I decided to apply for a MEDA internship as it was an opportunity to branch out in my career goals. I had previously been working in a provincial government desk job for 5 years and thought it was time for a change to implement my background with mapping GIS/ and international development and it seemed like a great opportunity.
I was most interested in MEDA's wide variety of economic development ideas on how they take grassroots steps in order to help out the people and the countries they are working in. They don't give handouts and instead empower the citizens to reach their highest potential on their own. It was a great organization right from the orientation week to work for, and be a part of. The standards are very high and the organization is well known and respected in developing countries they do work in.
Working in international development is fairly similar to how I felt it would be. It was a mix of on the ground activities, along with office work in a rapidly changing environment. I felt I would get to experience more time in the field and around the country of Tanzania as a whole. The interaction with international and economic development is something MEDA should be proud of.
I was prepared by my past volunteer experience in developing countries in central America and Africa. I was ready to encounter situations that may be different from what you would experience in Canada. As well you need an open mind, and to be able to think outside the box as you may not have all the resources you're used to.
I assumed it would be more field activities here in Tanzania. But you have to be prepared for anything. You may not be out in the frontlines working with your clients and partners. But instead behind the scenes making sure systems function properly, and data is organized and collected.
I would tell those hoping to work in international development to not be discouraged if it starts out to be nothing like you planned. It is a wide discipline and incorporates plenty of different aspects and professions. It may take you a long time to find the opportunity that is right for you, and that matches your background and skill sets. Don't be afraid to create your own opportunities and take initiative when enter a new working environment as it could lead to other opportunities and ventures. Networking within workplaces and outside in a social setting may lead to further connections and jobs down the line.
Yes, the internship I did worked hand in hand with my degree. I have a Degree in Geography with a Graduate Certificate in GIS (Applications Specialist). I worked with an eVoucher database here in Tanzania and preformed GIS analysis on collected data.
Most of the skills I learned in my undergrad, which I used, are life skills. For instance, finding the perfect opportunity for yourself and your career through trial and error. Not being afraid to jump into an opportunity or a potential one. You never know until you try. Also, the interaction with coworkers is key to get anything accomplished, and ability to know when to ask a question when you don't understand.
I personally always knew I was interested in geography, maps, and knowing where places are. I was also interested in computers and how they work, so naturally the two disciplines went hand in hand. Looking back, I might have continued to take more courses after I graduated to keep my IT skills up, which is a very important aspect in a digital world where things are constantly changing.
After I finished my internship, I now feel as though I will be set up to continue down my new career path into more positions and opportunities within International Development and GIS /Mapping. I want to continue learning new technologies and sharpen my skills to gain future career enhancement. The idea of doing a Masters is in the back of my mind, but wouldn't advance my career motives at present.
The most rewarding experience was meeting coworkers and experiencing their impact through the MEDA organization on the country they are from as a whole. The work MEDA does in Tanzania changes lives and saves lives. The people behind the scenes in the office, drivers and field officers work very hard, and take pride in all that they accomplish.
The skills I have learned are how to be more personable and that you have to work hard to get where you want to be in your career goals. Interaction with coworkers is key to get tasks accomplished. The people that are a head above the rest of the crowd are the ones who stand out, ask questions, take initiative and aren't afraid to be wrong.
I think the most important lesson I will take away from the internship is that hard work and networking within the office and outside will go far in setting yourself ahead in your career aspirations as well as keeping your body and mind healthy. If you don't have a clear mind, and aren't accepting of others and their ideas than it will be hard to advance.
I think that MEDA did a great job of getting us prepared for the experience. They connected us to the workers within the countries and helped thing proceed smoothly with respect to integrating when arriving in country. I however wish that I knew how much freedom you have with respect to the job portion and making it your own prior to starting my internship. It would have changed the way I prepared my resources, initial interaction and challenging previous ideas with coworkers.