Un séjour inoubliable

6 août 2019 | Alyssa, Développement International et mondialisation, Uniterra, Sénégal, Collectif des Groupements Associatifs de Pikine Ouest (COGAPO) Conseillère en commercialisation et marketing

Maintenant, je suis à la dernière semaine de mon mandat. Mon séjour au Sénégal est inoubliable et j’ai de la difficulté à le décrire tant il était riche en expériences. J’essaierai malgré tout d’en donner un aperçu. Avant mon départ, tout le monde me disait que le temps passerait très vite et je n’y croyais pas. Mais, la fin approche et je ne peux pas croire que cette expérience est terminée. Il y a eu plusieurs facteurs qui ont eu un impact positif sur mon voyage au Sénégal.

Commençons par mon organisation locale, le Cogapo. Au début, quand j’avais lu mon mandat et compris que j’allais travailler à Pikine, une ville non loin de Dakar et remplie de sable, j’avais des appréhensions. Ma plus grande peur était la barrière linguistique. Je craignais de ne pas pouvoir communiquer avec mes collègues. Après 3 mois à travailler avec eux, je me considère maintenant comme une Pikinoise. Mes collègues m’ont accueillie à bras ouverts.Ils m’invitaient souvent chez eux pour partager le repas en famille. Le Cogapo regroupe des jeunes qui travaillent pour améliorer le mode de vie de la population de la commune de Pikine . Avec eux, j’ai organisé quatre différents ateliers et une sortie éducative avec les membres. Leur solidarité et leur passion pour développer leur commune ont été pour moi une source d’inspiration tout le long de mon mandat. Tous les jeunes qui font partie de cette organisation sont des bénévoles qui offrent de leur temps parce qu’ils ont un but commun. Ayant grandi moi aussi dans un pays en voie de développement, j’ai beaucoup appris des Sénégalais et surtout des habitants de Pikine. Cette solidarité, ce dynamisme et cette confiance en un lendemain meilleur m’ont marquée et continueront de m’inspirer longtemps encore .

En plus de collaborer avec moi dans le cadre du travail accompli pour le développement de la commune, mes collègues m’ont fait découvrir les traditions sénégalaises. J’ai pu assister à un match de lutte traditionnelle, célébrer la fin du ramadan avec une famille de la région, assister au match de la coupe d’Afrique où le Sénégal était en final, etc. J’ai essayé de m’intégrer le plus que possible et d’apprendre à connaître la culture sénégalaise. Lors de la finale de la coupe d’Afrique par exemple, j’ai été dans un point de rassemblement ou plusieurs sénégalais regardaient avec enthousiasmes la partie. Malheureusement le Sénégal n’a pas gagné mais vivre les moments de joie, de stress et de tristesse avec les gens m’a vraiment rapproché de ce peuple si fier de leur équipe nationale.

Par ailleurs, j’ai eu la chance d’habiter dans une maison de volontaires. On était quatre volontaires à y cohabiter. Avec eux, j’ai aussi pu faire des expériences formidables . Ensemble nous avons fait différents voyages à l’extérieur de Dakar. Le Sénégal est un très beau pays. Il y a des régions comme Saint-Louis ou même le désert de Lompoul qui sont des perles rares. Saint-Louis est une ville avec une architecture coloniale et Lompoul est le seul désert au Sénégal. Le pays a une riche histoire et avec les nombreux musées, on peut en apprendre beaucoup sur les racines africaines. La visite de l’île de Gorée aussi m’a vraiment marquée. Cette petite île nous raconte une histoire qui a façonné la vie de plusieurs et surtout la mienne comme jeune fille des Caraibes. Mon voyage au Sénégal m’a appris beaucoup de choses sur la solidarité et l’amour d’un peuple pour son pays. J’ai aussi découvert les traditions sénégalaises. J’ai visité plusieurs endroits et j’ai rencontré des gens formidables.

