Adeline Vernon, 2017 recipient of the Intern Abroad HQ Experience, continues her 16-week internship journey in Cusco, Peru. She shares with us insight into her internship role, learning outcomes, challenges and advice for future interns…
Can you describe your internship role, the tasks you’re involved in, and how this role benefits the organization in both the short term and the long term?
My internship role has many different layers. I am currently working on designing a new and modern website for the NGO organization where my placement is based. This is more of a long-term exercise and the website will serve as a platform where sponsors, similar NGOs, or even our current students can come and learn about the organization. Aside from designing the website, I am also using my English/Spanish abilities to help translate different documents and emails from sponsors. If the NGO organization was interested in expanding, I would be an asset because I could help reach people from different areas by using different social platforms (like creating a website) and reaching people who speak either the Spanish or English language. One of the ways in which I am also assisting the NGO with their short-term goals is by offering English language lessons to the current student body.
“This placement allows me to better understand the nature of an NGO. I learned about many organizations in school but through this internship I get to see the work and effort that is needed by a family of people, to keep the organization afloat.”
Can you tell us a little bit about how your internship role has evolved over time, as you’ve been able to develop increased familiarity and independence?
When I arrived, I expected to be provided with a very formal schedule and set project. I thought I would have a mentor guiding me every step of the way. However, I learned during the first day at my placement that this would not be case! My supervisor at the NGO organization was very interested in hearing my own ideas and wanted me to take quite a proactive approach toward determining my activities, schedule, and identifying the types of projects where I wanted to focus my attention.
Looking back, the advice that I would give is to allow sufficient “settling in” time to gain a comprehensive understanding of the NGO’s operations, mission and outreach activities. Allowing time to work across various departments (i.e. administration, education, and in the health field) enables you to see what you enjoy most, or where your assistance and skill contribution can be the most effective, so that you can take leadership in determining how you’d like to prioritize your time. (The minimum duration requirement for an NGO Support program in Peru, with Intern Abroad HQ, is 8 weeks, which allows you the necessary time to have this integrative period within your placement organization).
While I’m learning a lot at my NGO placement, I’ve also learned what I don’t like to do! I hadn’t expected to do so much office work and tasks on the computer. I met with my local Internship Coordinator as well as the Director at my NGO and we discussed other ways I could get involved here in Cusco. Instead of spending every day at the office, I’ll be starting to work at an after-school program in Cusco. Both parties were totally open and excited for me to be doing something that I would enjoy!
“Gaining work experience and of course furthering my understanding of international relations as a career is important but, growth only happens by learning from other people.”
What advice would you give to someone about to begin an internship position within a culturally diverse setting?
I would tell them to be open to whatever happens. Yesterday we had a party for “Dia de Los Compadres.” I could have opted to go home, or work on something else while everything was happening, but instead I stayed and joined in. I stayed and I asked questions and I learned more about my co-workers, their lives, community and culture. It was my favourite day that I’ve had in Peru thus far and I wouldn’t have known that if I wouldn’t have just been open!
“If there is one goal that I hope to achieve while working as an intern, it’s to establish deep bonds with the people that surround me every day.”
Now that you’re halfway through your internship, can you reflect back on your internship highlights from the first 8 weeks of your NGO placement in Cusco?
The very first thing I think about is “Día de Los Compadres.” I remember thinking, “I could live here.” The culture, the respect for tradition, and the incredible friendships I witnessed that day, were something that I wanted to be a part of forever. Another highlight was definitely after my last English class. During my internship placement, I was told that I could teach three different classes of students. One of the groups only had 5 classes with me. On our last day I said my goodbyes and let them know that if they wanted to continue or even just be friends, I was more than willing to do that. As I was packing up they all came up to me and asked if it would be okay if they asked the office if they could have more English classes instead of their other activities! I was so surprised and also incredibly touched that they wanted to keep learning from me!