of our recent move (see my first blog post), we are making a postcard to simply share our new address and to help maintain our relationships so that things don’t get disrupted with the move. 
Surprisingly, the other UFE interns have been especially helpful in reaching my goals. UFE currently has 10 working interns, all dispersed among UFE’s programs. We recently began organizing weekly “Brown Bag Lunch Intern Meetings” where we gather the entire staff and organize short presentations to sum of the work we’ve been doing. It has definitely been interesting to see how all of our projects tie in together and help to carry out the greater, overall mission of UFE. It’s a really dynamic and fun group of student interns, all energetic and motivated to learn as much as we can in the short span of summer.  We even have started scheduling various members of the staff to come and give presentations on subject matter that might  not otherwise have come up. Check out this blog posted by one of the other interns concerning the Robin Hood Tax. 
Some of our upcoming programs include “writing for the web” where we’ll learn about blogging on behalf of organizations, understanding webinars, and learning more about creating htmls. Each time someone volunteers to present, they get a nice little star burst as a reward (below)! 

I know that I’m learning here because I feel much more confident researching and looking things up on my own. In the beginning I found myself asking a lot of questions and trying to keep all the abbreviations and different projects straight in my head. Now, I can come across articles in the paper, or snippets on the radio and not feel lost among all the jargon. I can grasp concepts quickly, which provides a huge boost in confidence because I can feel my goal of becoming more well-rounded is proving applicable in the real world.

Having worked in other small non-profits in the past, I have come across a lot of great individuals, but what I love about UFE is that everyone is awesome AND really seem thrive in each other’s company. It is a true team effort which clearly establishes an upbeat and healthy work environment. Now that I’ve seen this culture in action, any future jobs are going to have a tough act to beat… especially since the next Intern Outing is getting gelato in the North End!

– Gwen Teutsch ’14

Halfway Through

It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway through my time at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab at Northeastern University. Although I feel like time is flying, I have also learned a lot since I started. I have become much more involved in the study we are conducting. I have had the chance to understand many of the steps of psychology research, from literature review to running subjects to entering and coding data to data analysis. At first, I only observed my supervisor and other research assistants (RAs) running participants, but now I lead multiple participants through our study daily, asking for assistance only as issues arise. The picture below shows me and another RA practicing the proper way to apply the sensors that we use to measure physiological responses in our participants.  I know that I’machieving my goals here at the LEDlab,  not only because of the fact that I have learned more specific research skills, but also because I have learned more about why psychology research works the way it does. For example, the physiological data that we gather supplements the survey and eye-tracking data by giving us concrete data on how the person’s body is responding to the stimuli. Thus, we do not have to rely only on what the person reports about how they are feeling, because we have evidence of the physical processes at work.

As a psychology major, the chance to have such hands-on experience in conducting a study has been invaluable in making the concepts I have read about in my classes come to life. For example, I remember completing countless problem sets for my Statistics course about hypothetical studies. These problems often required the use of SPSS, a common statistical program used in psychology. As I went through the steps of each problem, I sometimes had a hard time really understanding what to do. Where in the spreadsheet should particular data go? Which statistical test should I perform?  While I certainly do not have all the answers to SPSS, working with others to calculate those statistics for the study that I’ve been working on for weeks makes the concepts “come to life” for me. I think that this new understanding of SPSS will be helpful in future lab experiences and even job interviews, as well as in classes that will require research methods and statistics.

My main personal goal for the summer was to see if I wanted to pursue research or clinical psychology. Speaking with other RAs about their co-op experiences has been illuminating in this regard. Co-op is a Northeastern University program in which “students alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests” (Northeastern Co-Op). Many of the other RAs spent their Co-Ops in clinical settings, working in hospitals and mental health centers. Talking to them has given me some insight into what it is like working on the clinical side of things. Talking with them inspired me to look into more experiential learning opportunities in the Brandeis psychology department, especially the Clinical Practicum Program. So, hearing about my colleagues’ co-op experiences has inspired me to look into ways to gain experience working in different sectors of psychology through my university.

– Leah Igdalsky, 2014

Summer Midpoint with Fundacion Paraguaya

Hello WOW bloggers. A month has past since my last post, meaning that I have, amazingly, already passed the half-way point in my internship with Fundacion Paraguaya. I am very fortunate to say that, in this time, I have found my niche in terms of my work; that is, I have really been enjoying what I have been doing on a daily basis. After switching my area of work from the micro-finance office to a department that focuses on business education called “Educacion Emprendora”, I have been learning in ways that reinforce many of the learning goals that I outlined prior to my internship.

At a Paraguayan Business Expo where students from different companies display and sell their products.

Within the “Educacion Emprendedora” program, I am specifically working with Junior Achievement – an international program that helps high school-aged children in groups of approximately 30 start and manage their own businesses for a year. The students work in groups referred to as the “company” to develop a product or service to offer, sell stock within the company to generate capital, purchase any necessary production equipment, develop a business plan, produce their product or service, execute public relations, and finally enter the local economy to sell. The defining characteristic of Junior Achievement is an emphasis on learning by doing; in other words, the students have the chance to put into practice the theory they have learned in the classroom. The program often an exciting experience, and students come to realize an intimate understanding of the issues executives face throughout the year by personally facing the challenges and questions that arise in various areas of the business such as marketing, production, human resources, etc.

To help guide the students in this process, each company receives a detailed program manual outlined with weekly goals as a guideline to complete, attends a day-long business organization session, and can access support from me and my co-workers whenever they have questions.

One of the aspects I have enjoyed most about my work is my ability to travel. On a typical day I will travel to a high school which can be located in or outside of the city of Asuncion. As one of my learning goals was to experience Paraguayan culture, these trips outside the city allow me to compare elements between urban and rural life. Even seemingly mundane elements such as riding the public transit open my view to larger cultural ideas.

A beautiful view crossing the Rio Paraguay while traveling to one of the high schools.

When I arrive at a school, I work with the five elected executives of the highschool’s company and help them realize a detailed business plan. Together we elaborate their company’s fixed costs, costs per unit of production, equilibrium point, sales goals based on earnings per share, and more. By the end of our exercises, the company knows exactly how many units of their goods/service it must sell per month, per week, per day, and per person to reach their goal. While the process sounds complicated, the underlying concept is fundamental in nature; the objective is that each student learns the skill of breaking down seemingly overwhelming and complex goals into smaller, achievable ones, ultimately instilling in him the confidence that he can pursue any professional or personal goal.

One of the company’s goods, decorated sneakers, has been a popular product.

Working within the program has been a learning experience for me as well. First, in addition to refining the above mentioned organizational techniques, I am continuing to deepen my understanding of entrepreneurship and managing a business. Second, one of the most important growth factors for me has been gaining more experience speaking Spanish. Through speaking, listening and interacting in Spanish frequently and in new contexts my comfort and confidence in the language is growing. Third, the most rewarding element of my job is feeling as though I am making a tangible difference in these students’ lives, especially after sessions when the students leave saying “I feel that I have really learned.”  I am humbled to think that I am giving them some confidence, especially in the case where some children come from difficult backgrounds.