There is nowhere to go but up

2 août 2019 | Brigitte, International Studies and Modern Languages, Uniterra, Peru IPES – Promoción del Desarrollo Sostenible- Sustainable Development and Communication Officer

I came to Peru with no expectations, and I believe that is why I have been so happy here. When you go in at 0, there is nowhere to go but up. I am devastated that I have to go home. I plan on relishing every moment of these last few weeks.

I am very happy here. My apartment in Miraflores is well located and comfortable, I have great friends and I can access all the services I usually would in Canada, for a much better price. Over the course of my time here, I have also been able to discover other parts of Peru. The jungle, the desert and the mountains all within a quick pane ride away. As wonderful as I find Lima, I enjoyed escaping the big city once in a while.

I have been working as a grant researcher for IPES, a local NGO that undertakes projects in environmental sustainability. Through my work, I found that finding funding opportunities is very difficult. I asked myself how I could become as efficient and productive as an amateur grant researcher and I began taking an online course to further my knowledge around this topic. From this useful training, I produced a guide that summarizes what I have learned, to help myself, my organization and future volunteers in this area.

Last week, I did a 30 minute presentation on grant research in front of a group of 15 people, entirely in Spanish. While I was doing it, I was thinking to myself “I cant believe I’m doing this” and “does this mean I’m officially trilingual now?”. It was far from perfect, and at times, I did search for my words. Regardless, I gave the entire presentation without so much as looking at my notes and I was able to take questions and respond to them adequately.

My experiences and improved language skills are not the only thing I will take away from this experience. While I am sad about going home, I leave Lima confident and excited about the future.

A well-rounded education on international work

2 août 2019 | Laura, International Studies and Modern Languages, Uniterra, Vietnam, Vietnam Association of Community Colleges (VACC)- Program Officer

I have had such an amazing time living and working in Hanoi and I’m not ready to leave yet. The past three months have been packed with activities, work, new experiences, and friends. My work with the VACC has allowed me to learn so much about international work, specifically about international education. I was able to work in the many facets of my field of study and I was so grateful for the opportunity to discover what work I was best suited for.

Working with the VACC has been amazing. Through my work I was given the opportunity to travel to Gia Lai province for almost three weeks and help with English courses and international cooperation. While there I taught regular English classes to the teachers of the college to help with English conversation topics. This was my first experience teaching an actual class and it was a great opportunity to learn about teaching from other English teachers working there. At the VACC office in Hanoi I worked with some students in the English club and I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to work as a teacher already because it made me much more confident in my abilities while working with the students.

In Hanoi, I worked a lot on grant proposals, research for international education opportunities, and international cooperation plans. While I enjoyed working with the students and teachers, I liked working on these things more. My partner let me come up with and write grants for my own ideas, and I was able to research things that interest me like education. With the VACC, I received a well-rounded education on international work and types of positions I could have once I graduate and I’m so grateful to now have a better understanding of my own personal goals.

I’ve learned a lot and am so sad to be leaving. I’m very pleased with my work here and very grateful to have had this opportunity.

Uncovering the Beauty and Mysteries of Vietnam

1 août 2019 | Darian, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Uniterra, Vietnam, Bac Thang Long Economic Technical College (BTL) - Employability Skills Development Officer

I cannot believe it but I am already in the last week of my internship. Looking back at my time in Vietnam some of my most memorable experiences have been the weekend travels around the nation and some of the bordering countries. Since travelling within Vietnam is extremely affordable (never paying more than $175 Canadian dollars for a round trip flight) and easy to get around (with most flights being between one and two hours) I was able to go on eleven different weekend adventures during my twelve week internship. Some of the highlights included: Halong Bay (one of the seven natural wonders of the world), Sapa (the traditional mountainous rice fields), Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park (home to the largest and arguably most stunning caves in the world), Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat temples, Hue’s forbidden imperial city, Hoi An (known as the lantern village and regarded as the most beautiful town in Vietnam) and Ban Gioc Falls (the largest waterfalls in Asia).

