Colby Anthropology students have had many and diverse internships. Read belowe about previous internship experiences by Colby students. More ideas about internships are available here and from Colby’s Career Services.
Emily Pavelle ‘10, Anthropology Major
This January I had an internship at the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA) in New York City. The American Indian Law Alliance is an “indigenous, non-profit organization that works with Indigenous nations, communities and organizations in [their] struggle for sovereignty, human rights, and social justice for their peoples”. In October, while studying abroad in New Zealand, I researched law firms that specialize in Human Rights and American Indian law where I might apply for a January internship. I found AILA and sent a cover letter and resumé to the email address on the website. I knew very little about the organization beyond the information on the website.
When I returned home in November, I received a call from the President and Founder of AILA, Tonya Gonnella Frichner. We met to have lunch and discuss her organization and what I would do as an intern. I learned during the meeting that Tonya was recently appointed as the North American Regional Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I knew that Tonya was an attorney for American Indian rights, but I soon discovered the important role she plays in the world of indigenous rights more globally. We decided that I would work directly for Tonya in her home office as her legal intern.
I started work the next day and at first was given mostly simple tasks. However, the longer I worked for Tonya, the more interesting and important the work became. I started doing background research for speeches she was to make including a presentation at Georgetown; soon I was emailing important leaders in the indigenous community, often under my own name; eventually, I started helping her with work that involved the United Nations. Tonya increasingly trusted my abilities and the work I was doing for her. I was given the task of reformatting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and then she asked me to call the UN Missions of a few different countries. This last task, I learned later, was something of a test as some of these UN Mission offices were known for being reluctant to provide information to outsiders; however, I managed to get the contacts I had been looking for. This work, along with many of the other tasks that Tonya required, gave me invaluable insight into the diplomatic world.
I originally contacted the American Indian Law Alliance in the hopes of getting an internship in the legal field, and more specifically involving American Indian Law. Although I definitely got to see the legal side of AILA, my primary responsibilities really showed me the inner-workings both of a non-profit organization and of the United Nations. I had never before considered the idea of a career in diplomacy or international relations but the work I did with Tonya was extremely interesting, even from the perspective of an intern. Furthermore, Tonya has invited me to join her at the United Nations for the Eighth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2009. I will be credentialed to listen to all of the United Nations meetings dealing with indigenous issues around the world. Given that I have always wanted to do international work, this is an incredible experience for me. I do not think that another internship over January could have provided me with a better career experience or anthropological perspective into the indigenous world.
Jen Shriber ’10, Anthropology Major
I spent my Jan Plan 2009 working for Barakat, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts that funds schools and health programs in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. I got to spend a lot of time with the executive and program directors during my internship. These people taught me a lot about how nonprofits are run, giving me a better idea about a field in which I am very interested. I feel that my internship was a success: I am very glad that I was able to spend a month that was beneficial not only to me but also to a worthy organization such as Barakat.
I had many duties as a part of my internship, ranging from run-of-the-mill assistant work to substantial tasks that I truly felt made a difference. On one hand, I updated Barakat’s database, wrote thank-you letters to donors, and ran errands. On the other hand, I was amazed at the trust that some of my other duties implied. On one occasion I was asked to put together a budget form for Barakat’s schools in Pakistan. I had never done anything like this before, yet when I was finished a staff member quickly scanned my work and announced that she would send it off to Pakistan right away. I could hardly believe it: something I had made was going to Pakistan, to be filled out by Pakistani school administrators and to help determine the budgets for an entire school year! Another time I was asked to edit Barakat’s annual report. My supervisor gave me free reign to edit the report: he trusted my decisions without scrutinizing each of my adjustments. Throughout my internship I was astounded by the relevance and importance of my work.
