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!

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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.

To the future interns, “Saha!” (enjoy!)

November 21, 2018 | Florence, Joint Honours in Communication and in Political Science, Forum des fédérations Tunisie, Région MENA, Intern

Just a few months ago, I arrived in Tunis, Tunisia, I was shocked by a chaotic and unorganized environment. The next day, I was already starting my internship, at the Forum of Federations on women empowerment with my two new colleagues. Throughout my internship, we’ve had multiple events with the government of Tunisia and its ministries in partnership with NGOs and other civil associations/organizations. Taking part in those big events with the leaders of the country allowed me to understand its culture, its history, its political, economic and social state, as well as their different related issues.

What surprised me the most on everything I’ve learned was the amount of cultural diversity you can find in such a small country. Tunisia has a very different and unique culture next to all the other Arabic countries. Its culture is mainly a mix in between Arabic, European and Berber.

After the decline of Romans, in the seventh century that dominated Tunisia for several centuries, the Muslim Arabs arrived from the east of the country. Since their arrival, Tunisia has been Arabic-speaking and Muslim. The Arabic culture is therefore very present through the language of most Tunisians and also through Islam religion of State, as well as its national customs, such as Ramadan, inheritance, domestic unit (close family), kin groups (kinship beyond family domestic unit), animal slaughter symbolizing togetherness when eating the meat, and more.

In 1881, a French protectorate was established in Tunisia for a whole generation. Therefore, its population grew within the European culture. For example, it is very noticeable through the colonial architecture of the main cities of the country and also by the presence of Christianism represented by a few cathedrals and churches. We can immediately see the resemblance looking at the circular columns and entrance, the high ceilings found in the buildings and also the few forts surrounding coastal cities. It is also very noticeable in the European clothing of most Tunisians. The clothing industry is one of the industries that imports the most from Europe. Lastly, wine is very much present despite Islam being the religion of State. Tunisians, in majority, enjoy the wine at dinner or during special occasions.

As for the Berber culture, it is the most ancient culture of the region. Since 2000 BCE, the Berber language (Amazigh) was spoken all over the North half of Africa. In the Tunisian culture, we can identify Berber culture through traditional dishes such as couscous, merguez and the famous harissa (hot chili pepper paste used in every dish). Moreover, most of the colourful craft of Tunisia refers to Berber culture through its colours and symbols. Blue represents the Mediterranean Sea, green represents the mountains and yellow represents the sand of the Sahara Desert. We also notice a lot of Berber symbols weaved in rugs found in all “souks”. Berber symbols are linear drawings similar to arrows. Every symbol has specific meanings. Besides, those symbols are also the same ones tattooed on Berber women’s faces as old tradition.

In summary, living in Tunisia not only allowed me to discover not just one culture but three! Throughout this discovery, I have acquired so much knowledge, a larger open mind, resourcefulness, but most importantly the thirst for exploring outside of my comfort zone in order to feel the culture instead of seeing it.

As I am preparing myself to go home in less than 2 weeks, I can feel the attachment I have developed over these past 3 months not only to the culture but mainly to the people I’ve encountered through my internship at the Forum of Federations and everyone else outside of it; my foster family, my international friends, my colleagues and my Tunisian friends. Each one of these encounters has brought me so much happiness, never ending laughter and memories that I will forever remember.

My dear Tunisia, you have marked my heart and you will be deeply missed.

To the future interns, “Saha!” (enjoy!)

Jump in !

November 12, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

Now that I’m back in Canada, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the three months I spent as an intern in Kathmandu, Nepal and what I took away from the experience. I think it’s not so obvious when you’re in the middle of it what you’re learning and how it will change you, even in some small way. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I noticed my perspective was different from when I left, and my time in Nepal will always be a reference point as I continue my studies, learning about economic development and policy aimed at the poor. It has fundamentally changed the way I think about these issues and I think it’s a valuable perspective to have for any student pursuing work related to development.

For instance, I learned that what works in one country may not work in another because of differences in culture, history, institutional structure, and even geography. Its easy to forget to take these factors into consideration when you’re talking broadly about policy and theory at the macro level. ‘Development’ is not just about increasing wealth but increasing quality of life, and that means something different for different communities. Economic development and poverty reduction should not be a one-size-fits-all approach and it is important to keep in mind the realities at the local level.