To be learning something new everyday is a gift, and I thank the WOW committee for this opportunity. Until next time!

– Brandon Frank ’14

Learning About Homelessness Throughout First Half of Internship

Sign outside of St. Francis House building

The first several weeks of my internship at Boston’s St. Francis House have flown by, and in this short period of time I have learned volumes about homelessness and the criminal justice system. Going into the internship, I was hoping to connect classroom learning about social justice issues to a work setting. Now that I am several weeks into my internship, I feel that I have connected my past knowledge to a “real world” setting, but what I underestimated was the amount to which seeing issues play out in people’s lives would be a form of education for me. My background knowledge has simply been a jumping off point for me to continually explore how individuals experience homelessness and how their experiences are related to a variety of policies. The experiences at my internship have demonstrated the complexities of social justice issues in ways that classroom learning could not have fully conveyed; meeting with individuals who have experienced homelessness and, often times, incarceration and hearing their stories is endlessly informative regarding social policy questions.

This summer I hoped to gain greater direction in my own life in regards to career interests and understanding what skills I possess that could be useful for the workplace. While I am still unsure of what career path might be the best option for me, I have learned that I enjoy working with people and particularly hearing their stories. As a result, I might pursue a field such as counseling or social work, or at least find work that incorporates interaction with people in some capacity. While I enjoy working with people, I also have gained a deeper understanding of policy changes that could greatly impact individuals. Later in the summer I will have an opportunity to take action regarding specific policies through work with the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, so this work should help me discover if activism surrounding policy change is the direction I wish to take in the future.

Conducting a great deal of research at my internship has honed my research skills and grant-seeking skills, which could be applicable to a wide range of non-profit work that I may pursue in the future. My interpersonal skills have also improved this summer; observing my supervisor and counselors interact with St. Francis House guests has enhanced my ability to communicate with and assist populations that I previously had no experience working with. I am proud of my ability to actively listen to others and affirm their experiences while also keeping in mind what guidance they might need. Many of the guests we serve simply need someone to talk to, and I feel that one of my most important roles this summer has been to be a source of support through listening and engaging with people. This could be invaluable experience for any kind of future work I might do, whether it be directly counseling people or simply communicating with others in the workplace.

I have also learned about what it takes to start and run a social enterprise. The bag-making business that I am assisting my supervisor with entails attention to a wide variety of details and logistics. The work takes brainstorming to come up with ideas, and then a great deal of networking, paperwork, meetings, and planning to execute the ins and outs of a business. I have never had exposure to the business world and what it takes to produce, market, and sell a product, so this experience has been eye-opening for me. Here is a photo of what our bag workshop looks like, a workshop that only came together after much planning.

Bag workshop for bag-making business

In future weeks I imagine that I will expand upon the skills I am developing and gain more clarity on what careers might be of interest to me in the future. With several weeks left I look forward to working with people and working on policy change, as well as observing the various services and programs contained within St. Francis House.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

This Summer is Flying Faster Than a New York Minute

From reading the other WOW blogs, it sounds like everyone is having an amazing summer. As for me, I would have to say that my internship has definitely met and exceeded all of my expectations thus far. As an aspiring lawyer, the goal I was most excited about fulfilling this summer was getting an opportunity to experience the actual courtroom proceedings that take place in Manhattan Family Court. I expressed this desire to my supervisor at the onset of my internship and she has been quite accommodating in allowing me to gain exposure to a wide variety of different proceedings. It has been a great learning experience for me to observe courtroom procedure and to pick up on the often subtle nuances that distinguish the more refined lawyers from their peers. I was relatively familiar with how criminal courtrooms are run from previous experience but this internship has allowed me to broaden my perspective and such knowledge will be quite useful when the time comes for me to decide which type of law I would ultimately like to pursue.


Being a Sociology major, another goal that I had for the summer was to gain some real-life experiential learning to contrast with the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom. It is one thing to read about how social infrastructures, such as the legal system, can affect people’s lives but it is another thing entirely to experience first-hand the profound impact that even seemingly minute legal decisions can have on a client’s life. I have been fortunate in my short time at LFC to witness a broad spectrum of outcomes: from triumphant victories where families have been reunited to tragic cases where children are separated from their loved ones and placed in less than desirable living arrangements. The capricious nature of judges makes predicting such outcomes almost impossible;  some are uplifting and others are heartbreaking but I’ve learned that, regardless of how invested I am in any particular child’s case, it is best to never take any decision personally. This is a piece of advice that was given to me by one of the veteran attorneys at LFC and I believe it to be absolutely imperative to maintaining one’s sanity in such a potentially overwhelming career. Such is a prime example of why interning at a place like LFC is truly an invaluable experience: having the opportunity to apply the sociological ideology I have acquired at Brandeis to real people’s lives has added a human element to my perspective that simply cannot be conveyed in any textbook.

At this juncture in my internship, what I am most proud of is the interpersonal connections that I have made this summer. I feel like my relative similarity in age and background has allowed me to establish common ground and to build a nice rapport with the clients with whom I have worked.  I think being able to communicate and build relationships with all kinds of people is a fundamental skill that has been augmented significantly by this experience and one that I will be able to apply to both my future career and academic pursuits.

I can hardly believe the summer is halfway over already. I hope everyone enjoys the month or so we have left and I look forward to reading all about the awesome things everyone else is doing in their blogs.

 

A. Bray, 2013

Midpoint at AVODAH

As I reflect on my academic, career, and personal goals created for the summer, I realize how much I have already learned at AVODAH. I started my internship when the organization was having their big NYC event and initially thought that the rest of my summer was going to be as fast paced and interactive as my first few days there. I soon understood that this was not true and was put to work the next week creating surveys, evites, and sending out emails using mail merge. Although this wasn’t as vigorous as helping with the fundraising event, I learned more about the inner workings of AVODAH. The most prominent of what I learned is the amount of time, energy, and commitment required to achieve the transformative results of such a wonderful service program.

My academic goal for the summer was to gain knowledge on how to create social change after participating in a service corps. One of the responsibilities I have as an intern is to read and update many of the Alumni biographies. Through this I recognize how one is able to create social change after a service corp; they continue working with organizations that are dedicated to social justice. Although now the answer seems obvious, it is through this internship that I really understand how those who join AVODAH are able to find their own way of continuing to fight for change.

My career goal was to learn how to utilize certain aspects of the service corp and apply it to social entrepreneurship.  An article that I was given to scan spoke about social entrepreneurship and how it can exist in the non-profit, for-profit, or corporate sectors. I was unaware of the complexity of this career path. While at my internship I discovered another type of job that was appealing to me. Another intern at AVODAH is part of a program called CLIP, which takes students and places them in non- profit internships. The students meet once a week for a panel and discuss how one can use their Jewish identity to create social change. I was able to attend one week where my boss was speaking on the panel. A Brandeis alum was also a speaker, and told us about his job at JP Morgan working with philanthropists to find organizations in order to donate money to. Because of this, I have become more aware that there are other jobs that are just as fitting for me as social entrepreneurship.