For being a somewhat small country geographically, Vietnam has a great diversity in landscapes and sceneries throughout the nation. From the turquoise sea in Halong Bay, to the rushing waterfalls at Ban Gioc, to the dense tropical jungle in Bạch Mã National Park, to the Limestone Mountains of Ninh Binh, to the S shaped white sandy beaches of Dang, to the giant karst caves of Phong Nha Ke Bang, and the swamp like river in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam has practically everything to make the perfect travel destination for nature lovers. During my three months in Vietnam there was always something to do and see during which left me constantly exploring both the city of Hanoi where I work and the country as a whole. The breathtaking landscapes left me with so many contrasting emotions feeling the calmness of the crystal clear turquoise water crashing into the beach whereas standing on the edge of a massive waterfall looking hundreds of meters down filled my body with tons of adrenaline. The countless mountains, forests and caves I had the opportunity to explore made me feel as though I was right in the middle of a film set for a Hollywood fantasy movie, often leaving me in awe of the natural beauty of the environment I was in.

Along with the amazing picturesque views from these places, I had the opportunity of to connect with many locals from the areas I was travelling in. Some of the most special memories for my travels was staying at rural homestays and learning about life experiences from local Vietnamese people, even if they did not speak English. The hospitality and friendliness of the Vietnamese people is nothing like I have ever experienced before. I learned so much about Vietnamese history, culture, tradition and their way of life in different ways from individuals such as Nguyenthanh, a 78 year-old who fought in the Vietnam War, who gave me a private tour of the demilitarized war zone outside of Hue or Quang, a Vietnamese Monk I befriended during my Mekong Delta exploration or Dinh, a local elder a part of a Vietnamese ethnic minority group, who guided me through the hikes of the mountainous rice fields in Sapa. These people embraced me not as a strange foreigner but as a new friend, often inviting me to eat dinner with them, sharing many stories and insisting me to meet their families. This was such a unique aspect of Vietnam as many locals opened up their homes to me treating me like family.

However, the local friendships created and diverse landscapes of Vietnam cannot be summarized in a few paragraphs or with a couple pictures. It is impossible to find the words to describe the indescribable experiences and feelings you get when uncovering the beautiful intricacies this country has to offer. I feel like there is still so much to explore and learn about Vietnam, making wish I did not have return back home to reality in Ottawa just yet.

My internship

1 août 2019 | Pascale, Joint Honours in Anthropology and in Sociology, Uniterra, Nepal, Fair Trade Group, Marketing Intern

And thus, concludes my three months in Nepal. I arrived in Kathmandu in May, and am currently writing this blog post on my final full day in Nepal. My last day of work was yesterday, after which my coworkers took me out for a coffee to see me off. During this past week, I have been very reflective of my time here in Nepal, and my contribution to my partner organization. I specifically sought out a Fair Trade organization for my internship, as I wanted to learn more about the practices of Fair Trade and how they are applied on the ground-level.

I first joined my host organization as a marketing intern, however I was very fortunate to be able to bring in some of my skills in communications into this role. When not working on marketing activities, I focused on communications and photo taking, which consequently positively affected my role as a marketing intern. My biggest achievement with my host organization has been setting up a photo bank for them to use for the upcoming years. My organization has 26 fair-trade partners, which we support in any way we can. Of these 26 members, I had the incredible experience to visit 23 and photograph their producers and products. By doing so, I managed to join both my communications and marketing skills by taking quality photographs which can be used by FTGN for years to come, and will promote each of its member organizations.

I am quite sad to be leaving Nepal now, however am happy with what I was able to accomplish with the time I had and am looking forward to returning to visit in the near future.

