Enhancing my skills during my gap year with a remote internship, with Intern Abroad HQ

Griffin has a degree in Economics and is currently on a gap year. Taking advantage of the opportunity to learn more about economic and business development, prior to starting his Masters in International Affairs (with a concentration in economic development). Griffin participated in the remote Microfinance internship (hosted out of Tanzania). Read on to learn about how he gained experience with an NGO in a developing country, all via a remote internship!

Hi Griffin! Why did you choose the remote Microfinance internship?

I have very limited experience working in and around the private sector; especially when it comes to finance and budgeting projects, and I wanted to gain insight on how microfinance NGOs function in order to achieve their strategic goals. I also want to make a positive impact and legitimately contribute to the organization in a meaningful way.

The internship provided me with much needed experience in this specific space and showed that I can make the transition to interning for this type of organization. At the same time, cross-cultural communication is a crucial skill - along with working across large time differences with individuals from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. My co-workers during the remote internship were very supportive of my involvement and continually asked me for input and ideas based on my different perspectives.

What were your responsibilities as a remote intern?

I was a microfinance intern for a small, regional NGO focusing on supporting female entrepreneurs in the Mt. Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. I was involved in opening up new fundraising streams, increasing awareness online and on social media, and presenting proposals to leadership on program improvements and strategic outlook of the host organization.

It was great to meet the director and discuss the history of the host organization. My favorite memory was getting the opportunity to present strategies for decreasing default rates on micro-finance loans within the VICOBA model as well as create a training guide on the topic for facilitators. I learned a lot from the experiences, both from creating the products as well as from the research needed to complete them, and it was very fulfilling to see that work actually had an impact.

Enhancing my skills during my gap year with a remote internship, with Intern Abroad HQ

Did you face any unique challenges?

Yes! There was a temporary internet outage across 11 countries in Africa (including Tanzania) so we could not complete our online sessions until the issue was resolved. The biggest challenge was overcoming internet issues while trying to conduct Skype calls as it affected my ability to speak directly to my supervisor.The outage forced me to work with limited guidance and limited messaging, and to prioritize my tasks that I was assigned to, since I could not speak to my supervisor directly. I was relieved that I managed to complete everything on time in the end!

What were your key learning outcomes from the experience?

My biggest learning point was simply understanding the challenges and issues that face small scale NGOs. Seeing how a small organization addresses these challenges, such as lack of funding or government support, was incredibly helpful and better prepared me to understand how to navigate similar issues in the future. It also gave me a much more nuanced understanding of how differences in culture can have drastic effects on the implementation and effectiveness of certain programs.

I feel much more confident now that I have actual experience working in an NGO as opposed to directly for the government. I have also experienced and learned about a new culture and region of which I had very limited knowledge prior to the start of my internship. I believe the experience was a fantastic way for me to bridge my gap between my last job and heading to graduate school.

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What are your future plans from here?

I would like to continue my interest in micro-finance, specifically when choosing my graduate school program, and further explore the future career paths available in that area. I intend to search for capstone project opportunities that would allow me to work in the micro-finance field and even in the specific region of my internship as I believe it can have a considerable impact on long term growth and poverty reduction.

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