 

What was made clearer to me this summer is the strong connection that exists between Jewish values and social justice. Both aspects have played important roles in my life, and to be able to experience this daily is exciting. I am already truly satisfied with all that I have learned up to this point and believe that I contributed to the growing organization in a positive way. Right now I am proud of being able to give meaningful input during our AVODAH meetings. I am more confident in presenting my ideas and realize the importance of detail and organization in any given task. I continue to learn and appreciate the amount of skills I am gaining and am excited for what is to come.

– Danielle Mizrachi ’15

Week One with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

Hello from Iten, Kenya. I have finally gotten settled and found a way to get internet access here in Kenya.

The Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project works to send gifted Kenyan students to elite universities in the United States. The program selects a small group of particularly deserving students to guide through the complicated process of standardized testing and college applications. Since being founded in 2004, KenSAP has placed 89 students among the best colleges and universities in the United States including two at Brandeis. Located in Iten, Kenya the area is world renowned by track and field enthusiasts for the distance running it consistently produces. For village of only 4,000 people the area can account for an inordinate percentage of world-class distance runners. As an avid distance runner and member of the Brandeis Track and Field team this area is particularly interesting to me.

My internship with KenSAP has several major responsibilities. Along with two other interns I will be an instructor for classes on standardized tests and writing. The students will take the TOEFL exam in August and the SAT in October. While these are extremely gifted students, English is typically their third language which makes the critical reading section of the SAT a difficult task. The students have studied English in school and speak well, but the intricacies of the SAT are much easier for a native speaker to understand. Luckily, this is the section that I performed best on so it will be easier to help. Interacting with the students on a consistent basis helps them to improve their understanding of English and American culture which is essential to their success in applying to college and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

After a difficult 48 hours of travel I finally arrived in Iten excited to start despite the jet lag and seven hour time difference. The first week was particularly exciting because I was a major participant in the selection of this year’s students. This year, 77 students applied for the program, all of whom received an A on the national high school exam. I had been reviewing applications for about a month before departing for Kenya which prepared me for a busy week. After discussing each applicant with the small group of selectors, we interviewed each candidate. This is obviously a nerve-wracking process for the potential students who are hoping to be given the opportunity of a lifetime. As a soon to be job applicant, it gave me some perspective of what goes on from the other side of the interview. After several days of interviews and deliberations the group was narrowed down to 14 students who will be this year’s KenSAP class. I will begin teaching courses to help the students prepare for the SAT soon.

I am very excited for the possibilities this summer may hold. Having spent the majority of my life in the northeast this immersion into an entirely new culture has already been quite an experience. The feeling of being stared at for being a minority is completely foreign for me and will certainly change my perspective. Teaching the SAT will undoubtedly improve my own critical reading skills which will help me in my own preparations for the LSAT this fall. Overall, I expect this internship to leave me with an unparalleled experience and an enlightened perspective.  – Alex Kramer ‘ 13

Midpoint at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

It is hard to believe that I am already at the midpoint of my internship. My learning goals were to become familiar working in a healthcare setting, to apply my knowledge and further learn about health and illnesses, and to promote a healthy lifestyle through this hands-on experience. I have met an incredible group of people, including healthcare professionals, patients, and families. I am fulfilling the goals I set for myself, and everyday I learn something new.

Life-size food models used for dietary counseling

In addition to the daily tasks of monitoring patients’ development on growth charts, viewing patients’ medical and family history, and assisting in conducting dietary and physical activity counseling, I also performed quite a few exciting tasks. I helped conduct mail-out surveys for patients and families. The survey includes questions that could be very helpful for the Clinic staff members to assess how the they are doing in terms of educating and treating the patients. We would like to see not merely changes in statistics such as patients’ weight and body mass index (BMI), but also improvements in their diet and physical activity. I also designed posters for an upcoming event, BMI Fun Day 2012, which is an interactive four-hour program provided to our patients in a specific age group. The program consists of bike riding activities from a non-profit organization the Bluegrass Cycling Club, how to prepare a food budget, well-balanced meals for school from Culinary Arts students from Sullivan University, and family-oriented team building activities. I am very excited for this program. It will be the BMI Clinic’s first program outside of the hospital, and it will provide opportunities for children and their parents’ to interact with Clinic staff and other healthcare professionals on a more personal level.

BMI Clinic dietitian’s typical lunch – beets, tomatoes with cottage cheese; full of proteins and fiber!

I am monitoring my growth by keeping a daily journal of what I do everyday and recording thoughts and reflection at the end of the day.  I am working with my supervisor on a daily basis, so I discuss with her any questions and ideas that I have. Other clinic staff also check in with me to see how I am doing. I am the most proud of the tasks that I take on outside of the responsibilities that I was originally assigned. I enjoyed doing extra work for the clinic as much as I can, such as making posters for the program, designing pamphlets for the dietitian, and compiling and analyzing data. I feel very accomplished for making every little contribution to the clinic and to the population who are suffering from obesity and other related health problems. So far it has been a pleasure working here. Besides increasing my academic and professional knowledge, I made great connections at the Clinic and at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital at large. I feel like I really fit in here. I can definitely see myself working in a healthcare setting in the near future. – Yan Chu ’13

4th of July at the Embassy in Madrid

A lot has happened during these past weeks. In the Economic Section, I finally finished working on a fundraising project I was helping manage for the Embassy’s annual 4th of July party. The project was a huge success. We raised more that what we needed to cover the party’s expenses. The remaining funds will be used for the Embassy’s Election Night celebration in November. The party was also a huge success. Over 3,500 people attended, and there was live music, performances, and a lot of good food and drinks! The nicest moment of the party was when a combined group of U.S. and Spanish Marines presented both countries’ flags to the Ambassador and his wife.

Photo: US Embassy Madrid

 

Now that the project is finished, I have been assigned new and exciting tasks like writing meeting briefs for the Ambassador and writing reports about economic laws. Meeting briefs are used to orient the Ambassador and give him relevant background and context before an official meeting, informing him about the person and organization. To compose the briefs, I go through press articles, official websites, and use other information resources to research the individual. I have also been working on copyright and intellectual property legislation issues, researching and writing reports for the Embassy’s deputy economic counselor about American and Spanish laws, and cooperation in the field between the countries.

 

Photo: US Embassy Madrid

Last week, I transitioned from the Visa unit to the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit in the Consulate. A lot of the work in ACS is related to law. I am in charge of the emergency telephone line, which is the line that Americans can call if they find themselves in distress. The purpose of the calls are very varied and interesting, and require me to respond in a quick and effective manner, and know a lot about Embassy resources and Spanish law. It has been my responsibility to follow up with a variety of agencies, such as the police or international law organizations, all the while keeping clients up-dated about their inquiries.

Time is going by so fast – I can’t believe I only have one month left! Feel free to ask any questions about my work, the Embassy in general, Spain, or anything else!

– Ivan Ponieman ’13

Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?-Mid point in Joburg!

            This first month in Johannesburg, South Africa has flown. I feel as if I just got here, yet I am already half way done with my internship at Lefika La Phodiso, The Art Therapy Center. Lefika is involved in so many different projects that it is hard to keep track of everything that is being done.