“Polite, considerate and friendly”

30 juillet 2019 | Valérie, Développement international et mondialisation, Tanzanie, Uniterra, Friends in Development (FIDE) - Communications and Documentation Officer

Whereas most people associate Tanzania with wildlife and landscapes, the thing I will remember the most about Tanzania is the generosity and friendliness of the people here. “Polite, considerate and friendly” are words often used to describe Canadians and those seem to apply perfectly to Tanzanians as well. There are 120 ethnic groups and therefore 120 tribal languages in Tanzania, which makes the country the second most ethnically diverse in the world. Despite this diversity, Tanzanians live such in harmony with one and another. Once again, this makes me think of Canada as it is perceived by many, myself included, as a multicultural country that embraces all races, ethnicities and religions.

If not for the people, I will miss Tanzania for its food which is very simple and yet so rich in taste. Living in the small city that is Babati, I have had the opportunity to eat local dishes every day, whether it was rice and beans with milk tea (black tea infused in boiled milk) for lunch or chips mayai (omelet filled with fries) for dinner.

The work culture in Tanzania was definitely a challenge throughout my whole mandate and even after 3 months, I can’t really say that I got used to it. For instance, being productive all the time isn’t a thing, whereas frequent tea breaks and 2h lunches are. During these 2h lunches, everyone eats together, and no one brings their own food unless they are willing to share with the whole office. Also, no one tells you what you are supposed to do and you are expected to create work for yourself. Last but not least, everything takes time here and you can’t rely on schedules. This is where the whole “hakuna matata” saying means more than just “no worries” – it also refers to time as in “do not rush”. Without a doubt, the latter has made my work more difficult and longer than it could have been.

However, when looking back at all the tasks I have achieved, I have done more than the Uniterra team and I had anticipated in my work plan.

In fact, in 3 months I have:

• Redone completely the website;
• Updated the website and social medias weekly;
• Developed a Gender Equality Policy and presented it to the staff and board;
• Designed a newsletter;
• Developed participants form to track the gender, age group and knowledge level on specific subjects of beneficiaries at trainings and meetings;
• Conducted interviews with beneficiaries to see how their situation improved;
• Created a guide on how to use WordPress for my coworkers.

Trois mois plus tard dans mon pays d’adoption…

30 juillet 2019 | Dahlia, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Mines Action Canada, Vietnam, Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (AEPD)

Me voilà déjà à la douzième semaine de mon stage international à Dong Hoi, petite ville côtière au centre du Vietnam. Trois mois se sont écoulés en un clin d’œil. Entre le travail la semaine à l’« Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities » et les voyages de fin de semaine, je n’ai pas eu un seul jour de repos depuis mon départ du Canada et je n’ai aucun regret.

Lorsqu’on vit dans un pays où la culture et les normes sociales sont très différentes de chez soi, il est important selon moi de trouver un équilibre entre le confort du connu et l’aventure de l’inconnu. Bien qu’il soit nécessaire de se pousser hors de sa zone de confort pour faire de nouvelles expériences — culinaires par exemple —, il y a des jours où l’on n’a qu’une envie de se sentir chez soi dans la douceur de ce qui est familier.

En prenant du recul vis-à-vis de cette nouvelle expérience asiatique, je constate que je suis sortie de ma zone de confort à de nombreuses reprises. S’il est normal de ne pas toujours en apprécier le résultat, je ne changerais en rien ces aventures, car elles m’ont permis de vivre et de comprendre la culture vietnamienne. C’est d’ailleurs ce qui fait la différence entre un touriste et un voyageur. Le Vietnam étant un pays de plus en plus touristique, je me considère d’autant plus chanceuse de vivre dans une ville peu touristique où la vie locale est authentiquement vietnamienne. En effet, Dong Hoi est peu occidentalisé. Il n’y a même aucun McDonald dans cette petite ville.

