Gaining International Experience for Insight and Experience
STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
story by Anthony Treas
Why did you decide to do an international internship?
My main reason for participating in an internship abroad was to gain international experience that would provide me with insight and experience that would be beneficial for graduate school. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health (MPH): international health track. In addition, I aspired to explore a new part of Ecuador, their culture, and language (Kichwa) that I might not otherwise have the opportunity to.
Tell us about the program you went on
I participated in a public health internship with Runa Foundation. The internship consisted of conducting basic water testing and health surveys in two Kichwa communities near Archidona, Ecuador. I also participated in the development of a health survey that was in English and Spanish. The final project contained the data collected from the surveys and the results of the water testing for each community. Also, an internship was required for my undergraduate degree in public health: health promotion/ health behavior. I received academic credits towards my degree for the 10-week internship. During my internship I kept a blog. My blog covers additional information about my internship, which is available at: http://www.anthonytreas.com/ecuador/
How did you pay for your intern abroad experience?
My internship abroad was made possible through a scholarship I was awarded from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. In addition, my tuition was paid through V.A. Chapter 31.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about interning abroad before you left?
I believe part of the experience is not being aware or fully prepared for everything that might happen during the internship. Internship programs will provide suggestions based on prior intern’s experiences and provide pre-departure and orientations upon arrival. I am an Iraq war veteran (OIF 09’-10’) and I feel my time in Iraq prepared me for any situation I may find myself in. I believe going into the internship with an open mind is what allowed me to make the most of the experience.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I did not experience any discrimination during my internship.
How has interning abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
During my undergraduate studies, I took a class titled “Modern Latin America”. I learned about the Spanish conquest and the influence of the Catholic Church in South America. Learning and reading about a culture or geographical location does not compare to actually living and exploring the very places themselves. While living in Archidona, I was able to see how Kichwa communities function and how they work together as a community and the struggles they face. I had the opportunity to stay with a Kichwa family for a few days. I discovered the parents have two children that were away attending university. The Ecuadorian government has implemented new educational policies in recent years to help more indigenous groups to obtain higher education. I still think about the struggles they face, such as, lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, and the forces in place that keep them from obtaining these vital resources. I have been able to bring this experience back into the classroom and into my studies involving international health. I have taken several classes in graduate school where my experience abroad allowed me to have a different point of view into the subject matter.
What was the most memorable moment of interning abroad?
Ecuador offers many adventurous activities. From the coast to the jungle, there are plenty of adventures one will find. An activity I enjoy the most is hiking. My most memorable moment was when another intern and I went on a hike along the crater of Laguna Quilotoa. During one of our many bus rides to get to the crater, I met an Ecuadorian student who was on his way home for the summer. With his guidance, we made it to the trailhead where, surprisingly, he continued on the journey with us. To read more about my adventure, please visit the link http://www.anthonytreas.com/ecuador/laguna-quilotoa-unplanned-adventures/
In what way do you feel your experience abroad has prepared you for your future career? (Think both tangible things like language acquisition and intangible like learning to work with people who are very different from you)
Companies recognize that diversity and cultural awareness are valuable assets that can contribute to the success of their overall mission. A career in public health will entail working with a diverse group of people. Also, being able to speak more than one language will be very beneficial, in particular, Spanish. As a result of my experience, I have been able to work with many different people in an international setting where issues are not resolved as quickly as they might in the United States. I worked in situations that required me to think outside the box because resources were limited or were not available. Most importantly, I witnessed the challenges that public health professionals are fighting in Ecuador and how these issues are the same issues many developing countries are facing today. My internship experience abroad has inspired me to further pursue efforts to support Latinos in the United States in the areas of health and education. My future endeavors will entail promoting higher education, health education, and entrepreneurship to Latino communities.
Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why??
Although the program provided me with an opportunity to participate in a public health internship abroad, I would not recommend the program at this time. The program was in its infancy and lacked efficient use of time and resources. The program also lacked proper leadership and focus. I am certain changes have been made and the leadership made changes based on the feedback they have received. There were positives, however, without knowing first hand if any changes were made, I would not be able to recommend the program at this time.
What advice do you have for students thinking about international internships?
Participating in an international internship will provide you the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and away from the comforts of normalcy. These types of experiences will help anyone to build character and skills that come from an international internship. My advice would be to be open minded, understanding, and patient. Be ready to learn more about yourself and your capabilities. Many employers are starting to recognize the importance of cultural understanding and awareness. An international experience will expose you to new cultures and provide you an opportunity to develop a critical point of view that can only come from experience.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your intern abroad experience
I would like to encourage students to apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Their website can be found at: http://www.iie.org/programs/gilman-scholarship-program.