            Each week, I meet with a group of community counselors training to be art therapists. Each of them then leads her own art therapy group, which I have been fortunate enough to visit. Each visit gave me the opportunity to witness a variety of techniques they use to lead their group. For one of the projects, I went to help teach art classes to three and four year old children living in a township. Another group I observed were the adolescents, living in a condemned building. Some of these children do not have parents living with them and there are others who do, but have never emotionally attached to them. These adolescents are going though so much hardship; they are basically taking care of themselves and looking after younger children who live in the building. For this group, art was an extension of their voice. They would go and create images and then discuss what the images meant to them in a group setting. Safety and a hygienic living environment were the two major issues that kept re-emerging. As a result of these meetings, another facilitator and I, have begun a new project to help empower these children to renovate where thir building.

malaika
The sign used at one of the fundraisers organized to raise money to give the children running water

One more project, which completely amazed me, was the work being done at the boarding School for Visually Impaired children. The therapist explained that many of the students’ fine motor skills and senses had never been fully developed, and most of the families were not even aware of their child’s disability or how to take came of him/her. This was very different to the type of art therapy I had seen before where art acted as an expression of one’s feelings; for this project the art therapy consisted of playing and using one’s hands to develop the senses.

Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille closeup
Braille closeup

These are only a few of the projects I have been a part of so far; each is completely different environment and the facilitator leads the group accordingly. This has allowed me to see the possibilities of how art therapy approaches can be applied, one of my main goals for the summer. As I work and participate with these groups, I have come to realize the immense growth that has come from learning from these amazing therapists and the work they do.

            As of right now, we are in the middle of the Holiday Program, a three-week-long program that involves helping children during the time when they are most at risk, school vacation. I have organized meetings, planned the schedules for different age groups, prepared activates and materials, and was in charge of organizing and finding different volunteers for the duration of it. It has been quite a handful of work, even before the program began. For the first week we worked with a  group of 2-5 year olds, and one of 5-11 year olds, as well as adolescents and some of the guardians, all living in the condemned building I wrote about earlier. The second week will be an open studio where the children can come in and create and will be ensured a proper meal. The third week will consist of a week for adolescents only. They will be coming from the condemned building, an orphanage, an HIV+ clinic, and a children’s home. The theme will be taken from Gauguin’s famous image, Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? I greatly anticipate the projects and working with these adolescents.

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

Greetings from the American Islamic Congress!

Hi Everyone – This summer I am interning at the American Islamic Congress’ (AIC) Boston Office. AIC defines itself as a civic minded organization, dedicated to building interfaith and interethnic understanding, as well as supporting and fostering civil and human rights. While the main office is in DC, they have a strong Boston office and cultural center, as well as bureaus in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq.

I am working as the Arts and Culture Program Assistant. This summer, my main responsibility is to spearhead and co-lead the project development of a traveling art exhibit for the AIC scheduled to be launched in 2014. Our aim is to bring 6 – 8 Muslim artists to up to 6 cities on the east coast. We are inspired by the idea of cultural advocacy, (i.e., using arts to make a difference) and letting art counter stereotypes that people have of each other. Our hope is to have a diverse selection of strong artists from the Muslim world who can talk about relevant issues facing them and their communities such as fundamentalism, immigration, gender rights, and democracy. We hope to generate a cross-cultural conversation that allows and fosters positive engagement amongst societies. With this exhibit, we also want to have films and concerts, as well as outreach to high schools, in order to have a significant, 3-dimensional impact. I am involved with helping draft the concept, prospecting for fundraising, engaging partners, networking, coordinating outreach, and planning educational programming, amongst other responsibilities.

My other job is to be the curator for the cultural/gallery space in Boston. I was an Assistant Curator for AIC in Spring 2012 (which is how I got this Summer internship) and this summer allows me to be more engaged with the artists, as well as plan an exciting array of art and cultural exhibits (film and music) exhibits for the 2012 – 2013 year.

My first week has been pretty exciting. I definitely felt like I walked with a purpose my first day in. The location of the internship, at 38 Newbury Street, surrounded by glamour, adds not only the aura of a ‘legit’ operation, but also pressure – because you are competing with so much around you for an audience. As a Muslim-American organization, how can we try to be relevant and have a strong alternative, progressive Muslim voice? I think that is the big issue that this organization is grappling with.

For this summer, I am working with a couple of people in the office but my supervisor is Andrea Dettore, Development Associate – she is a great lover of music and arts programming and is going to guide me through the process of fundraising, and network and partner building for the traveling exhibit.  The final concept will be the result of our joint conversations and expertise.

On Thursday, I was involved in co-curating the most exciting exhibit so far! AIC is partnering with Discover Roxbury, an organization dedicated to the promotion of culture of Roxbury, to feature five American artists of color, who traveled to Egypt before the Arab Spring, and have been inspired by it. Please find pictures for it below!

I co-curated this show with two workers at Discover Roxbury. This was the first time I ever co-curated an exhibit, and this was definitely a learning experience because there were some strong ideas being bounced around and some clashes, but all in all our result was great!

I really hope this summer will allow me to develop skills that I do not currently possess in the field of planning. As an Art/Art History major, theoretically I know about art in general, but I don’t know much about business plans, marketing, and outreach/fundraising. I would love to combine my love of art and knowledge of contemporary Muslim art, and learn how to be successful in this field of cultural management.

Additionally – I would love to find a progressive Muslim voice that is advocating for strong change, and be able to find my own space within it with my multiple identities.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz (May god protect you)

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13

First week at UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana

This June and July I am interning/volunteering with Unite For Sight (UFS) in Ghana.

Unite For Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. UFS partners with local eye clinics in three developing countries: Honduras, India, and Ghana. Patients receive free eye care and surgeries funded by UFS so that no patient suffers due to lack of financial resources. In addition to being a leader in providing cost-effective care to the world’s poorest people, UFS’ Global Health University trains and nurtures the next generation of global health leaders.

As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I am to assist the local eye clinics with any of their needs and participate in urban and rural community outreaches. My specific responsibilities include: registering patients (taking down introductory information like name, age, gender), conducting visual acuity screenings (testing the seeing power of each eye, one-at-a-time), distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician (reading glasses, distance glasses, sunglasses), writing receipts for patients who purchase eyeglasses and/or medications, and entering said patients’ data into the eye clinic’s database for tracking and referral purposes (chief complaint, primary diagnosis, doctor’s prescription, etc). We are also required to fundraise monies for surgeries, collect eyeglasses for the eye clinics to distribute, and complete Global Health & Impact training in preparation for our travels abroad.

I came across Unite for Sight on the “Pre-Health Advising” page of the Brandeis University website two summers ago. I discovered that at least three other Brandeis students had participated in this same program and so I reached out specifically to one of these students and asked for his thoughts. He could say nothing but great things about UFS, and recommended that I apply…and so the rest is history!

My first week with Unite For Sight was not too much of a surprise. I was required to complete the Global Health & Impact training long before I even stepped foot on the plane, so I was already familiar with many of the eye clinics, their staffs, and their global health delivery models. I spent my first week engaging in outreach work with North Western Eye Centre and three other American volunteers. We worked with communities in the Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana and saw anywhere from 50 to 80 patients a day. I quickly learned the difference in diagnosing many of the eye pathologies I encountered in training, (i.e. a corneal scar versus a cataract), and bonded with the team of optometrists, nurses, interns, drivers, and other volunteers.