Vivre dans un pays en développement a définitivement changé ma perception de la vie et la personne que je suis. Même si j’en suis consciente maintenant, je sais que ce ne sera qu’en rentrant au Canada que cette différence me frappera. Lors des semaines qui ont précédé mon arrivée au Vietnam, je me suis préparée mentalement à adopter un mode de vie complètement différent dans un nouvel environnement. Or, il ne m’a jamais traversé l’esprit que j’aurai, à mon retour au Canada, à me préparer mentalement à quitter ce nouveau chez-moi.

Quitter cette vie pleine d’aventures et de rebondissements pour retourner à ma vie routinière et stressante d’étudiante demandera certainement à nouveau de l’adaptation. En effet, la bonté des Vietnamiens, les paysages spectaculaires, les mets frais et nutritifs, les fruits exotiques, les plages de sable, la végétation abondante, l’odeur de l’encens que les gens brûlent pour prier ne sont que quelques exemples de ce qui va énormément me manquer à la suite de mon retour. Malgré les difficultés du pays — la pollution, la circulation abondante des motos, la corruption, les enjeux relatifs aux droits de la personne —, le Vietnam me rappellera toujours d’excellents souvenirs dans le futur. Ce qui ne me manquera certainement pas, c’est bel et bien l’extrême humidité qui pèse au Vietnam. J’ai presque envie de dire que j’ai hâte de retrouver le grand froid canadien !

Truly unforgettable

29 juillet 2019 | Celeste, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Malawi, ArtGlo, Partnership and Networking Officer

I am finishing the last week of my internship in Malawi and these past three months have been absolutely incredible. I have never been so grateful for an experience and for all the people I have met. I am especially thankful for the organization that I had the pleasure of interning at which was the Art and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo).

This organization uses participatory arts and innovative methods to create social change in the field of gender, health, youth and human rights. I am amazed by all the employees as they are young, passionate and hard working. I have never been in such an interesting and dynamic workplace where I am constantly learning from my colleagues and the work that I was fortunate enough to partake in. I am so thankful for this organization and how it brought me such amazing people in my life and gave me an opportunity to do work that I am so passionate about. I was fortunate enough to have done fieldwork, which helped me better understand the context of Malawi.

One of the workshops I attended worked with healthcare service students and we discussed the importance of the impartiality of healthcare services and how marginalised groups, such as the LGBTI community, should be provided the same healthcare. It was really interesting to hear the discussion and the different opinions of the students through a political, legal and cultural lense. Some of the tasks that I completed throughout my internship was developing a gender equality policy, creating a partnership assessment framework, and throwing a partnership and networking event to build relationships with organizations that worked in similar fields.

I am extremely sad to leave Malawi as I have developed a life and routine here through the friends I made and the places I go. It has become natural to me to go to the market to do all my groceries, getting AirTel and eating nsima all the time. I also feel that through this experience I have developed independence and confidence in my abilities as I have faced several obstacles that I had to overcome. I feel that this experience has helped me become more resilient and I am so grateful for all that I have been able to encounter.

I am worried about going home as the past three months has changed my habits, my traits and certain things that I am used to and I wonder how this will fit in to my life at home. As I am approaching the end of my internship, I also realize that I may not be able to have a position that I am so passionate about for a while. I truly treasure the experience and look forward to the next time I enjoy a job as much my position at ArtGlo. I know it will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to all the friends I have made knowing I may not see them again. My time in Malawi has been short but truly unforgettable.

Beautiful memories

29 juillet 2019 | Oumaima, Major in Criminologyand Minor in Women's Studies, Morocco, Forum of Federations

Interning in Morocco for three months was incredibly a beautiful experience. As mentioned in my last blog, I was born in Morocco so completing this internship in my homeland is something that I looked forward to. The first two months here were hard because I had to adapt to a new work environment and a new culture even if I am originally Moroccan. Everything here is different from back home. The culture, the traditions, the norms, the mentality, the lifestyle and the people here. I’ve been able to travel during my days off to different parts of Morocco. Every trip was just an unforgettable and I’m happy I had the chance to explore my native land.

