Best of both worlds!

February 15, 2019 | Robin, Honours - Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Malawi, WUSC, Student Refugee Program

At this point I am approaching the half way mark of my journey here in Malawi, and I am already feeling the pressure to cram in as much as I can into this wonderful experience. It takes time to settle and by the time that you do, you realize just how short your three months is.

My experience hasn’t all been roses, but I am so grateful for all my trials and tribulations along the way. I came into my internship feeling overconfident in my abilities to adjust to life in Malawi and underconfident with my capabilities in my professional role. To my surprise, I found my confidence was a little skewed.

After living in Tanzania previously, I expected to have a relatively similar transition into life in Malawi. That was not quite the case! I expected my journey of adjustment to be like the smooth sailing I had in Tanzania, but I was met with challenges when it took longer to adjust to my environment and the people in it. Eventually I found my stride in the foreign environment, and I found my support system as well!

On the other hand, I was definitely feeling some imposter syndrome coming in knowing that I would be responsible for preparing refugee students to come to Canada. How could I possibly teach 23 young people about all they need to know about living in Canada in three months? Where do I start? Do I even know enough about Canada? I’m not a teacher, am I even qualified to teach? These anxieties are relatively normal when starting a new position, but I battled with my anxieties and trusting my capabilities. As I began lesson planning and teaching, I have found my groove and realized that I am not an imposter and that I am doing the best I can with my available resources. My time with the students has become my favourite part of my experience here in Malawi. They are bright young adults, who are exemplary examples of living resilience. My time with them has only solidified my career choices and maybe even altered my future employment aspirations.

In my short time here, I feel as though I have already grown immensely. With my previous internship in development, I was just thankful for the opportunity. As I continue in my role as an SRP intern, supporting office staff and getting to know other peers working in refugee services, I have come to realize that those dreams of working full time in development are not so out of reach. I can recognize my capabilities and the skills that I am developing everyday.

I find my experience extra special, as I get to not only immerse myself in Malawian culture, but I also get to experience a wider East African culture at Dzaleka, the refugee camp. I was overjoyed to find that I could enjoy the chipsi mayai and chapati that I had loved in Tanzania back at Dzaleka! I’m getting the best of both worlds!

For the rest of my time here, my hope is that I will continue to grow with my students, continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, and improve my Swahili and Chichewa!

Sortir de ma zone de confort

February 14, 2019 | Melody, Spécialisé - Dév. international et mondialisation, Mineure Communication, Sri Lanka, Uniterra, Kalkudah/Passikudah Guest House Owners Association, Marketing Officer

L’idée d’aller à l’étranger me traversait l’esprit depuis deux ans, mais j’hésitais de passer à l’action. Après quatre années d’études et de stages coop au Canada, j’ai réalisé qu’un stage sur le terrain me permettrait d’enrichir mes connaissances et expériences, ainsi que ma compréhension de la chaine d’intervenants en développement international. Aujourd’hui, je suis heureuse de profiter des opportunités de développement personnel et professionnel que j’aurais manquées si j’étais restée dans mon cocon à Ottawa!

Cela étant dit, je suis au Sri Lanka depuis un mois maintenant. Dans ce magnifique pays insulaire d’Asie du Sud, le climat tropical, les paysages verdoyants, les cocotiers et les plages créent une atmosphère relaxante. Mais c’est surtout, l’hospitalité des Sri Lankais d’origine cingalaise et tamil, de confessions bouddhiste, hindoue, musulmane et chrétienne, qui fait que l’on se sente comme chez soi. Je me suis facilement faite des connaissances dans le quartier. Elles m’invitent souvent manger des plats au curry délicieux (très épicés) chez eux, m’aident à explorer la ville et à comprendre la culture. Bien que l’Anglais ne soit pas très parlé ici, vu que le Cingalais et le Tamil sont les langues officielles, les Sri Lankais s’efforcent d’échanger avec moi. À part la langue que j’essaie de parler, je n’ai pas eu de difficultés à m’adapter.

