No words

August 14, 2015 | Simone, EIL, MAC, Vietnam, Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Vietnam

Just like the title of this blog implies, it is very difficult to express how I currently feel about the end of my internship. Many of my family and friends have all asked me the typical post-internship questions: How was your internship? What did you do there? Are you happy now that you’re finally home? I know they are expecting straightforward and concise answers to those questions, such as “My internship was fun!” or “Yes, I’m happy to be finally home!” But the truth of the matter is, these questions are impossible to answer. The whirlwind of conflicting emotions that has accompanied me since I landed in Ottawa makes it impossible to answer a straightforward question. When people ask me, “How was your internship?” I feel like responding, “it was fun, incredible, stressful, depressing, appalling, ecstatic, scary, comfortable, weird, interesting, beautiful, familiar…” (the list goes on and on, but I will spare you the details). When people ask me, “Are you happy to be home?” I feel that the best and most honest response would be to say, “Yes…. But also no.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about a trip before; my feelings regarding my trips abroad would usually be relatively straightforward. It would either be “This trip was amazing, I wish I didn’t have to go back to Canada” or “this trip was awful, I can’t wait to go back and see my family”. I wish my feelings regarding this internship were not so complex. And now I am struggling to figure out what exactly is making me feel this way.

I suppose it is the so-called “reverse culture shock” that I am currently experiencing, where an individual feels out of place in his/her own culture after travelling for long periods of time. By the end of the first month of the internship, I was finally getting over the initial “honeymoon stage” of my internship as I slowly became adjusted to the Vietnamese way of life. Things that once amazed me were no longer so wondrous; instead, it became an everyday part of my life. The loud and aggressive energy of Dong Hoi’s local market, which I first found to be exciting and strange, eventually came to feel quite familiar. I stopped being appalled at the Vietnamese people’s brutal honesty and their shameless sense of curiosity; instead, I felt myself being quite comfortable with it. I started to feel more completely at home in the exoticism of Dong Hoi’s physical characteristics (its natural environment, its unique architecture, its smell, etc). In short, the novelty of Dong Hoi was wearing off. This statement, however, should not be seen as something negative against the city; it simply means that Dong Hoi was steadily becoming my second home. And now that I am back in Canada, I feel more out of place than when I first arrived in Vietnam.

It is possible that I am being overly dramatic about this situation. It has only been, after all, a few days since my arrival in Ottawa. As my friends and family have been telling me, I will most likely get over my reverse culture shock in a week or so. At the moment, however, it seems as if I will never be able to get over it. I’m still finding it very difficult to imagine myself sitting through lectures in September; it feels much better to envision myself back in Dong Hoi, where I take two-hour naps, walk to work in sweltering heat, and eat cheap bowls of pho.

A Day in the Life of Stepping Stones

August 14, 2015 | Alex, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

As we’re starting to near the end of our journey here in Botswana, and I’m still loving every bit of working at Stepping Stones. Since getting into more of a groove at work, things have become much more manageable since taking over for the leadership department, although they have not become any less chaotic. It’s just more of a controlled chaos that I have become accustomed to. But as our colleagues have told us many times before, that’s just the way things work here. I’ve been extremely busy at work with the sessions I have been running for the leadership participants, reviewing the curriculum for the leadership program, as well as beginning to develop a sports program for the in school participants to do on Saturdays. There has definitely not been a lack of work to go around, which I truly am thankful for. I can tell that I’m starting to get some incredibly valuable experience that I will hopefully be able to use in the future.

The sessions with the participants have been adventures in and of themselves. It’s one of the things about working with youth from another culture, you never really know what to expect. Not all of the participants speak perfect English, which has made it difficult for me to convey the instructions effectively. There has been many cases where I’ve had to repeat myself several times to each group in order for them to completely understand the instructions, and even then, they won’t answer my questions exactly the way that I was expecting them to. It has led to many instances where you get some, shall we call them, interesting responses that force you to stifle a laugh.

This does happen both ways though. There have been circumstances where the participants have not been able to convey the answers the way that they want to. It could be something as simple as me asking for them to explain why they had answered either yes or no to a particular question that I had just asked them. Usually the question why has been followed by an exasperated “Eish, Alex!” to show that they aren’t really sure how they should answer me. The best part about all of it though is that no one ever gets frustrated by the language barrier. Obviously it would be easier for us all to be able to communicate effectively in the same language, but we all just seem to laugh it off and move forward.

