An Experience for Professional and Personal Growth

July 30, 2013 | Elizabeth, Intern, Canadian Embassy, Argentina

Well it’s my last week here at the Embassy. It’s funny but I feel like I have been here much longer than three months. I’ve made strong friendships with my host family, friends and colleagues here. It makes it tough to leave. I hope to come back to visit again.

My internship has allowed me to develop my work experience, knowledge and soft skills. I’ve grown to understand how an embassy functions and what role it plays within the government. I have had the opportunity to work in two sections at the embassy: Public Affairs and Trade. This has allowed me to gain new and challenging experiences and develop my skill set.

As an intern, I have taken the development knowledge that I learned in my university courses and have implement this in the work place. It has tested my understandings of development and allowed me to gain new perspectives. I look forward to taking these perspectives into the classroom with me as I return to university. I am excited to share my experiences with my peers and understand what they have gone through in their internships and see how this has changed their understandings of development.

Education is one of the areas of development that I am passionate about in and outside of class. Through this internship, I was able to challenge my perceptions of education between the developed and the developing world. In Argentina, higher education is free. But there is a brain drain of talented Argentines who are leaving to developed countries where they can receive higher wages for their work. At the embassy, I worked on the education file in the Public Affairs section and gained new insight into the education system. I built fact based surveys on the education between Argentina, Canada and Paraguay. I accompanied the Ambassador to public affairs events within the city. I was able to work with internal and external education partners. This helped me to learn about the education system of a developing country from an on-the-ground perspective. It was a powerful way to witness the differences in education systems between Argentina, Canada and Paraguay. I feel that my knowledge in this area will serve me well in future development work.

Economic growth is also a key aspect of development. I previously worked on this file at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) where I learned that economic growth and poverty reduction are positively linked. The economy of Argentina is complex. The country has a vast amount of natural resources, high debt, a current inflation rate of 25% and trade restrictions. In the trade section of the embassy, I assisted the Trade Commissioner. I researched and reported on trade activities and opportunities in the region. I attended meetings and conference calls with stakeholders in Argentina, Paraguay and Canada to discuss the trade situation. I also drafted the corporate social responsibility (CSR) section report. These tasks allowed me to solidify my understandings of how Argentina and Paraguay’s economic growth is intertwined with its social growth. I also had the occasion to see the differences between the Argentine, Canadian and Paraguayan economies and how this has impacted the countries’ development.

Language and communication is an important part of development work. Understanding how to communicate effectively in a foreign language and environment can make greater partnerships and increase cooperation between the stakeholders. As I worked in an English/French/Spanish environment, I improved my communication skills in all three languages, particularly in Spanish. This helped me to listen and communicate effectively with partners in meetings and networking events, read and research well in Spanish and produce quality reports that included information from English, French and Spanish sources. I believe that this improvement in my language skills will serve me well in future development positions.

The community of practice, the internship program’s online communication network, allowed me to reflect on my experience and the experiences of other interns in the internship program. I was able to communicate with the other interns to share our tips and experiences. In my posts, I reflected on my experience, gained and gave advice from my peers and prepared future interns coming into the region. This exercise has helped me to understand how Argentina and other nations are different from Canada and what lessons I will take back with me to Canada.

The people and the country have made a strong impression on me. My friends here have shared their culture with me and we have learned from each other. My host family has treated me like a daughter of their own. These friendships have made my time here positive and helped me to connect to the country. I know that maintaining distant friends is difficult, but I will work to keep in contact with these people.

In only three months I am amazed at the growth I have made both professionally and personally. I am grateful for this experience and would recommend anyone thinking on interning at an embassy to go for it without looking back!

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