Je travaille à Pasikudah (Province de l’est), une ville côtière où le tourisme est un secteur en essor, après la guerre civile de 30 ans qui s’est arrêtée en 2009. En tant que Marketing Officer, je soutiens la Kalkudah Pasikudah Guest House Owners Association. Fondée en 2011, sa mission est d’être reconnu comme le corps représentatif des maisons d’invités (Guest houses) et chambres d’hôtes (Bed & Breakfast) de Pasikudah et Kalkudah. Elle vise ainsi à développer une approche commune en matière de tourisme, à partager les bonnes pratiques et à trouver des solutions efficaces aux problèmes touchant ses 24 membres.

En ma qualité de stagiaire, j’ai l’honneur de les appuyer avec leurs stratégies de e-tourism et l’apprentissage de l’Anglais pour les hôtels, afin d’améliorer la visibilité des guest houses et de la ville, face à la compétition des grands complexes hôteliers près des plages. D’ailleurs, j’ai eu l’occasion d’accompagner mes partenaires à une formation de trois jours sur le e-tourism, qui a facilité mon travail en me donnant accès à des rapports faisant état des besoins et possibilités d’amélioration en marketing des guest houses. Grâce à cette formation, j’ai pu améliorer mon plan de travail auprès des hôtels, en mettant à leur disposition les moyens de gérer leur image, les revues des clients et de rester en contact avec ces derniers sur les réseaux sociaux.

D’ici la fin de mon stage, je compte les équiper avec une brochure des principales attractions touristes de Pasikudah et des villes/villages avoisinants, afin de garder les visiteurs longtemps dans la région. Je compte également visiter d’autres villes du pays, abritant des sites archéologies et des plantations de thé. Bref, je ne regrette pas de m’être lancée dans cette nouvelle aventure!

My first month

February 11, 2019 | Lee, Honours-International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Farm Radio International (FRI), Communication Officer

As my first month in Ghana comes to an end, I realize just how quickly time goes by. Within Ghana there are so many people from around the world which are very accessible through the WUSC and Farm Radio social networks. Just working at WUSC there are two people from Canada and two people that went to school in Canada. They’ve shown me the way of life within Accra from the food scene to how to work my way around the numerous markets.

The cultural diversity within Ghana is really intriguing. For the most part, everyone eats the same foods which consist of a lot of rice, chicken, fish, and beans. There has been a growth in international food available within the city but food prodominantly has remained local. When it comes to language, every area is different. With over 250 languages in Ghana, you can see the diversity and the deep cultural roots which have been implanted within not only the country but local communities. The people are very friendly and love it when foreigners speak their language. In Accra, (the capital) we speak Twi which I’ve managed to learn a minimal amount of. Despite knowing so little those couple of words will bring a smile to the face of locals and help in getting a better price within the market.

For my three months, I am working with a Canadian organization called Farm Radio International (FRI). The organization focuses on how to use local radio stations for development projects. My position is a communication and documentation officer. I am involved in many projects and help where I can. The benefit of being a part of a diverse range is a diverse range of work. I’ve worked on project briefs, event planning, and transcribing. Currently, I am planning my first, of two, training session. The work has been interesting as I’ve learned a lot about the specific barriers which projects face when working with local small-scale farmers which I wouldn’t have thought about while learning in class.

The diverse relationships I have built between international workers and locals alike have helped me in deciding how I want to spend my three months. There is so much to see and understand that the weeks have slowly started passing by faster and faster. Within these relations, I’ve made friends which I know I will see again somewhere around the world after my month’s come to an end in Ghana.

« As-Salaam-Alaikum »

February 11, 2019 | Lydie, Spécialisé - Dév. international et mondialisation, Maroc, Forum des Fédérations, Projet MENA, stagiaire

Une salutation que j’entends ici au Maroc, plusieurs fois par jour. Ces paroles arabes signifient « que la paix soit avec vous ». Que ce soit dans un contexte de travail, social ou autres, c’est la manière dont les gens se saluent.

Cela fait 4 semaines que je suis à Rabat, dans la capitale du Maroc du continent africain. Ville moderne et historique, elle représente le cœur politique et administratif du pays. Je travaille au sein de l’organisation Forum des Fédérations, le réseau mondial sur le fédéralisme et la gouvernance dévolue. Financé par le Gouvernement canadien, le Forum Maroc Leadership participe à la mise en oeuvre du projet intitulé : « Autonomisation des femmes pour les rôles de Leadership dans le Moyen-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord : Jordanie, Maroc et Tunisie ». Le projet tente de parvenir à une gouvernance inclusive en soulignant l’importance du renforcement de capacité des femmes et des jeunes femmes leaders afin de leur offrir la possibilité d’avoir accès aux postes de décision. Aussi, le Forum tente d’accroître la connaissance des hommes et des femmes pour qu’ils soient apte de construire les politiques, les programmes et les actions qui influence de manière positive l’inclusion des femmes dans les domaines culturels, politiques et sociaux.