Even with the barrier in communication, the cultural dialogue that I have been able to have with these participants has been phenomenal. I never thought that would be having those sorts of discussions with the participants before I left, but it turns out I was wrong. We’ve had to tackle some pretty heavy issues such as rape and HIV/AIDS. We also finished a discussion about women’s rights and equality which have led to some differing opinions to say the least. The discussions have at times brought a lively debate which has made those sessions incredible, even if I personally don’t agree with everything that was being said by some of the participants. It was fantastic to see because you saw both a discussion being had with all opinions being respected, which is probably the most effective way to invoke the thoughts that will be needed to make significant change to ensure that marginalized groups will be able to be free from that marginalization. It’s also been incredibly powerful because I have seen some of the participants come out of their shells and be brave enough to say “this is my opinion, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” When you see a kid do that is able to be brave enough to do that, no matter what the opinion of everyone else is, it’s one of the most incredible things that anyone can ever see.

So that’s where I stand so far at work. A lot of working with the participants which has been remarkably rewarding to this point. It’s all been amazing so far, and I’m sure it will be just as amazing for the last little bit of my stay here.

Unit next time, Ghana

August 14, 2015 | Sara, DVM, AFS Interculture Canada, Ghana, Human Rights Advocacy Centre

As I’m here doing about the most Canadian thing possible – sitting in Tim Hortons eating a bagel and sipping on a French vanilla – I can’t believe it’s over already. Time flew by so fast. My last week in Ghana was one of the most difficult weeks I had while I was there. I was incredibly anxious and excited to go home, but at the same time I was extremely sad to have to say goodbye to the amazing people I met and the relationships I built while I was there.

I’ve been back in Canada for a week now and looking back at my internship in Ghana I am amazed what I was able to accomplish and what I learned from the experience. Remarkably I was able to do almost everything I wanted to do while I was there. I had the opportunity to travel all around the country and see quite a few different regions of the country and their various tourist attractions as well as some less ‘touristy’ places. One of my favourite and most memorable places I got the opportunity to visit was in the Eastern Region where I got to stay at a small school called the Akaa Project. The school was established by an American woman 7 years ago when she was still in highschool! I was able to celebrate the school’s 7th year anniversary with the children and learn about the projects they are working on and the incredible progress the school, its students and the community as a whole have made. It was an amazing and inspirational experience and if anyone visits Ghana in the future they should definitely look them up, they are always welcoming visitors and volunteers!

Looking back I was able to learn so much about the country, development and myself. There wasn’t any aspects of the trip that I regret, not even the rough patches. I gained invaluable work experience at my placement at the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC). I was able to see what it would be like working internationally as well as what it is often like working within Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). I found this to be incredibly important insight for me to have as being able to work effectively in this setting is vital for those studying international development as this field usually leads to careers internationally and/or within NGOs. In addition to the incredible work experience and skills I gained within the office, living internationally also taught me so many other things in general and about myself. I found most importantly it showed me really how flexible and adaptable I am, which really surprised me and allowed me to easily integrate and feel comfortable quickly in my new environment and home.

This trip has sparked the travel bug inside me and I cannot wait to continue my travels!

Se questionner sur sa propre culture

August 11, 2015 | Marianne, DVM, MAC, Vietnam, AEPD, Program Support Officer

Nous sommes le 1er aout et je suis a l’aéroport d’Hanoi. J’attend patiemment le deuxième des quatre vols qui me ramènent au Canada. Je suis techniquement encore au Vietnam et, aussi étrange cela puisse sembler, j’essaie, pour la dernière fois, de faire le plein d’images de ce pays et de ces gens que je m’apprête à quitter.

Ce n’est pas seulement la fin d’un stage ou d’un séjour a l’étranger. C’est la fin d’une aventure. Une aventure culturelle unique et inoubliable.

Le but premier de ce stage était d’acquérir de l’expérience « terrain” dans le domaine du développement international, mais j’estime que c’est sur le plan personnel, plutôt que professionnel, que ce stage m’aura été formateur. J’ai sincèrement l’impression que ma vision du monde, et surtout celle du Canada, est différente et plus nuancée. Ces trois derniers mois, j’ai eu l’occasion de beaucoup me questionner sur le large thème de la culture : la culture de mon pays d’accueil, la culture de mon pays d’origine ainsi que ma propre culture.

