Graduating with marketing, I knew I didn't want to go into the advertising world, I wanted to market something I truly believed in, I wanted to use my business knowledge for something more then just making money. I had heard about the MEDA internships recently and for me the chance abroad, as well as the work experience was perfect.
No, it wasn't really what I thought it would be, it is actually a lot faster pace. I had assumed that everything would move at a really slow pace, not truly preparing me for work when I move back home but it was quite the opposite. Everyday presented a new opportunity and new challenge. The staff was incredible, inviting you into many discussions that are both a learning experience and a chance for you to share your own ideas. The office culture was as close to a family as you could get, not a day went by without laughing here. I had so many opportunities to be involved with so many more departments of the organization learning new skills every time.
I definitely had challenges and at the beginning really didn't think I was going to make it 6 months but with some encouraging words from back home and such welcoming culture here, I found myself enjoying this adventure quite quickly.
I guess the advice that I would give to anyone looking to work in international development would be to experience what you are trying to implement change in, learn why it is important. There is no way to truly learn the culture without experiencing it first hand.
Did the internship draw on my degree? Absolutely and more! I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Marketing and a minor in Communications. Attending a business school, I had to take classes from every area of business and throughout this internship, I have been able to touch on many of those. Even simple things such as excel, we took a class on how to learn to use all the features on excel and unfortunately I had already forgotten most of them. During, my 6 months though I was able to work through that, a report that once took me 6 hours to complete now takes me 30 minutes. This is one of the smaller examples, I can't even begin to explain how much I have learned working with the team to strategize the new approach or reassess how the monitoring and evaluation team is tracking data.
I would have to say the most rewarding experience I had was climbing Mt. Meru with fellow intern Jared and Daniel. It would have been a tough Christmas without friends around but instead it was one I will definitely never forget. Waking up at 1am to climb to the summit, just as your family back home would be sitting down to Christmas dinner. The last leg of the climb was extremely tough and I didn't really think I could make it up to the summit; luckily I had brought to great motivators with me. With their encouragement, we all pushed through the pain, cold weather and tiredness finding our way to the summit at sunrise. Words can't explain the beauty.
My most rewarding work experience is not a specific time but rather many moments. As a part of my new role throughout working on a proposal with a great team, I am able to be a part of many meetings with all my managers and country director. I went in assuming these meetings would be all business but I was pleasantly surprised when I got to see these mentors of mine enjoy every moment. They have all taught me so much in the work world and to see them still have fun every day inspired me even more.
I think the biggest skill I gained was confidence. I learned how to share my thoughts in a meeting of all my coworkers. Time management was another big component, as an intern I work from all areas, it was up to me to ensure that I was working on what was priority and handing it off before the deadline. I was also challenged with learning many hard skills. I now know how to use excel 200x better, I was often put in charge of editing photos and graphics for brochures or posters and even editing drafts of success stories, proposals and quarterly reports.
The absolute most important lesson I learned was to get involved. Whether that be at work, learning new areas of the organization or in your community, joining different clubs or sports teams. I have learned so many things, met incredible people and been on adventures like climbing Mt. Meru, swimming with whale sharks, playing underwater hockey and so much more.
I don't think there was anything I wish I knew before. Everything I wasn't prepared for out here led to me learning even more. Even the challenging experiences turned into positive ones when I look back on my internship. With the amazing support both back home and here, there really isn't an easy way to fail.