Unite For Sight: That’s the motto!

Photo Source

I feel more and more Ghanaian everyday…check out my colors!

Photo Source

My learning expectations for this summer are to engage in my coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, I am expected to fulfill a “hands on experience,” which grants me the opportunity to engage academic material experientially in a setting related to either health or health care. After venturing to and from Ghana, I will have come away with a stronger understanding of the social determinants of health and disease and the impacts of social inequality on health in Ghana, by having become part of a global health organization that initiates sustainable health care frameworks in the developing world.

Want to learn more about Unite For Sight and/or Ghana? Please check out the links below:

http://www.uniteforsight.org/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ghana

– Darrell Byrd ’13

Midpoint at NARAL Pro Choice

Photo source

It’s been a little over a month since the beginning of my work here at NARAL and I’m enjoying it more and more as we get further into the summer. Many of my goals were focused around gaining experience in the non-profit world, making valuable connections, and really taste-testing to see if this is something I’d want to pursue in the future With this in mind, I think I’m progressing well.

For me, politics, as in running for office, doesn’t seem like the medium of change I want to pursue. I want to be part of the most effective way of making change. My supervisor’s job includes both the legislative and political side by lobbying for legislation, working in the statehouse, making valuable connection with senators and representatives, and really being on the front lines of passing effective and necessary legislation. In addition, he spends a lot of time working to get pro-choice candidates elected. These two aspects of change are not only essential for progressive initiatives (working from both the policy and elected official sides) but also are part of a job that I really feel interested in.

My academic goals of learning more about pro-choice legislation, the act of lobbying, what it takes to run a non-profit, and actual reproductive rights have also been coming along. Everyday I feel like I’m learning more and more about the topics themselves, but also how they fit into my life.

In addition, I’m building a lot of skills related to this type of work. I’m becoming familiar with grassroots organizing techniques, constituent relations, working with state legislators and aides, and campaigning. Campaigning has been a really large portion of my skill set because campaigns are complicated and almost take on lives of their own. There is just so much involved. First, one must get a large volunteer base and intern base if they want to run a successful campaign since campaigns rely on manpower. Secondly, they require a lot of organization and planning to run a successful campaign, which includes door knocking, phone banking, and data entry as the main components. All of these activities are not simple. They require a lot more than face value. The hours are long, the jobs can be tedious and intense, and the response isn’t always ideal. But running an effective and credible campaign is extremely important, and I feel very lucky to be able to be part of so many incredible campaigns.

All of these skills will absolutely transfer into both future academic and career pursuits as I’m building a large skill base, getting experience working for a non-profit, and learning empirical knowledge about women’s health and reproductive rights.

One thing I’d like to quickly address is the misconception that NARAL is a pro-abortion organization. In fact, NARAL and it’s employees are routinely called “baby killers” and other things that are just as vulgar and untrue. NARAL works for women to have choice, access to medically accurate information, and a full range of control over their bodies. It does not promote one option over the other, it does not deny that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy; it does not promote abortion as a form of birth control. It works for women to be able to have full control over their own bodies. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. It’s as simple as that. But every woman, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or age, should have full control over her body. Being pro-choice, is not anti-child, anti-family, anti-religion, or anti-anything. It’s being responsible and respectful. There are so many undeniable correlations between access to reproductive rights and increasing education, health, financial independence, and aspiration outcome.

As a young woman, I understand what is at stake in this election – at this time. The fact that reproductive rights are even still in question is an absurdity that boggles my brain daily. I understand that fighting for the right to have control over my body is essential and something that cannot be taken lightly. Even with waning faith in the political system, I understand that voting in this election (both state and federal) are essential in the promotion of my rights as a 21 year old Brandeis student who wants to be able to decide if, when and how I have a family. If you are reading this post, male or female (because this is important for men and fathers as well), remember that this election is really important and regardless of your own personal views, choice is choice – and a constitutional right that is being threatened and must be protected.  Please vote pro-choice in 2012. In my next blog I will be attaching a Massachusetts Voter Guide, which shows which candidates are standing behind this fundamental right.

Sorry for the bleeding heart speech, but I feel if I’m going to be writing about my goals, it’s important to state what it really all comes down to: getting the community together to help protect choice.

For a snapshot on some of the legislation I’m working on, visit these sites:

Photo source

– Rebecca Miller ’13

First Week at NARAL Pro-Choice

Photo credit: Ruth Weld

It’s been a few weeks since I began my work with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America. I have really been enjoying my time here and am sad at how quickly it is going by.

The main mission of this non-profit organization is to create, build, and maintain a grassroots constituency to protect every woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive choices, whatever they may be. NARAL does many things to protect women and their right to choose including mobilizing supporters, working to elect pro-choice candidates, passing pro-choice legislation, conducting research on reproductive topics, and leading initiatives to improve the reproductive health equity within Massachusetts. Given this summer’s extreme importance as an election summer and the significance of reproductive issues within the campaigns, this summer is an exciting and crucial time to be working with NARAL.

My internship is basically divided into two parts; office work and campaign work. My role in the office consists of many different responsibilities like data entry, sitting in on endorsement interviews with candidates for the Massachusetts legislature and various other tasks. I am also responsible for tracking Worcester County state elections and following all the local politics to keep track of our endorsed candidates. In addition, I work as the legislative intern which entails keeping track of NARAL’s priority legislation, writing fact sheets, following policy in the statehouse, and working to prepare for the next legislative session as this one comes to a close in July.

The other main part of my internship is working on the campaigns of the candidates we endorse.  This is really exciting because I get to work on multiple campaigns; meet a lot of incredible people, network, and get important experience being part of a campaign. When I’m on a campaign I’m doing everything from making constituent calls, going door to door, and yes, more data entry.

I became interested in NARAL when I referred to their database for help with a research project, showing the link between the oppression of women and access to birth control and abortions. I was impressed and inspired by their research and policy initiatives. I knew that I wanted to work for a non-profit dealing with social justice and women’s studies, so after researching NARAL’s functions and the opportunities available over winter break, I applied for an internship to test the waters in the non-profit world.

Photo Credit: Ruth Weld

My first week was wonderful. It involved an all day-training with other interns at local non-profits like MassEquality and Women’s Political Caucus. I learned a lot about NARAL itself, but also the goals of small political non-profits and how they work. Later that week, we had one of our biggest canvassing events at Gay Pride Boston 2012. It was an incredible experience. The main goal of the day was to increase our membership. This event was really fun, action-packed, and a great introduction to the internship. It’s also just a really wonderful experience to be surrounded by people who are all coming together to fight for equality.

My learning expectations are based around my desire to further figure out which medium of advocacy for justice I want to pursue. This internship will help me to clarify my career path and allow me the opportunity to test the non-profit world.  As a rising senior, I’m really looking forward to using this internship as a way to further my understanding of my career goals and potentially make vital connections for the future.