J’ai eu la chance de découvrir la culture du Vietnam, que je qualifierais de très riche, mais également d’assez homogène. À vrai dire, la culture vietnamienne a été profondément influencée par différentes périodes dans l’histoire du pays. D’une part, le Vietnam a été sous le joug de la Chine il y a plusieurs siècles. D’autre part, la France à colonisé le pays au 19ième siècle. Finalement et plus récemment, une guerre avec les États-Unis a ravagé le pays pendant les années 1955 à 1975. Malgré le fait que la culture vietnamienne eu été influencée par la culture de ses envahisseurs, j’ai ressenti qu’elle était particulièrement riche d’identité nationale. Les provinces et les groupes ethniques ont leurs particularités, mais dans son ensemble, la culture vietnamienne demeure assez homogène. J’ai déjà lu que « La culture vietnamienne est une union dans la diversité » et c’est dans ce sens que j’entend le terme « homogène ».

Certes, il n’y a pas beaucoup d’immigrants au Vietnam et cela est sans doute un facteur qui favorise l’identité nationale d’un pays. J’imagine que cela fait qu’une plus grande partie de la population, si ce n’est pas sa totalité, s’identifie à une seule culture et une seule nation. J’ai eu la chance de visiter le Nord et le Sud et de vivre au centre du pays et j’ai pu observer que les coutumes les plus importantes, la langue, les habitudes alimentaires et la religion sont sensiblement les mêmes à la grandeur du pays.

À quelques reprises, nos amis et collègues vietnamiens nous ont posé, à ma collègue canadienne et moi-même, des questions sur la culture canadienne. Par exemple, l’on nous a souvent demandé ce que les Canadiens cuisinaient lors d’occasions spéciales. À cette question, soit nous ne savions pas du tout quoi répondre, soit nous n’avions pas la même réponse à offrir. Bien souvent, j’ai eu l’impression de très mal connaître la culture canadienne ou pire encore, qu’il n’existait pas vraiment de culture ou d’identité canadienne.

J’ai ensuite repensé au fait que notre pays est le fruit de la cohabitation d’immigrants venus de partout dans le monde au 16ième siècle. J’ai repensé au fait que je suis Québécoise et que ma culture est fort différente de celle des Canadiens anglophones des Prairies ou de l’Ouest du pays. Ai-je l’impression que les Canadiens sont tellement différents d’une province à l’autre qu’ils sont complètement dépourvus d’une identité nationale ? Non, mais il est clair que d’observer à quel point les Vietnamiens sont fiers de leur culture, de leur nation et de leur peuple m’a fait me demander si je connaissais bien ma propre culture et celle des gens avec qui je vis au Canada.

Je conçois qu’une quantité incroyable de facteurs influencent la culture et l’identité nationale d’un pays. Ceci étant dit, j’ai l’impression que d’avoir vécu dans un pays où la culture est plutôt homogène m’a fait réalisé à quel point la culture canadienne est hétérogène. Je ne considère pas que cela est péjoratif. Au contraire, je crois sincèrement que c’est ce qui fait qu’elle est si riche et complexe.

Ce stage m’aura éveillé aux dynamiques qui teintent les cultures dans le monde. Je crois que je vais pouvoir découvrir de nouvelles cultures tout en relativisant d’avantage mes observations et mes découvertes.

Les conclusions rapides sur le Vietnam

August 5, 2015 | Marianne, DVM, MAC, Vietnam, AEPD, Program Support Officer

À l’étranger, ma notion du temps change du tout au tout. Soit je trouve les journées longues à n’en plus finir, soit je ne les vois pas passer. À la fin du mois de mai, je me suis dis que les mois de juin et juillet seraient longs par moments. À la fin du mois de juin, je me suis demandé comment le temps avait filé aussi rapidement. Mon stage se termine dans quelques semaines et je pense manquer de minutes et de secondes pour tout voir, tout visiter, tout photographier et tout gouter.

En général, j’entretiens une relation amour/haine avec le temps. Je déteste l’ennuie, mais il y a des jours ou je déteste aussi le tourbillon école/boulot/dodo qu’est ma vie au Canada. Ces deux derniers mois, j’ai du m’adapter à un rythme de vie bien différent de celui que je connais. A Dong Hoi, une petite ville située sur le bord de l’océan, le rythme de la vie est comme qui dirait lent.

Le matin, les petits cafés sont bondés. Et pas question de commander un café pour emporter. Non. Les gens s’assoient et prennent le temps de discuter. Sur l’heure du diner, de 11h a 14h, la ville est déserte et tout le monde fait la sieste. Le soir, les rues se transforment en énormes salles à manger et les Vietnamiens partagent le repas en famille pendant des heures. C’est un peu comme si personne n’était jamais pressé ou stressé. La même observation s’applique à la façon dont les gens semblent gérer leur horaire. Il y a quelques semaines, mon organisme d’accueil recevait la visite de certains de ses partenaires venus d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord. J’ai perdu le compte du nombre de fois que l’horaire de la fin de semaine a changé. Sur le coup, j’ai été un peu irritée par ce que j’ai perçu comme un manque d’organisation. Mes collègues de travail vietnamiens, eux, sont restes calmes et n’y ont vu aucun problème.