Dans cette organisation, mes tâches en tant que stagiaire sont variées, elles s’articulent principalement autour du leadership et de l’autonomie des femmes. Mon travail est bien structuré, il m’expose à plusieurs domaines de recherche, de logistique, de soutien administratif, de rédaction de rapports sur les activités et du suivi et de l’évaluation de ceux-ci. Dans l’aisance de mes fonctions, j’ai eu la possibilité d’assister à des conférences sur l’importance de l’institutionnalisation de l’égalité entre les sexes et les droits de la personne, de participer à des formations concernant la promotion du leadership féminin et de la gouvernance inclusive, de contribuer à des ateliers relatifs à l’intégration du principe de l’équité, de travailler auprès de femmes fonctionnaires au sujet des compétences et stratégies juridiques, etc. J’ai eu également l’opportunité d’acquérir de l’expérience dans le cadre de l’autonomisation des femmes, d’identifier les divers enjeux et d’explorer le pays en voyageant dans différentes régions concernées par le projet. Au bureau hôte à Rabat, je suis responsable de la rédaction et de la production de rapports aux donateurs d’après les activités réalisées. De plus, je rédige des contrats de mission entre les différents membres, participants et experts des évènements. Passionné par le domaine du droit, le Forum me permet d’exécuter concrètement du travail juridique. Ces pratiques enrichissantes me permettent d’accroître mes compétences et mettre en pratique mon savoir. D’ailleurs, ces travaux me permettront éventuellement de poursuivre une carrière dans la sphère de la justice et du droit.

Après déjà un mois de stage, je m’efforce au mieux de m’intégrer au différent mode de vie. Toutefois, je sens que je me suis rapidement bien adaptée. Ayant eu la chance de faire des déplacements avec le Forum dans différentes régions du Maroc, je crois qu’il est important de saisir ces occasions pour explorer et découvrir le pays. Il sera intéressant de comprendre le choix des régions et d’observer les différentes particularités des villes. J’apprécie pouvoir constamment changer d’environnement, d’apprendre du nouveau et de saisir de nouvelles opportunités. À ce jour, j’apprécie chaque moment de mon stage et je suis impatiente d’apprécier et de relever de nouveaux défis.

Une nouvelle aventure

February 11, 2019 | Catherine, Spécialisé - Dév. international et mondialisation - Mineure - Histoire,Uniterra Sénégal, Radio Rurales Internationales (RRI), Agente de communication et de partenariat

Je réside au Sénégal depuis maintenant 1 mois et je dois dire que partir en stage à l’international est comparable à une nouvelle aventure remplie de découvertes comme une archéologue à la recherche des trésors cachés ou enfouis dans la terre avec les hauts et les bas de celle-ci. Voyager jusqu’au Sénégal est ma première expérience sur le territoire africain.

Durant mes premières semaines, j’ai fait du tourisme et j’ai visité des endroits qui en somme représentent autant l’espoir pour le futur que les traces laissées par le passé du pays et même du continent. Comme il est possible de le voir dans les photos suivantes : le monument de la renaissance africaine et l’île de Gorée. En tant que passionnée d’histoire, ces endroits m’ont marqué par leur richesse respective. Lors de mes déplacements, je prends la plupart du temps le taxi, mais pour cela il faut savoir négocier. Il faut savoir aussi dès le début le prix de base de la course qu’on peut demander à nos collègues pour ne pas payer plus que cela n’aura dû coûter. De plus, ces premières semaines ont été pour moi le moment de trouver mes repères dans mon quartier et les environs, donc j’ai décidé de promener à pied pour tout ce qui est à proximité. Par conséquent, si je me perds, je peux retrouver facilement mon chemin parce que je me suis familiarisé avec les lieux. Je dois dire que c’est important pour moi parce que j’adore marcher.