Before I close this first post, I think it’s really important to share something I learned within my first week at NARAL. Massachusetts has always been seen as an extremely progressive state and many people are proud to live here. While this is true, sometimes the legacy of Massachusetts being progressive allows us to take a backseat and assume things about our laws. Despite Massachusetts’ extreme leadership in healthcare and commitment to public health, Massachusetts is one of only four states in the entire country that still has an outdated law on the books, from the 19th century, that bans all abortions. In addition, there is another provision that bars all birth control to unmarried couples. These archaic statues have not been enforced for many years especially given federal cases like Roe v. Wade, which is potentially why there has been little to no movement to get rid of them. Yet in the wake of recent attacks on reproductive freedom, Roe v. Wade does seem like it’ll be threatened in the near future. If this becomes the case, and it is overturned, abortion and birth control will become illegal in Massachusetts. We cannot stand for this. One of NARAL Massachusetts’ main legislative priorities is working as hard as possible to get this archaic and unjust legislation repealed as quickly as possible. Be on the lookout for ways you can reach out to your state legislators to make sure this legislation is repealed.

Sorry for the detour! Overall my internship has been incredible and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Check out NARAL:

To see if your legislator is pro-choice, click here.

– Rebecca Miller ’13

 

First week at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH)–Youth Development Internship

 

I have just completed my first week as a youth development intern at the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. On my first day my supervisor took me on a tour of the Mission Hill property and explained to me how their organization is run. We also discussed his background in Non- Profit work and the skills one needs to acquire in order to hold a senior/executive position.

One of my personal objectives for my summer internship was learning about the business aspects of Non-Profits. I’m interested in social services as well as business. This is why I thought it would be beneficial to get some hands on experience at a Non-Profit organization this summer. My supervisor has agreed to go over the budget with me, as well as allow me to sit in on staff meetings so I can see how executive decisions are made. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with someone who is invested in my experience and wants me to get everything I possibly can during my time here.  He told me he would share all he knew with me, and he has been keeping his word. Every morning I report to him and check in, he asks me questions and makes sure I have help completing the necessary objectives for the day.

This sign is near the entrance of the RTH property

 

I work directly with two youth development staff during the day in the Teen Department. I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the good things to come over the summer!and we’ve been creating an agenda for the summer. So far, we’ve scheduled field trips, basketball tournaments, job readiness workshops, and fun activities for the kids to do during the day. I’ve met quite a bit of the youth I’ll be working with throughout the summer and I was surprised to see how quickly they have warmed up to me. The kids in the program (youth building communities) are between the ages of 11 and 14, so this is a critical age for them. I’m very much looking forward to working with them over the summer and building relationships. At first I was a little concerned about the relatively small age difference between the kids in the program and myself. I’m sure to them I seem young, and sometimes teenagers can see this as a reason to see me as one of their peers. Thankfully though, the staff has introduced me to the youth as well as their parents as part of the staff so I haven’t had any issues with my authority thus far.

I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the summer has to offer.

– Alyssa Green, ’14

Moving from New England dialects to Hmong fieldwork

A lot has happened since my last blog entry. Besides working on more acoustic analysis, I made two trips down to Plymouth, New Hampshire to do some of my own interviews. I went with one of the Dartmouth students who I had met before.  He was very helpful in explaining exactly how he does the interviews, and we did the first one together. Then, I stayed at the bakery where we had set up, and he went off to other local spots where he thought he could get useful interviews. It was good for me to step out of my usual comfort zone and ask people who came in if they would be willing to be interviewed. I asked if they had grown up and lived most of their lives in the area, since that was what we were looking for.  If they answered “yes”, I told them a little about the project and asked if they had 8-10 minutes of time for an interview. I was lucky to receive mostly positive responses, and got about 10 interviews on my own within the two days. During the interview, I had them read a word list, reading passage, and sentences, followed by questions on whether they believed there is a New Hampshire or New England dialect. These interviews will be analyzed just like I have been analyzing previously conducted interviews, with Praat. An interesting thing I noticed when finding people to interview was that some people looked scary.  Yet,  I decided to approach them anyway, and they turned out to be the nicest ones. Among the various lessons I have learned, one is the typical, “don’t judge a book by its cover”! I have also refined my interviewing skills based upon this lesson.

The second day I went to interview people, I met a woman who had studied linguistics and who was very interested in the project. I gave her the Dartmouth professor’s business card, and she proceeded to contact him offering to help with the project, which he was very excited about! He appreciated my personable attitude and said that he believed I would do great on the Hmong project, as it seemed like I was very approachable. I felt proud that I could be such a help to the project, and the interviews made me feel as if I was a valuable component; more so than when I was simply doing analysis from home.

During the remainder of my time at home, the professor also gave me books to look through about the Hmong. I had previously read Anne Fadiman’s book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” but besides that, did not know much about the community. I have already learned a lot more about them simply through the books. A lot of the material talked about the fact that many Hmong who now live in America feel as if Americans do not understand their culture, and misinterpret many cultural rituals and traditions. One thing I have noticed when reading these books is that it is much easier for me to retain the information when I am studying it for my own use, rather than simply for a test in class. I am excited to learn even more as I actually begin to interview the Hmong people.

“The Mong Oral Tradition” – A few of the books that the Dartmouth professor has provided me with.

 

I just got to Massachusetts yesterday, where I will be spending the remainder of my internship. Before I left, I stopped at Dartmouth to speak with the professor about what exactly I will be doing during my time here, since the work is mostly on my own. He suggested I contact the Brandeis student again who did Hmong field work a few years ago. He also gave me all of her previous Hmong contacts, notes and interviews. I have already contacted her and she told me which places she was most successful, most of which were in Providence, RI, though also one park where she met a lot of Hmong people in Fitchburg, MA. Otherwise, I should begin by researching online to find Hmong organizations in the area, as it very well may have changed a bit since the previous Brandeis student carried out fieldwork here. Once I start conducting interviews, they will include cultural questions as well as certain components that will allow the interviewees to speak Hmong, which we can analyze later to find interesting linguistic elements within the language.

I am nervous because I feel even more on my own now than before, but the professor is more than helpful in answering any questions, and I feel as if I am well prepared. He will check in with me every week to make sure I am doing well with the research, and he will either visit me here at some point, or I will make a trip back to speak with him and possibly even do some more of the New England dialect field work. And whenever I am not busy with Hmong work, there is always more acoustic analysis to be done! The professor has assured me that even if I do not make a life-changing discovery, making more Hmong contacts in the area and carrying out some interviews will be very helpful to him. And personally, I have already learned so much that I know this internship has been and will continue to be beneficial to me! I am learning skills both that I can use in life, and more specific skills that I can use for future linguistics work. Although I am about half way through, I am only beginning this part of the internship, and even though I am nervous I am also so excited to see what will happen!

Me working in my new room! Trying to beat the heat…

– Alexandra Patch ’14

Researching Cantonese-English-Mandarin Language Acquisition

More than halfway into my internship, I have been making good progress on my learning goals for the summer at the Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre. In order to monitor my growth and make sure that I am absorbing as much knowledge as possible here, I have been keeping track of my completed tasks and constantly asking the graduate students at the Center for feedback and comments.