After visiting Northern Morocco, I wanted to travel somewhere where I can get lost in nature and get out of the city. My cousins and me planned a day trip to Ouzoud Falls which is the collective name for several tall waterfalls that empty into the El-Abid River gorge. This popular tourism destination is located near the Moyen Atlas village of Tanaghmeilt, in the province of Azilal, 150 km northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. I was always stunned by the nature in Morocco but part of me didn’t want to go because I have motion sickness and I can’t stand long car rides. Ouzoud Falls are approximately a four hour (250km) drive from Casablanca. We left early in the morning and we made several stops to take pictures and just enjoy the beautiful view of the mountains. Once we arrived to Ouzoud, a tour guide showed us the way through the mountains to see the falls. It was approximately 45 minutes of hiking. Walking up and down hills was yet exhausting and magnificent. I would’ve never knew that the nature here is breathtaking. There were many trees and small waterfalls. The smell of the water and the nature was definitely something I enjoyed during this trip. When we arrived at the bottom of the falls, alongside a beautiful view, we had a delicious Moroccan chicken Tajine ; slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. They are traditionally cooked in the tajine pot, whose cover has a knob-like formation at its top to facilitate removal. After our meal we explored around the city and bought some souvenirs for friends and family. After exploring we drove to a small island near Ouzoud. The water was crystal clear blue and we went on a boat ride. We started driving back to Casablanca around 6 pm and I took the train back to my apartment in Rabat at 10:30 pm.

This trip was so much fun and I enjoyed every moment with my cousins. I absolutely loved the nature in Morocco and I’m definitely going to travel to other parts of Morocco in the future. Travelling helped me stay positive during my internship and I was able to create some beautiful memories with my loved ones.

Development: Expectations vs Reality

25 juillet 2019 | Snit, International Development and Globalization(Co-op)(French Immersion), Forumd of Federations, Ethiopia, Intern

In my final week in Addis, I have been left with a lot to reflect on. Last Friday, we had a little escape from the busy city life and headed to the lovely Debre Zeyt for my final work conference with the Forum. We discussed upcoming goals for the next fiscal year with key partners of the organization and talked about some of the areas of improvement for the next year as well.

It has been incredibly inspiring to meet so many brilliant people so passionate about democracy and governmental reform in the country. Having grown up in Canada, there were many privileges that I took for granted and never really even noticed I had until I saw other people without the same freedoms. There are also so many other barriers that do not exist in the same way in Canada due to historical reasons that do exist in many other countries globally. Not to say that there are not systemic issues in Canada or the West as a result of colonialization and imperialism, but it exists in a different capacity in my comparative understanding.

I have really learned a lot about the intricacies of federalism and what that looks like in an Ethiopian system, as it is often referred to as an ‘ethnic federalist’ system. This has opened my eyes to the realities of ethnic relations in the country and how it is a major consideration in many political decisions. Politics and governance are a lot more complicated than I had originally (ignorantly) anticipated. This experience has also shaped the way that I view development as a whole and have truly begun to understand the interdependency of all development projects. For example, one cannot talk about gender equality or environmental issues without considering governance and ethnic issues.

Development is such a complicated field, and an even more complicated concept. What does it mean to be developed? Who is the country developed/developing for? These are questions we don’t always have simple answers to, and that is kind of both the hardest thing but most inspiring and freeing component of development. Most notably, we have our sustainable development goals, but beyond the basic freedoms, what constitutes as sustainable? I have really been left with a lot to reflect on.

Being in Addis for the last three months have allowed me to understand myself and my parents’ homeland more than I ever would have dreamed. It truly has been the best of both worlds (both an academic experience and a personal learning experience) and I am truly very hopeful for the further development of the country. As one of my really good friends on campus said, “hope is all we can have”. Personally, I know this won’t be my last time in Ethiopia, so I’m very thankful for this opportunity and I am excited what my next experience in the country will be like.