De ce fait, mon aventure sur le territoire sénégalais continue avec la gastronomie. Ici presque tout est fait à base de riz. Étant une amatrice de riz, j’ai été heureuse de l’apprendre. L’un de mes plats préférés est le mafé qui est préparé avec une sauce d’arachide, de viande et de tomates qu’on met sur le riz. Ici, les plats sont riches en nutriment pour qu’il soit possible de le garder longtemps dans l’estomac.

Ensuite, je suis partie à la recherche de mes repères dans le cadre du dialogue c’est-à-dire qu’ici la conversation est au cœur de presque tout. Les Sénégalais sont accueillants et curieux. Ils posent beaucoup de questions et ils s’intéressent beaucoup à savoir d’où nous venons, ce que nous faisons, etc. Je dois dire que cela instaure une ambiance amicale et chaleureuse dès le premier instant. Donc, cela nous amène à sortir peu à peu de notre bulle canadienne pour rentrer dans leur bulle sénégalaise. Quand on quitte notre pays pour aller vivre quelque temps dans un autre, il est important de garder en tête les mots : adaptation et patience. Le fait de sentir ici comme à la maison va certainement prendre du temps, il faut savoir laisser les choses aller puisque c’est sûr que tout va être différent : le rythme de vie et de travail. De ce fait, il faut toujours garder en tête les deux mots clés.

Durant mon aventure, j’ai exploré mon environnement et l’atmosphère sociale présente pour me sentir de plus en plus à mon aise. Pour ce faire, il faut se promener et observer. L’apprentissage et le confort s’installent de prime abord avec l’observation et la compréhension de notre milieu. Voilà ce que j’ai fait depuis que je suis arrivé sur le territoire sénégalais. Tous les hauts et les bas que j’ai rencontrés font partie de l’observation que va me permettre une meilleure compréhension de ce qui m’entoure.
Je suis partie de chez moi avec seulement deux attentes : un enrichissement personnel et professionnel, mais aussi d’offrir le plus de soutien possible à mon organisme d’accueil.

Il faut polir une pierre précieuse pour la voir briller de tous ses éclats, cette aventure au Sénégal sera pour moi la pierre précieuse que je viens de commencer à nettoyer

Émerveillée et essoufflée

November 29, 2018 | Émilie, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, AFS Ghana, HRAC, Advocacy/Research Assistant

Wow, tout s’est déroulé si vite. J’ai peine à croire que cela fait déjà 3 mois que je suis partie à Accra, au Ghana. J’ai eu la chance de travailler pour une organisation nommée «Human Rights Advocacy Center». Mon rôle au sein cet organisme était dans le département de la recherche et du développement de projets. Mes tâches étaient donc très diversifiées, mais toutes liées aux droits humains.

Grâce à la fluidité de mon rôle, j’ai eu la chance d’assister à des conférences de presse, participer à des ateliers pour faire avancer les droits des homosexuels, travailler dans les écoles secondaires au sujet de la santé mentale, etc. J’ai donc pu expérimenter grandement le terrain en voyageant et participant à des projets à l’extérieur d’Accra. Lorsque je suis au bureau, je dois faire diverses recherches pour avancer nos futurs projets ainsi qu’écrire des rapports sur les projets ou activités que nous avons fait. Étant donné que je suis grandement intéressée par le sujet des droits humains, je suis extrêmement satisfaite des tâches que j’ai eu à faire ici ainsi que des connaissances que j’ai pu acquérir.

Dans mon dernier blog, j’avais mentionné le fait que je m’étais bien accoutumée à la région d’Accra et que je sentais qu’il était temps pour moi de partir explorer le pays. Et bien c’est ce que j’ai fait. Chacune de mes petites escapades sont des expériences incroyables et je suis contente d’avoir pu voyager au travers du Ghana. Cependant, je me sens fatiguée car je travaille toute la semaine et je vais explorer durant la fin de semaine. Par contre, étant donné que le temps presse je sens qu’il faut que je profite de chaque moment et chaque occasion de découvrir quelque chose de nouveau. Lors de mes voyages, j’ai pu constater que le Ghana est sans l’ombre d’un doute un pays magnifique avec une extrême diversité des paysages, dépendamment des régions. Il y a de tout au Ghana; la plage, les lacs, les montagnes, les étendues, la jungle, la forêt, la ville, etc. Malgré tout, je me sens un peu essoufflée et j’ai hâte de me reposer et de revenir à un rythme de vie plus stable