At the moment, I am transcribing video recordings for the Hong Kong Bilingual Child Language Corpus. The corpus is a database of bilingual Cantonese-English child speech recordings, in audio and video formats. I use the linguistic software called CLAN to transcribe and mark down specific features that appear in the child’s speech. For example, an important feature to note is code-switching, which is when the child switches from language to another, in this case from Cantonese to English or vice versa. Moreover, we not only transcribe the speech production of the child subject, but just as importantly, the production of the adults who speak to the child, or in other words, the child’s language input. We can achieve a more complete understanding of the target child’s language attainment by examining both her linguistic input and output.

Transcribing target child Yarona’s (mainly) English conversation — click to expand!

Another project I have been working on is the Mandarin Receptive Vocabulary Test for Hong Kong Children. One of my goals for the summer was to conduct experiments that look at children’s acquisition of vocabulary and sentences to better understand how teachers and curriculum can provide more effective language education for children. My responsibility was to compile the results and calculated the scores of each child who took the MRVT. The test is given to children aged 4-6 to assess their acquisition of Mandarin, a second or third language after Cantonese and English for most children in Hong Kong. In the test, children hear a word spoken in Mandarin and are asked to point to the corresponding picture. Only one out of the four pictures is correct and the other options are carefully selected distractors. There is always one other picture that is similar sounding, and one that is similar in meaning. The results tell us how children are most likely to make mistakes, and indicate areas that parents and teachers can improve upon. Working on this project gave me a lot of insight into my long-term goal which is to pursue a career incorporating linguistics into education, so that children can be exposed to various languages at an early age to become global citizens when they grow up. They will be able to communicate with many people, yet also have a native language that reminds them of their heritage.

Sample question in the MRVT: which picture shows xiang1 jiao1?

Concurrently with the other projects, I am currently working to design a computer-based experiment to study the referential strategy of spatial relations. It is extremely challenging and I get a great deal of independence in researching and designing how the experiment will be set up and run. It requires a lot of creative thinking and research. I am learning about the scientific method and research process. Working at CBRC, I have gained skills that will be essential for me in the future. Specifically, I have gained skills in transcription, and am working at a much faster pace than when I first started.

– Miriam Wong ’14

Halfway through my time with Bible Raps!

As part of my internship with Bible Raps I had the opportunity to spend a week at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton GA, where I once was a camper and counselor myself. Although I have worked for Bible Raps before and since, and will be embarking on the second leg of my “camp tour” next week, I think my experience at camp Ramah Darom best represents my internship so far.

I had two main goals when I began this summer: 1) Get hands-on experience with the day to day tasks of a Jewish musician and a nonprofit organization (both of which I hope to be a part of someday), and 2) Run workshops, perform, and write. In other words, I wanted both the clerical and the creative; at camp I did both. I used constant contact to begin putting together a newsletter, edited, formatted and copied lyrics (like this Torah Rap Map to the rap “Jonah:”

and reached out online to the kids we had performed for.  I also helped with the workshops themselves, including working with the older kids in camp to write songs for their color war, which was a great throw-back for me. (The songs needed to involve their color, theme, region of the world, and be easy enough for everyone to sing, and incorporate Jewish texts, and if this wasn’t difficult enough, be completely in Hebrew. Yikes!). In the workshops, students learn a Jewish text, as well as the basics of writing a rap. (Videos from past workshops can be found here.) Students then split into groups to either make a beat with Matan or write with Matt and I to help. I loved seeing the campers faces after they laid down their tracks: beaming with pride, not just at what they had accomplished, but what they had learned. And I have learned so much; helping someone write is very difficult. There’s a thin line between giving suggestions and putting words in someone’s mouth, and most of these kids have had very little rapping experience. I worked on walking that line and keeping the ball rolling, while making sure the kids owned their work. Matt’s a pro at it, and is helping me improve as well.

I have a few proud moments from this week, some professional and some personal. When Matt handed over the reins to me to lead a workshop myself, I was a bit nervous but felt confident that I knew the ropes, and I did. I was certainly not perfect, and Matt and I went over what I could have done better. But working directly with the campers and facilitating such a unique experience was very rewarding. Later in the week, one of the older campers who we had worked with for color war said to me, “Don’t tell the other guys but you’re my favorite Bible Rapper.”  I smiled and we laughed, but it really meant a lot. This is more than a job, more than an incredible opportunity. For this summer at least, I am a Bible Rapper. I may not be a rapper yet, but I’m part of this amazing team that does so much good and brings so much learning to the world. That’s what I’m the most proud of.

P.S. Here is a video of Matt and Matan performing for some enthusiastic fourth graders!

– Eliana Light ’13

The Temporal Center of My Time at the Trauma Center

It’s been about a month since I first started my internship at the trauma center, and since then I have been exposed to many activities that have allowed me to work on my goals for this summer. Academically, I started the summer knowing I needed more experience doing clinical research in order to properly prepare myself for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology later on. I have been able to measure my progress through the number of studies I have found, analyzed and included in my literature. So far this number has climbed to over 100 articles, and I am sure it will climb higher over the next few weeks.

The trauma center has given me opportunity to interact with professionals across the trauma field, from psychologists to fellow volunteers, to people working the public relations front. I am learning a lot about each of these sectors and how they interact to form a complete organization aimed at preventing, treating, and building resilience to trauma. I have tracked my progress in this area by the amount and length of interactions I have had with the various professionals at the Center.

My personal goals are probably the area where I have met with the most success so far. With such kind people, I see more and more why I love my time at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma alone. For example, last week we held a fund raiser and I was assigned the role of “camera guy.” I knew a little about film, thanks to a class offered at Brandeis University, but I still had trouble with the technology. The ICTP staff’s response was immediate, and they offered not only help but feedback that was constructive and positive. They also drove me part-way back home, even though we finished our day’s work after 10:00 P.M. that night.

 

Photo Credit: Amos Nachoum

I think I am most proud of the fact that I have come to a place that affords me not only the type of career I want to have, but the type of individual I want to be: professional yet humble, conservative with evidence yet open-minded to creative ideas for trauma interventions. I have worked and wished for years for a place where I could find even one of these. Now that I have both, I feel that a serene sense of balance has taken over.

My work at the trauma center has helped me build new skills in storytelling through video, helped me improve my Hebrew, allowed me to work on research skills, honed my filming skills originally learned at at a class at Brandeis, and has bolstered my ability to pitch ideas. My improved Hebrew will also help me with my coursework, as I intend on taking at least one Hebrew course in addition to the amount required. My film skills will help me secure other ways of helping out at future events of the trauma center, and will also help me in searching for jobs that require a variety of skills. Lastly, to build a career in research, or even to give myself a voice in any campus, being able to effectively pitch and communicate my ideas will be an invaluable skill.

 

Photo Credit: Amos Nachoum

– Rocky Reichman ’13

Midway point at the States Attorney’s Office

These past four weeks have really flown by! My responsibilities at the States Attorney’s Office have grown and I feel much more comfortable in the office.  When I walk into the office every morning, I now feel prepared to handle any task that comes my way.  Before I began my internship, one of my main goals was to learn more about the judicial system. That included better understanding the court processes, the inner workings of the states attorney’s office, and the specific role of the victims advocate. I feel that I have already learned so much about each of those things and I hope to learn even more.

