Theory into Practice

July 25, 2018 | Rebecca, Specialization - International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Economics,WUSC Malawi, Student Refugee Program, Intern

This summer I received the opportunity to travel to Malawi as the Student Refugee Program intern through the University of Ottawa. This opportunity opened my eyes to not only an incredible youth-to-youth resettlement program, but also to the beautiful culture of Malawian people. Despite being one of the smaller countries in Africa, Malawi is rich with a culture all its own, and filled with kind and friendly people who are always there to lend a helping hand whenever it is needed. You cannot walk anywhere in Malawi without receiving a friendly greeting and a “how are you?”. When you see people talking on the street, it is difficult to tell if they know each other or they are just strangers talking because everyone is friendly to everyone no matter whom they are. This positive environment is also evident in the workplace. The WUSC Malawi team is full of kind, helpful and supportive staff who are always there to help interns such as myself with understanding and fulfilling their mandates.

As an international development student who has been learning about the refugee crisis for the last four years through courses, personal research, volunteering, and work experience, getting the SRP internship has been an extremely informative and valuable experience for me thus far. As my first job in the field, I have been able to connect the things that I have learned in theory, to the realities of situations in the camp. The student refugee program is an extremely special program in Canada. Working in the camp I have been able to witness first-hand how important the work done by the Canadian students to sponsor the refugee students is to the community. The opportunity that students are able to provide for their peers across the globe goes so much farther than the statistics seen on paper. The program has changed lives of individuals and of their families. The community is so proud of the students for working so hard to receive these opportunities and I have met many students who have come back for periods of time to share their talents and serve their community. The reception and the proudness of the entire community around this small number of students is very inspiring, and it shows me how much tangible work can be done on this development issue with simple, but effective programs such as this one.

In my international development classes in the last four years, we have learned a lot about the issues surrounding development ethics including imperialism, ethnocentrism, and voluntourism and in general the way that development projects can sometimes become a reflection of western culture imposed onto other cultures. Having knowledge of these concepts has helped me greatly in properly adjusting to my role as the SRP intern. My role has been to prepare the students who will be arriving in Canada in September, for life in Canada. As can be expected, there are many difference between culture in Canada and in African countries. Many differences can be surrounding topics that may be somewhat controversial or offensive to people, such as religion, LGTBQ, social culture etc. My studies in international development has prepared me for explaining my opinions without forcing them onto others. I am equipped to hear and respect others opinions I do not agree with, and have open discussions without assuming one culture is better than another. My education around these principles has enabled me to have open and informative talks with people of many different backgrounds and groomed me for understanding and respecting different ways of life. Throughout my internship I have been able to put theory into practice, and the experience and knowledge I have gained thus fair is invaluable to my education as a person and my career.

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