Ce qu’il va me manquer le plus du Ghana est les incroyables personnes que j’ai rencontré. J’ai tissé des liens d’amitié très rapide et solide avec des Ghanéens que je vois quelque fois par semaine. Ce sera un grand changement de ne plus les voir du tout. Aussi, lors de mon stage, j’ai eu la chance d’habiter avec une famille ghanéenne. Vivre avec une famille d’accueil est une expérience qui comporte des défis mais qui est enrichissante. D’un côté, il faut vite s’adapter à côtoyer de très près de nouvelles personnes et devoir s’intégrer rapidement dans un nouvel univers. De l’autre côté, être dans une famille d’accueil est un avantage immense pour se retrouver immerger dans la nouvelle culture et créer des liens avec le pays d’accueil.

Bref, lorsque je réfléchis sur tous les points positifs de mon stage, au travers des personnes rencontrées, du pays, de ma famille d’accueil et de mon organisme de travail, je constate que cette expérience en valait totalement la peine. Je suis face à des émotions contradictoires car je suis triste de partir, mais contente de rentrer à la maison. J’aimerais rester plus longtemps, mais maintenant que le temps approche, j’ai hâte de revenir au Canada.

Seeking discomfort brought me the most amazing adventures!

November 28, 2018 | Alexia, Honours in International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Tanzanie, Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Youth Entrepreneurship Officer

I have 4 days left in Tanzania and I have mixed feeling about leaving. This has been such an unbelievable experience that I do not want it to end. I have had the chance of seeing things I had never thought I would ever see in my life. I have made friends that have taken me under their wing to make sure I have the best time while I am here, and others that I could now consider family. On the other hand, I am really excited to get back to my family and tell them all the adventures I have had here.

The people of Tanzania have taught me a lot of things. One of them being, take your time. In western countries, especially Canada, we rush to complete tasks every day. Whether this is for school, work, or just in your personal life, we never take a couple minutes to enjoy life and here they do and I like to think I have learned to do this here. Another lesson that I have learned is to not stress about the little things. People here are just so happy, nothing seems to bother them, and I was wondering how they do it. What I noticed is that they take one day at a time, and do the most they can do with that day. If they do not accomplish everything, then they do it tomorrow. They do not stress about anything because there are more important things to think about, and you would be missing out on more interesting life moments otherwise.

With regards to my work at the Tanzanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, everything is going smoothly and I do believe I will be able to accomplish my mandate. With the new pamphlets and other recruitment strategy tools that I have created I believe it could be quite useful for them in the future. Overall, the experience here at TCCIA has been very informative and had taught me a lot about the business sector and how complicated it can be to run a business.

All in all, this internship has been very useful not only for academic purposes but also for personal ones. By doing an internship you learn a lot more than if you were sitting in class. Of course learning in a university setting is important but going to a country and seeing the theories talked about in class adds another layer of knowledge to what you already know, or you think you know. It allows you to discover the lessons by yourself and also to see the dichotomy between what your professor said and what you are living through while you are there. Even though professors are specialized in their fields what they can teach us can sometimes come from a biased opinion. Personally, this internship has taught me many things about myself that I did not know before. For example, how I do not mind living in another country for a long period of time, how I adapt quite easily to new environments, and how seeking discomfort brought me the most amazing adventures. Lastly, this has been the most incredible internship and it is going to make me sad to leave, but as they say all good things have to come to an end, and here is me wishing that a lot more amazing experiences are to come!

There are things you learn that are not in the course material…

November 23, 2018 | Maegen, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalization and Minor in Management, Uniterra Vietnam, Saigon Tourism Hospitality College, Events Planning and Communication Intern

As my time in Vietnam is ending, I am spending time reflecting on the last 3 months here.

Reflection: I am grateful for my time spent here and what I have learned. Unlike social media may display, my time in Vietnam was not a three-month vacation filled with picture perfect memories. Honestly, it was much better than that, there were challenges, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning things I could have never learned through four years of lectures and hours of textbook readings.

I would not trade this experience for the world. My top three takeaways from the last three months in the Internship as a Communication and Event-Planning in Vietnam are:


First lesson: Challenges are inevitable, accept them and grow from them.