While monitoring court proceedings I feel that I understand more and more of what goes on. I now understand the difference between a status conference and a jury draw status conference. I have discovered which court proceedings interest me to watch and which are monotonous. Even though I prefer certain court proceedings to others, one of my responsibilities is to watch whichever one my supervisor needs me to and then I report back to him on the outcome. This has taught me to pay attention and understand the process and outcome. I have also learned a lot from the attorneys who have encouraged questions and taught me a lot about the work they do.  I was even able to sit with one of the attorneys during one court proceeding.

I also better understand the role of the victim’s advocates because that is the department I specifically work with.  One of my main responsibilities is to assist with restitution paperwork, which I now feel very comfortable doing. My supervisor will hand me an assorted pile of papers knowing that I understand what to do with them. I now have enough experience to use the database in a way to find the appropriate paperwork, print it, and then file it.

 

File Cabinets
Restitution Folders!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My supervisor actually calls me his “chief-of-staff”! Every time he says that, I feel proud of my work and that I am really helping him. I enjoy being able to walk into his office, with him knowing that I am capable of doing anything that he hands me.  His confidence in me has shown that I have learned a lot. I feel more confident in my work for him and my overall ability to work in the office.

Confidence is just one skill that has grown since my internship began. I also feel more competent with computer databases and promptly being able to figure out how it works. After using a few different types of databases at this internship I feel confident in my ability to quickly learn and adapt to new programs. I know that is a skill that I can take with me to future jobs and will help me feel comfortable with using any program thrown my way.

My knowledge of the judicial system has also certainly grown, which is something that will benefit me in both academics and with my future career.  I feel as though I understand the difference between civil court and criminal court, which is something I never fully understood before . I am currently working more with the criminal court, but was able to observe some family court proceedings. Through this internship and the opportunities given to me, I have learned that I enjoy family court and civil court much more than criminal court. I have greater interests in the cases that appear in civil court and the attorney-client relationships that ensue. This current internship has shed light onto the different courts and truly helped me better understand what I am interested in for the future.

– Ilana Abramson ’13

Week 1 at the Jewish Eco Seminars

Shalom from Jerusalem! I am just about to finish my first week of interning for the Jewish Eco Seminars and so far it has been a fantastic experience!

The Jewish Eco Seminars engages the Jewish community by educating people about the powerful outcomes of combining ecological innovation, Jewish values, and modern Israel. The organization reaches people in Israel, as well as North and South America. It is one of the branches of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, which works to foster dialogue between the religious leaders and communities in Jerusalem on the topic of environmental issues. The Jewish Eco Seminars provides a great deal of opportunities and information. They offer many programs and trips ranging from exploring Israeli organic farming and learning about the country’s water problems to learning how to build with mud and much more!

Jewish Eco Seminars is based out of a small office (converted apartment) in the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem – less than a 5 minute walk from the Machane Yehuda Shuk (open market – see photo)! Most of the work that I have been doing this week is inside the office, though, occasionally some of the work involves going out a bit.

At the beginning of the week I was given the option of many possible tasks to work on. They ranged from publicity to research to video editing and more. I chose to spend my week focusing on fundraising because it was something that I’d never experienced before. This week I have been researching potential donors and providing my supervisor with information about them. I look for information such as where people and foundations already donate their money and what their interests are, and from this determine whether I think we may have a connection. Next, we get in touch with the groups who seem interesting and set up a time to meet with them. Before each meeting, we do more research on the group or person so that we will have a complete background knowledge of their previous actions in order to connect on a higher level and better understand them. I have learned so much just in this one week! Next week I plan on continuing some of the fundraising work and also exploring more projects!

On a different note, two years ago, the Jewish Eco Seminars was founded by PresenTense, an organization that helps Jewish innovators to use “their ideas and energy to revitalize the established Jewish community.” I came across Jewish Eco Seminars while speaking with a friend who is involved with PresenTense. I emailed the director expressing interest in interning with them and after a meeting/interview we realized that we were a great match for each other. After college I hope to become a Jewish environmental educator so I quickly realized that this internship would be great for me to gain experience in my field!

If this sounds interesting to you, feel free to like the Jewish Eco Seminars on facebook!

In addition, I’d like to share with you a great video that the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development released last week in conjunction with the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Click here to watch One Home!

– Ariana Berlin ’14

First Week at The Sold Project

Learning to ‘go with the flow’ of nature, urban life, car and cow traffic, and super-relaxed co-workers is not always easy, but I’m up for the challenge! I’ve been following suit of the ancient temples that line the mountains surrounding the cities in Northern Thailand- this peaceful Buddha statue was nestled in a garden of broken relics guarding a temple cave twenty minutes north of Chiang Mai.

Hello All!

After a week of roaming around and getting acclimated to Thai time, weather, food and extremely relaxed atmosphere, I am finally all settled in at my home-stay in Chiang Rai. Before I begin gushing about my experiences, let me give you a short debriefing on The Sold Project, and my own ambitions and responsibilities for the summer.

The Sold Project is an NGO here in Chiang Rai that works to provide scholarships for local children who cannot afford the cost of education. Additionally, Sold has a resource center very close to the main school systems outside of Chiang Rai where children are exposed to extracurricular opportunities in English, computers, writing and local social justice issues. Through scholarship money paid by Sold’s donors and the constant dedication and hard work of the on-site staff, Sold’s scholarship recipients are not only receiving an enriched education, but a ticket out of being sold into human trafficking as a means to support their families. Here’s a page explaining the facts of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

I was invited to intern at Sold after developing a program for teaching emotional expression through visual art. Though many of the students come from traumatic and abusive backgrounds, Thai culture does not allow for any external indication of negative feelings, anxieties or experiences. My objective for the program this summer is to introduce Sold’s students to the possibility of using art as a vehicle for expressing their feelings in a culturally acceptable manner. If all goes according to plan, by the end of the summer program participants will have an ‘artistic toolbox’ to carry forward and use to express themselves in the future.

Yesterday was my first day on site. Though the day was mainly focused on planning logistics and meeting the Thai staff, it was full of adventure and excitement nonetheless. First, the Thai staff put their heads together to come up with my Thai nickname that would be easy for the kids to say and remember. After quite a few minutes of deliberation, they named me Nam Wan, which is Thai for sweet water. After I’d been initiated we all did some brainstorming for how the program would begin, and deciding which Thai staff member would be giving me morning Thai lessons. We then briefly met the kids at the school.  At the first sight of ‘Phalong’, or foreigners, the kids’ eyes lit up and we immediately became lumbering jungle-gyms for masses of 4 and 5 year old girls.

We walked with the children up to the village where many of them live. The village is small, incredibly rural, and nestled cozily into the mountainous jungle. There are gorgeous butterflies and flowers everywhere- it was hard to believe that the families in these homes would consider selling their children.

This next week I will continue to plan my curriculum and meet the enormous community of creative and artistic travelers that have come to this city and never left. I’m incredibly excited to see how the kids (and community) respond to the art program, and can’t wait to navigate the unexpected twists and turns in the road that are sure to arise!

– Zoey Hart ’13