Another thing that I learned is that when you’re working in a non-profit or local NGO, lack of resources is going to be a constant obstacle to anything you want to accomplish. To make even a small impact takes a lot of work, perseverance and creativity with limited resources. It was interesting to observe how funding streams dictated the work an NGO pursues. I noticed that there were projects the local NGO would prefer to prioritize, but the projects supported by foreign aid were the ones they focused on. There are good reasons why this is the case, but I also have a greater appreciation for the need to consult local NGOs on what their priorities are, as they have a lot more knowledge of what is needed on ground.

And lastly, I learned that I really do like working in the field. The reason I chose to participate in an international internship was to find out if living and working abroad in a developing country is something I would actually enjoy and feel comfortable doing. It’s a different experience than traveling as a tourist because of the linkages you make with the community and the necessity to integrate. I’ll now be able to apply for other opportunities in the future with the confidence of knowing I’ll adapt to a new place and learn along the way. For anyone else interested in interning abroad, I think you should jump in and try it out and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Hello from Myanmar !

November 8, 2018 | Lydia, Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Public Administration (Co-op) (French Immersion), Myanmar, Forum of Federations, Intern

I arrive in Yangon at night on September 4 and watch the city lights come into view, as I am driven to my hotel room for the night, stomach anticipating an exciting experience interning at the Forum of Federation’s Myanmar office. I am well aware of Myanmar’s reputation in Canada—the Rakhine State crisis, human rights violations, ethno-religious violence, freedom of media are issues well-covered by the Western media. But as with any country, the problems profiled in the media are only one side of the country’s good, bad and ugly. I’m looking forward to exploring as much as I can in the short three months I’ll have and getting some understanding of the way forward being taken in Myanmar.

The Forum was founded in Ottawa in the late 90s and is funded by Canada and a number of partner countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Switzerland). Rather than advocate federalism as a solution, it aims to provide expertise and education on multi-level/devolved governance. It provides development assistance by convening experts and forums as part of its programs in the MENA, and South and Southeast Asia regions. The Myanmar country office has been running since 2012 and has been successful in implementing a number of training programs, working with local actors and partners from across sectors. The current program aims to enhance federal democracy, stability, and inclusiveness in Myanmar by enabling political stakeholders in the country to make informed decisions about Myanmar’s future state structure, by informing them about federal options, and by increasing engagement of citizens and civil society, including ethnic minority and women’s groups.

When the British retreated out of Burma during World War II, they adopted a scorched earth policy, which still has wide-ranging political and economic effects. The country gained independence in 1948 but has been trying to deal with wide-ranging interests and perspectives since. The first elections were held in 2010, but, constitutionally, 25% of seats are reserved for the military. The various Ethnic Armed Organizations which have been fighting the central military for decades having only signed a landmark Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015. Myanmar is still at the beginning of the peace and democratization process.

As a public administration major, it’s been really interesting to see how federalism topics are taught and applied in a country where the state institutions are in the process of being built. It’s easy to take conventions and institutions of a democracy for granted, growing up in Canada, where most situations and decisions have some political precedent at this point. Our Canadian institutions, though still young, have been evolving and building since before Confederation over 150 years ago, and have been largely untouched by war or significant civil unrest.

There are many ways in which Canada and Myanmar are similar. Both countries have an abundance of natural resources, both are bordered by larger often dominating countries, both are home to many diverse peoples. In Myanmar, there are over 100 ethnic races that speak over 100 languages and dialects. Although Buddhism is the majority religion, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions are also alive here. In the mountainous regions, a village at the top may speak a different language than a village at the bottom of a hill. It’s no wonder that participants at workshops are always very interested in the Quebec experience when Canada is spoken about, as an example of unity and diversity. Canada’s ongoing history with indigenous people, however, may serve as a different type of example.

But what I am learning as I meet with and speak to more people here, is that people are trying. Different individuals, organizations, groups, institutions are all working towards a prosperous and peaceful nation in the future. My hope is that this future becomes one where the diversity and beauty of Myanmar’s peoples can be represented.

It’s only been five weeks…

November 7, 2018 | Charie,International Development and Globalization and Additional Minor - Management, Uniterra, Nepal, Centre for Micofinance, Communication and Documentation Officer

It’s only been five weeks of living in Kathmandu, Nepal and I feel like I’ve gotten so much from the experience already. I’m interning at the Center for Microfinance, a local non-profit that works to improve the microfinance sector in Nepal through workshops and trainings, networking, and research. I studied microfinance as a development tool through my undergraduate coursework before applying for this position, so I was thrilled when I saw the opportunity available and even more so when I was accepted. This position has given me my first real-world application of what I’ve been learning, for a purpose I find meaningful and worthwhile.