I can promise you, anyone who does an internship abroad will be faced with challenges and be pushed outside of their comfort zone. It is a challenge to go to another country, climate, culture, language and not knowing the different norms, customs and expectations. Challenges are bound to happen in these circumstances; however, you will learn from it.

Second Lesson: Practical experiences is more valuable than anything you can learn from a textbook. (I have done endless amount of textbook readings).

Being given a task that I have never done before gave me the ability to research and learn how to do something while at the same time being able to put it into practice what you have learned in a professional manner. Some of the best learning is by doing and through trial and error

Third Lesson: There are things you learn that are not in the course material such as individual growth, independence and exposure to different lifestyles and adapting.

Going to a country alone and traveling around to explore the different culture of the country you are in is an experience on its own. I must say your work is your priority as the more you put in the more you will get out. That being said, I do believe traveling and immersing yourself into the culture is key to making the most out of your international internship. However, traveling around Vietnam I was better able to understand the culture, understanding why things worked the way they did, and therefore being able to adapt in the organization’s culture. Vietnam has gone through years of war, which has greatly affected the country, and shaping it to what it is today.

Beyond that, going off on your adventures, being responsible for everything- planning, transportation, food, shelter etc., and taking responsibility builds confidence in yourself. I highly recommend traveling around Vietnam. I have been here for three months and still have not seen nearly as much as I would like to with so many beautiful places, with different cultures and geographic regions to see.

5 ways to live your feminist life abroad

November 23, 2018 | Zara, Master of Arts Women's Studies, Rwanda, United Nations Development Programme, Junior Professional Consultant in Gender Reporting ,

Hi!

I’m a Canadian/Spanish graduate student, currently working as a Junior Professional Consultant in

Zara (author), Germaine, Egide

UNDP colleagues: Zara (author), Germaine, Egide

Gender Reporting for the United Nations Development Programme in Kigali, Rwanda. Nice to meet you!

In this post, I would like to share some things I’ve learned in my first couple of months living so far away from home. Specifically, I’ve been interested in ways that I can continue living my feminist life in a country that has significantly different values.

Before we begin, let’s clarify the rationale behind “my feminist life.” While some may perceive feminism as a dirty word, the roots of feminism lie in the pursuit of equality between women and men. By taking a deeper look, we realize that the labels of “woman” and “man” create false binaries that oversimplify our perspective on equality. To widen this perspective, many feminists take an intersectional approach(1), which examines equality at the intersection of many identities, including racialized status, class, ability, culture, sexuality, and more. My tips are all about the intersectional feminist approach to life.

Without further ado, here are my 5 ways to live your feminist life abroad:

First, let go of assumptions.

One of the most powerful tenets of feminism, in my opinion, is that what we initially believe to be true is usually coloured by subconscious ideas that are rooted in prejudice. By this logic, it’s not only healthy to question our initial assumptions, but it is actually imperative.

While living abroad, I’ve learned to let go of the idea that I know how others should live, what ‘real’ development looks like, or what marginalized groups need. I’ve learned that my Western ideas of democracy and freedom are not necessarily what everyone in the world is striving for, nor what everyone in the world should strive for.

Second, live your truth.

There are few more powerful tools at your disposal than being unapologetically YOU. For instance, I don’t want kids. I haven’t for many years, and I don’t see myself changing that decision anytime soon. When people ask me when my partner and I are going to start having kids, I unapologetically state that we don’t want any.

I believe strongly in people’s right to bodily autonomy, and as such, to a biological woman’s right to dictate what happens to her uterus. It’s important to remind people how infantilizing it is to tell a grown person that she will likely “change her mind”. Shockingly, my purpose in life is not tied to being a wife or mother.

Third, learn how to say “no”.

One thing I always encounter when travelling is the experience of random people demanding my time and entering my personal space. This is particularly true when I either look like a tourist (i.e., being white in a predominantly Black country) or act like a tourist (i.e., get lost and have to wander aimlessly, which happens more often than I care to admit).

This experience has forced me to develop a stronger backbone. When people approach me or yell at me from a distance, it is my choice whether or not to respond. If someone randomly approaches and begins talking to me, I can firmly tell them NO.