Rapidement, j’ai trouvé que les Vietnamiens sont des gens relax. Relax… Ça “sonne” un peu “paresseux” ou “nonchalant”, je trouve. Pourtant, les gens que j’ai rencontrés ici sont très travaillants. “Relax” n’est pas le bon terme. Ça manque de nuance. Ca ne rend pas justice à mes nouveaux amis et collègues. Je n’ai pas envie de revenir au Canada pour décrire le Vietnam comme un endroit relax et paisible. Ce n’est pas que c’est faux, c’est que c’est trop cliché. Je me répète, ça manque de nuance.

Alors, quoi dire? J’aimerais dire que si les gens semblent avoir autant de temps le matin, le midi et le soir, ce n’est pas parce qu’ils disposent de plus de 24 heures dans une journée. C’est parce que la plupart des Vietnamiens se lève à l’aube, vers les 5h du matin, et qu’ils sont productifs dans l’avant midi, quand le soleil ne plombe pas encore et que la chaleur est supportable. J’aimerais dire que les commerces sont ouverts de 7h a 22h et que c’est souvent la même personne qu’on voit assise à tous les jours derrière le comptoir. Finalement, j’aimerais dire que si les gens passent autant de temps en famille, c’est parce qu’ils choisissent de le faire. La famille est le point central de la culture vietnamienne. Tous les soirs, je vois des dizaines, si ce n’est pas des centaines, de familles au parc ou à la plage. J’ai même des collègues de travail qui quittent le bureau sur l’heure du diner pour aller chercher leurs enfants à la garderie.

Plusieurs raisons font que j’ai immédiatement perçu les Vietnamiens comme des gens relax. Ma perception du Vietnam et de ses citoyens a changé au fil des dernières 11 semaines. C’est bien la preuve qu’on tire des conclusions trop rapidement parfois. Ce stage m’aura certainement enseigné à remettre les choses en perspective quand je voyage.

The Botswana Effect

August 5, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

It’s over. This crazy ride of stumbling my way through a different way of life on the opposite side of the globe has come to an end. Looking back at this journey, I honestly did not expect to get as much out of this experience as I did. Spending three months in the developing world has taught me a lot about the way the world works in terms of the relationships between the “haves” and the “have-nots” or in Botswana’s case the “seemingly have-nots”. My eyes have been opened in a way that no 2 or 3 week vacation could have managed to do. It has been such a privilege to work and truly live like a Motswana, appreciating and diving headfirst into the culture, all the while trying to process and understand it. Proudly through this process, the Setswana culture has been ingrained in me to the point where I have been fervently touting it off as my own, in my heart I truly feel like a Motswana. Botswana has become a home to me, my heart is there, and “home is where the heart is”. It’s crazy to remember my first week in Botswana, I would sulk and lay in bed, completely out of my comfort zone, not wanting to be there and thinking I made a mistake in coming. Fast forward three months when I had to begrudgingly drag myself onto the plane with my sunglasses on so no one could see the tears in my eyes, knowing that I was leaving the country a completely different person than the one I came as. The transformation I have gone through is incredible.

In my time here, Botswana has given me the richest “hands-on” learning experience I have ever received in my life. I have learned so much from being here and working with my host organization. My eyes have been opened to the world of small NGOs working in fields that aren’t the most popular and through that I’ve seen what it’s like to be the underdog in nearly every sense–working in Substance Abuse in an African country as opposed to more “popular causes” like HIV/AIDS and Poverty Reduction has changed my outlook on a lot of processes in the field of development and forced me to getting into the pattern of brainstorming solutions rather than merely “accepting the problems in the system”. I learned how to truly advocate for something and the importance of passion and purpose in what you choose as your profession in order to truly shine—a lesson that has come in perfect timing as I prepare to enter into my fourth year. On the flip side of this, I also learned the importance of rest and of taking care of myself—an important lesson being in North America where “the deadline” can often seem to precede one’s wellbeing in a ranking of importance.