I definitely learned a lot during my internship. First, I learned about all of the different considerations that go into running a nonprofit organization. The staff members with whom I worked told me about nonprofit classifications, the bureaucracy involved with grants, and numerous other small details that Barakat must take into account before even beginning to think about the actual projects that are run in South Asia. I also learned a great deal about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. My increased knowledge especially came from my duties as a news analyst: I searched the internet for news articles each day (with the help of LexisNexis, which made my job much easier), and so I was able to follow events as they unfolded. As a result of my internship, I feel as though I am much more knowledgeable about a region of the world that is of such significance. Furthermore, I gained a lot of practical experience with various software and computer programs. I learned how to run Barakat’s database; gained more experience with Excel; and was introduced to programs and software that I had had no prior contact with, such as Adobe Illustrator and Google Analytics. Knowledge of these programs and website will no doubt help me in the future, when I apply for and work at new jobs.
I consider myself lucky to have been able to intern with an organization that is such a good fit with my field of study and possible career plans. As an Anthropology and International Studies major, I have enjoyed this chance to learn more about cultures of which I had previously had very little knowledge. I am also very interested in development. I have thus benefitted from gaining a first-hand look at the impact that small projects can have for improving a country’s future: India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will reap the benefits of a better-educated generation that will hopefully use their knowledge to improve the lives of their compatriots.
I am very glad that I found such a supportive, friendly atmosphere in which to try out a possible career path. I went into this internship considering nonprofit work for the future. Now that I have worked with a nonprofit organization, I find that this is definitely something that I could see myself doing years from now.
Experiences at Green Gecko JanPlan 2009
by Loretta Biss, ’10, Anthropology minor
I know this sounds cliché, but my volunteering experience this JanPlan really changed my life. I worked at an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia called The Green Gecko Project, which gives a home to over 60 children who formerly begged on the streets to help support their families. Upon starting the internship, I had no idea what to expect—how the kids would behave, how much English they knew, how the organization functions. However, as I walked onto the site for the first time, I knew I was going to love it there.
Without fail, the kids impressed me more and more each day I was there. I was overwhelmed by their brightness from day one: their abilities to speak English almost fluently, their wonderful behavior, and especially their unbelievable resiliency. Upon meeting these kids, one would never guess that they grew up with abuse and neglect being the most consistent occurrences within their families: their confidence and optimism are truly mind-blowing. Before this experience, I was always a firm believer that the way in which a child is reared has a large and nearly irreversible impact on one’s life as an adult. However, working with these kids showed me how amazing the human race is at overcoming odds and changing the destructive cycle that one may have grown up with. Since these kids have been living in a loving, safe environment, it is as if they have completely shed their former being. Although they still feel strong ties to their childhoods, the kids now seem to look back on those troubling experiences more as a past life than as the beginning of their existence.
At Colby I’m a psychology major and an anthropology minor, and I feel that this internship greatly broadened my knowledge in both of those fields. The obvious way in which my work at Green Gecko relates to my anthropological studies is the fact that I was fully immersed in a completely new culture. I learned firsthand how the people in this third-world country survive, and also I was exposed to two very important aspects of their lives: the problems faced by a vast majority of the people (such as poverty and abuse), and also the presence of Westerners acting as “saviors.” In addition to this contact with a group of people whom I previously knew nothing about, I learned a lot about the human race as a whole. I was able to make comparisons between the children at Gecko and children who I know in the US and also who I met during my semester abroad in Ecuador. Despite the vast differences in their upbringing, I saw many universals in child behavior, especially in their relationships with others. Nearly all of the children I’ve ever met—no matter the situation—have always been excited to meet older people from whom they receive love and attention.
Working with the children in Cambodia and Ecuador has made me understand where I want my Colby education to take me: to as many new places as possible. I feel very passionate about the study of people—both from a cultural or anthropological standpoint and from a biological or psychological one. Knowing these cultures has infected me with the desire to make contact with every other group of people in the world. While volunteering at Green Gecko allowed me to learn many new things about my areas of interest and about myself as a person, in the future I hope to take this experience to the next (less selfish) level. Although I feel as though I did a good thing by volunteering my time, it is quite minor in comparison to what I could be doing: with my degrees in psychology and anthropology, I would like to continue learning and growing while simultaneously helping others. So rather than looking back on this experience as a thing of my past, I will regard it as a stepping stone to things that have yet to come. In this way, my work as a volunteer at Green Gecko has had much the same impact on me that it does on the kids it cares for: it provides them with a safe home where they learn to flourish and prepare to go on to do great things in the world. For as long as the human race in all of its forms fascinates me, I will continue to explore and with any luck, I’ll end up helping others find their way through life in the process.