In a world where women are expected to be constantly available, willing to help, and polite, it is a feminist act to tell someone that you are, in fact, not at their disposal at a moment’s notice.

Fourth, don’t identify as an ‘expat’(2).

As a white person travelling to countries that were former colonies, it is quite easy to fall into the “expat trap”. The term expat (short for expatriate) is a classist and often racist term. Need further explanation? Check out this article.

Identifying as (and subsequently acting like) an expat can be tempting since white people tend to be perceived as, and treated as, superior. While living abroad, try to challenge the ways in which people interact with you, and avoid abusing the unearned power that may result from your privilege.

Fifth, seek help when needed.

Travelling and living abroad can be a challenging experience. I personally have experienced periods of time where I feel either disconnected from my life back home or from my life here. In addition, having to constantly navigate new situations and be denied the comforts of home can take its toll.

In a neoliberal, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps world, seeking help can be a radically feminist action. For good online counselling, try BetterHelp (3) .

Living abroad as a feminist can admittedly be a challenging experience. When it becomes difficult to stick to your ideals, that’s when it’s more important than ever to do so. The obstacles I’ve faced have forced me to reexamine my perspective and rethink my approach to some aspects of life. By experiencing this country on the other side of the world, I can now include a new perspective in my feminist life!

_______________

1- Important to note that intersectionality belongs to Black women and has deep roots in anti-racism work. Black women, being marginalized by both their gender and race found that both white feminism and traditional anti-racism work ignored their unique perspective. Hence, an intersectional approach to feminism!
2- This is mainly for people who present as white.
3- BetterHelp also has an excellent policy on financial aid. If you end up enrolling, I encourage you to apply!

Yangon: Three months later

November 23, 2018 | Lydia, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Public Administration (Co-op) (French Immersion), Myanmar, Forum of Federations, Intern

A few weeks into my internship here in Yangon, my supervisor turned to me and asked, “How is Myanmar compared to your expectations?”

In my first two weeks of exploring Yangon, I was already thinking that three months would not be nearly enough time to truly understand the country. Three months later, I am convinced that more time will be needed to get a feel for this rapidly changing and truly diverse country.

I was told in a recent conversation about internships that the intern will always benefit the most from such programmes (more so than the organisation they are working for). Although I’m not convinced that is always the truth, I can say that I have completely benefited from this term abroad living in Yangon and interning at the Forum of Federations Myanmar office. Future interns: this is an awesome opportunity to learn on so many levels and a great place to make some wonderful connections.

On a broadly professional level, the Forum of Federations and Yangon is a great place to gain insight into the work of non-governmental organisations. You will be able to see and compare the work and partnerships of an NGO such as the Forum, which operates by cooperating with a variety of local political, educational, and civil society organisations, with the operations of other organisations in the field here (e.g. NGOs, embassies, UN agencies, development banks, etc.). There is a variety of work that interns can help with if you can and want to, including reporting, logistics, research, supporting at workshops, etc.

The workshops themselves are an amazing opportunity to improve your knowledge of theories and principles in public administration, democratisation, and peace/conflict studies. They’re also a unique opportunity to speak with local participants and experts in the subject to gain further understanding on different levels of application.

As an undergrad student, it can be hard to figure out what exactly you know, don’t know, and should know. It can also be hard to figure out how to achieve certain goals, if you are even certain about your goals. Working with and listening to intelligent and driven participants at workshops, colleagues at the Forum and peers at other organisations has only made me a more driven and knowledgeable person.

Furthermore, just living and absorbing your surroundings in Yangon is a learning experience. For example, I’ve always been an agnostic/atheist and never really learned about or understood any religion other than reading the Old Testament for a literature studies course and briefly studying Confucius as an exchange student in Beijing when I was younger. In Canada, about 23% of the population is not religious—that number is ~0.1% according to Myanmar’s 2014 census. Whereas Canadians often keep religion as a private matter, Myanmar people share habitually. In the last three months, this is just one aspect of life where the openness and friendliness of people have helped to open my eyes. While I’ve been lucky to travel to different areas of the country and explore with locals and on my own, three months has allowed me a good taste of the country, but not nearly enough time to truly know it.

At this point, I can only say that the whole experience has torn apart any expectations I had before arriving in Yangon and left me wanting more. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon in a capacity where I can really make a positive contribution to the work being advanced here.