Overall, I think the most important thing I have learned in my time here is that my “bubble” of comfortable life in Canada is not the “bubble” the rest of the world abides in, and since that “bubble” has been popped, I am free to think big thoughts, have big ideas and dream big dreams, because I know after this experience that my “big picture thinking” can do this world a lot of good. I love Botswana, I am so grateful for it and the people that I have met here. I know that being here for 3 months I am susceptible to to “The Botswana Effect” as I have coined it, a phenomenon where in which a person that comes for a short time such as mine is prone to come back, because once you’ve been to Botswana—you know it’s worth coming back to. And boy, do I know that it’s worth coming back to!

**Also, last post I told you I would update you on our week long trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe and I don’t skim out on my promises! Our trip was fabulous! After an 11 hour bus ride, a trek on foot across the Botswana/Zimbabwe border and an hour long taxi ride we found ourselves in the beautiful town of Victoria Falls. We went to see Victoria Falls from both Zimbabwe and Zambia (as the falls are right on the border of the two countries) and I tell you, who knew water falling down some rocks could be so incredible! I cried as soon as I saw the falls, it was such a glorious sight, and a reminder of how incredible this earth is! The four of us WUSC interns that travelled together also took advantage of the presence of the Zambezi River (the fourth largest in Africa) that flowed in the region as we white water rafted on it, bungee jumped into it, zip lined over it, fished on it, took a beautiful sunset cruise over it (where in which we saw crocodiles, a family of hippos, and a huge herd of elephants—I definitely cried again that night). It was so cool seeing a different part of Southern Africa (equipped with the ever beautiful “Southern African sunset”) and it sparked my interest in travelling through even more countries on this glorious continent! I am so grateful for my time here and all I have gained in being here, I can’t wait to return and experience more, learn more and find more parts of this world to fall in love with.

Gosiame, and all the best.

Living Life Indian Style

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Who would’ve thought I’d be living in India for 3 months? Let alone doing an internship with a local NGO! I’ll be honest and say that it has never even crossed my mind, not even once. Living here in Udaipur has been nothing but a roller coaster ride that has allowed me to experience the highs and lows that India has to offer. As a foreigner, we’re told to keep an eye on our surroundings and staying open-minded towards he Indian culture (which varies from place to place). However, during my internship, I’ve slowly reached the conclusion that allowing yourself to get lost in the culture and lifestyle that’s being lived in all parts of India. You give yourself the opportunity to become an active participant in India. It can be said that if a person is eager to learn and appreciate the history and culture that India is so wealthy of, can truly understand and love this country. By applying for this internship, I knew I was going to experience some type of cultural shock and homesick; which is something I had experienced at the earlier stages of my internship. However, the more I interacted with the locals and had gotten a better understanding of my work at Seva Mandir, I can easily say that those were the tools that allowed me to get out of my “funk”. Being able to interact with various people and obtaining the ability to gather different perspectives on what makes Udaipur an amazing place to live, has allowed me to fall in love with my host country and a better grasp on culture and history of his city.

If you were to ask me at the beginning of my internship how much time I had to explore Udaipur and everything it had to offer, I would have replied with “all the time in the world”. But after hearing what everyone (especially the locals) had to say about the best places to visit in Udaipur and gather a better sense of its history, I can now come to the conclusion that it 3 months isn’t enough! Especially as I am entering my last month here, I can say that I will have to try and make a better effort with maximizing my opportunities to visiting all of the major parts of Udaipur. Here at Seva Mandir, where there is a large population of foreign volunteers as well as local volunteers, I have been fortunate enough to participate on little organized trips around the city and having different people explain the cultures that surround Udaipur.

Being in India and working in an NGO that required for me to venture off in different parts of Udaipur’s district has solidified my love for traveling, as well as my enthusiasm in discovering different parts of the world!

Career Paths in DVM

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Taking the opportunity to do an international internship, especially whilst in the midst of your undergrad, provides you with a refreshing perspective on what career one should embark on after their studies. Working at Seva Mandir and pursuing a degree in International Development and Globalization has allowed for me to match the courses and material I learned in class with the fieldwork experience I’ve gained in the last 3 months here in India.

Traveling through public transportation and talking to the locals has been a cultural exchange, as well as an exchange of knowledge and experiences. As mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve learnt that we’re not the one’s at hand that should be uplifting those that reside in villages to modernization and development, but rather we should be figuring out of ways to create a balance form of partnership. I’ve been fortunate enough to take the time to really attempt to making an effort to creating authentic relationships with the locals and gathering a better sense as to what it means to live an area that’s trying to cultivate their own paths to development.