For those in the bottom quartile of incomes in Nepal, credit and financial services like savings or insurance are inaccessible through formal channels. They do not qualify for loans at a traditional bank given that the poorest don’t have collateral or a credit history. So credit is obtained through informal markets, such as ‘loan sharks’ or community pooling, when possible. But still, many are left even more vulnerable to economic shocks without access to funds in case of emergency. They also lose out on the small investments they could be making into their work. It’s been really nice hearing the success stories and the impact they’ve had on the most marginalized in Nepali society—particularly women. Some of my favorite times here so far have been the discussions with my colleagues, who have many years’ experience in not just microfinance but development generally. They have great stories to tell and first-hand information to share, and it inspires me to pursue development work myself.

To my surprise, I haven’t found it particularly difficult to integrate and adapt to my new environment, and I owe much of this to the kindness and support shown to me by the staff at CMF and CECI. There is a great program in place that covers all the bases for a new intern, and I can’t think of anything else I could have needed that they didn’t already make available to me. I’ve settled into a familiar 9-to-5 daily routine of going to work, commuting home and eating dinner, and then I’m left with evenings and weekends free for exploring the city or planning short trips outside of Kathmandu. I’ve been able to spend a weekend in Pokhara so far—which I highly recommend to any future interns going to Nepal—and the Chandragiri hills, which when it’s clear has a view of the Himalayan ranges from Annapurna to Everest. I have a list of other places to see that have been recommended to me by colleagues and locals that I’d like to check off. There are so many, though, I hope I can see them all in the next 6 weeks!

Dakar Dem Dikk

November 5, 2018 | Sophia, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Sénégal, Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCR), Conseillère en égalité entre les hommes et les femmes

“Dakar Dem Dikk” is the Dakar equivalent to OC Transpo in Ottawa. “Dem Dikk” means “go and come back” and I think that that sums up how I’m feeling with a month to go in my internship - like I just left and its already time to come back. This has been the fastest two months of my life! Every day has brought a new experience both positive and negative, but an experience I cherish nonetheless. Getting the opportunity to actually live in a foreign country as opposed to simply visiting has given me a completely different understanding of life here. I feel very lucky to have gotten this opportunity. Getting accustomed to a culture and a different way of life took me a little while but once it happened, my experience here got so much better.

While in Dakar, I have visited many beautiful place in and around the city including the Pink Lake, l’Île de Gorée, l’Île de Madeleine and I even got the chance to go scuba diving. Dakar has some stunning places to visit with views and scenery almost breathtaking enough to distract you from the Senegalese heat. I have made friends through contacts and at work who have contributed to making my visits to these beautiful landmarks even more memorable. These are relationships I will never forget.

However, as much as I appreciate the beauty of the places I’ve visited, some of my favourite moments have consisted of just simple day to day activities. For instance, I got the chance to play in a soccer game with my colleagues. The office got together to play and it was an experience I am so glad to have gotten. I am passionate about sport and once again, this game showed me how sport can bring people together regardless of language barriers and cultural differences. Another special moment for me was when my co-worker, Mariem, who I usually share a taxi with on the way home, brought me with her to see an apartment she was thinking of renting. This excursion gave me the opportunity to see a part of Dakar I would never have seen otherwise. It let me experience life in Dakar differently than I could have on my own. I walked around dirt roads and through hidden neighbourhoods that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It sounds like an insignificant moment but it left me feeling lucky. The chance to live in Dakar has let me experience what day to day life is like and its quite an amazing contrast to normal tourism. It is funny how sometimes it is the littlest things that have the biggest impacts.

As with all places in the world, there is kindness and there is animosity here. However, the animosity I have experienced has been heavily outweighed by the kindness. There is a welcoming aspect to Senegalese culture that cannot be ignored. A common response to thank you in Senegal is ‘On est ensemble’ meaning ‘we are together’ and it really feels like among the Senegalese population, this is the reality. There is a feeling of comradery and community that I have not experienced or witnessed in Canada. For instance, there was a celebration/fund raising activity for a religious celebration called Magal de Touba and the gathering for this happened right outside my house. There were hundreds of people gathered for the whole day. They ate together, prayed together and just spent time together. At the end of the night there was knock on my door and someone had brought a big plate of food for me and my housemates to eat with them. The invitation to come eat with people has been very common during the past two month. It is this kind of hospitality and generosity that I will remember and that will stick with me for life. It is a different mentality than at home and one that I hope I am able to bring with me upon my return.

I have more to say but this blog post is getting pretty long! This has been a fantastic 8 weeks and I’m looking forward to what the next 4 have to offer as well!