by John Perkins, ’11 Anthropology major
During the month of January, I participated in a 30-day volunteer program in Malawi through a non-governmental organization called World Camp. Malawi is a land-locked country in Southern Africa with a population of about 12 million. It has experienced some of the highest rates of extreme poverty in the world, with the average income hovering around US$ 176. Yet Malawi is a relatively stable country, with a functioning democratically elected government. The high levels of extreme poverty and the stable political body provide a welcoming atmosphere for humanitarian groups such as World Camp.
Since its inception in 2000, World Camp has focused on HIV/AIDS and environmental education for secondary school students ages 10-18. We lived in a surprisingly upscale house in the capital city of Lilongwe, and over the course of the month, taught at 6 rural schools. At each school, we followed a three-day curriculum that included everything from parachute games to class condom demonstrations. What I found unique and appealing about this program was the foundational idea that we are educating these students and nothing more. We weren’t giving out clothing or other items; we were trying to give these students the knowledge to affect change in their own communities. Oftentimes, humanitarian aid takes on the notion of bringing a “better” way of doing things, or focuses on “modernizing” a periphery area. This program, however, sought to provide a basis of knowledge regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic and deforestation, thus giving the students the power to make informed decisions about sex and natural resource management.
Throughout my research to find a volunteer program in Southern Africa, I was looking for a program that was work-intensive. The World Camp program achieved that goal, but at the expense of missing the opportunity to fully engage in the community and culture. We had a one-night homestay in the village near one of the schools, and that was our one glimpse into the lives of the students we were teaching. Besides trips to the local markets and orphanages, we didn’t have time to explore the city much or talk to people.
Although I may have wanted a more engaged cultural basis, the opportunity to teach so many students in a variety of settings enabled me to get an idea of how Malawian culture differs from my own. That month fostered a profound respect for the Malawian emphasis on family and community that I think the United States has lost in some ways. The students also taught me a thing or two about some of simple joys of the imagination, music, and dance that my own culture has maybe lost on its endless pursuit of progress.
As with many adventures to lands so different from our own, part of the experience is how it changes us, challenges us, and questions who we are. The amazing opportunity I was given to teach students for a month has done just that. Not everything was great, and there was a lot of hurt in the lives of many of the students and people I met, but the World Camp program offered a unique experience that I truly believe has affected change and given those students I taught the knowledge and power to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic and deforestation.
Sonia Booth ’10, Anthropology major
Summer 2009 I worked as a park ranger at the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the summers of 2008 and 2009 and the summer before, I also volunteered in the archives helping to preserve and catalog books. I am interested in the education process and how one presents information about a certain culture or group of people through museum exhibits, so this job seemed to be the perfect fit. This is the site where the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived his adult life as he wrote his famous poetry. The Longfellow site contains several amazing collections, including all of the furniture and artwork that existed in the house during Longfellow’s time, and a vast collection of 19th century Japanese art that Longfellow’s son Charles collected on his travels to Asia. Charles Longfellow lived in Japan for about two years in the 1870s and was one of the first American tourists there.
At the site I conducted my own research to develop a tour of the house, and I gave tours to visitors from all over the world. The objects on display in the museum and the objects in the archives allowed me to understand 19th century America and Japan in a unique way: through primary resources. One of my favorite moments this summer was when the mayor of Kyoto, Japan, visited the site to learn about our collection and our preservation techniques. He and his group were amazed at the cultural treasures available to them there. I am so pleased to have had such an important role in preserving cultural history! This job has given me great experience for pursuing educational work and museum work after graduating from Colby.