This opportunity has given me the chance to test out everything I’ve learnt during the pre-departure orientations (as in testing my flexibility, being open minded to new cultures and practices, and understanding how I work as an intern in an NGO) in the “real world” and providing me with the motivation to continue my schooling and actually pursuing a career as a researcher.

As previously mentioned in my first blog post, having the opportunity to sit down and ask people what they believe “development” consists of has been a really great experience; at an academic and personal standpoint. Understanding this multidimensional and complex concept through the eyes of those that are considered as the “recipients” of development has really changed my views as to what it means for a country to be considered as being developed. It makes one question everything they have learnt in class, but at the same time appreciate everything they’ve learnt during our seminars and discussions because it merges the theories and ideologies with real life experiences. I have been able to talk to so many different people that have been taking different paths to the same ultimate goal; to be able to self govern and grow as a community. Taking to young men and women; who are able to provide contemporary ideas to what it means to develop, as well as what it approach they and Seva Mandir should take. But it’s also interesting to hear the ideas of those that come from an older generation, it’s surprising to see the contrast in ideas that they share in comparison to those from the younger generation; but it’s even more surprising to share ideas that are deemed as being more advanced than those that come from the “new” generation”.

The opportunity to put everything we’ve learnt in class into practice as been something that I will truly cherish; because not only will I be able to say that I have actual experience in the field, I have also been able to somewhat identify what I would like to pursue as a career.

International Internship

August 5, 2015 | Gaelle, DVM, JCM, India, Seva Mandir, Research and Prog. Assistant

Being in India has been an eye opening experience. Udaipur has given me the opportunity to explore the career path that I would potentially embark; as well as solidify my love of traveling.

Working at Seva Mandir, an organization that has created a name for themselves through their involvement of sustainable development in the villages near by has opened doors that I didn’t even know were at my reach. It’s aim to increase the involvement with these villages that are located in the management and maintenance of the services and facilities that’s provided by Seva Mandir can be considered as being inspirational and admirable. Not simply because Seva Mandir has dedicated their time and effort to empower those that are deemed as being marginalized; but to actually see how these villages have been able to really organize themselves and maintain these facilities with very little conflict or intervention from Seva Mandir.

After expressing my interest in international development and globalization, specifically focusing on the role of women in the process of development. I was assigned to the Village Institution Program (VIP). At first, I was very confused as to how it would cater to my interests and what I had hoped to pursue here in India. However, once I finally understood what my project consisted of, I realized how grateful I am for the work that I am doing. This project provided me with the opportunity to venture off to villages near and far from the main office; and have conversations with the locals surrounding their ideas and perspectives on sustainable development at a village (or rather local) level. It’s very interesting to see how many people are willing to take charger of their own development and basically putting their own twist to self-empowerment and self-governance. It has also been refreshing to see Seva Mandir to allow these villages the opportunity to think about their future and not impose their own views on these villages. The independence and willingness to participate has created this enthusiasm within their intern and volunteer to learn and get working in their parts.

My working experience here at Seva Mandir has really started up my engines in terms of thinking about the line of work I’d like to do in the field of international development. I am starting to notice my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being a researcher. Although we often learn about the skills and knowledge that’s acquired by a searcher while in university; however, once you’re in the field it’s a complete game changer. You are given the opportunity to test out everything you’ve learnt in class while volunteering, but you’re also able to learn more from the people that have been working in this line of work for many years.

So far, this experience has given me the opportunity to really expand my views on what it means to partake on an international internship; as well as what I would like to pursue in my future.

Complexity of development

August 5, 2015 | Annabelle, DVM, CWY, India, SPID, Program Assistant

Studying in international development, you often hear about the multidimensional aspect of development as well as poverty. There’s quite a debate about what is considered “poor”. Coming to India, and working with a local NGO with a holistic approach, I was able to see the various sides of development whether it be in terms of woman’s empowerment, children’s rights, health issues, youth training, etc. I was therefore able to see various ways that development can be achieved through an NGO for various issues. It also made me realize the importance of working in certain sectors that are often overlooked in development. I often worked directly with the vocational training courses at my NGO and it made me realize the importance of this type of development: the youth would participate to the local economy by getting into the job market, the young girls would feel empowered through education and work. It’s also accessible to the less wealthy sections of society which helps with poverty alleviation. I often hear at school that development is complex and I was truly able to see this reality while working with my NGO which also made me realize that I had to think of other development sectors and their crucial role. Overall, I was able to apply and analyse in a practical manner what I had learnt at school and find new perspectives on the entire development idea.