The people of Myanmar

4 août 2017 | mberu013

To begin with, for three months, I have met various groups of people, from the four corners of the Myanmar territory. The work with the Forum of Federations consisted of meeting with different peoples to discuss on federalism, minority rights, natural resources, fiscal federalism and many other important themes.

During those workshop trainings on the topic of federalism, I had to interview distinct constituents that generously offered their time to answer my questions. Most of the participants that accepted to answer the questions were, in significant majority, young and middle-aged women that were interested in federalism and who’s occupations ranged from Members of Parliament to CSOs and interested citizens. Even after the election of Lady Aung San Suu Kyi, most of the peoples I met and interviewed asserted that women were equal in Myanmar, but solely by law as they are still facing challenges in society; therefore, I decided to direct most of my work towards women.

Of course, the participants of the workshops had distinct interests regarding the essence of what is federalism in Myanmar, but also had different, perspectives, opinions and interpretations of what the concept is and what a democracy should look like.

That is, in most cases, the peoples of Myanmar thought it was crucial to emphasize that Myanmar must, even if it becomes a federal democracy, maintain its cultural heritage while allowing investors to come in the country.

Within this scope, the theory of dependency has shaped the discourses of the end of the 20th century and decolonizing the minds is a process that all colonized countries must go through in order to form their own imagined nation. And, my observations demonstrate that those communities, particularly the young people of the communities, overcame this issue.

In sum, the peoples that attended the workshops seemed to be hopeful for a peaceful, prosper and federal Myanmar.

In conclusion, for someone that is passionate, spirited and enthusiastic to work in the field of conflict resolution, this internship in the right one for you. As a young adult of 22 years old, I come back in Canada more driven and more comprehensive of what is the work of people in the field of conflict resolution. I discovered a beautiful country and I made friends that will last for a life time. This internship is not only a valuable work experience but also a life experience as, during those three months, I grew in personality and character while increasingly developing my individuality.

Yangon, Myanmar

4 août 2017 | mberu013

In the past few months, as a Canadian expatriate and the new intern for the Forum of Federations, I had the opportunity to meet various peoples, from diverse members of Civil Society Organizations to Members of Parliament and Shareholders of political parties. The Forum of Federations (FOF) is an International Organization that brings together 20 federal democratic countries around the world. As the new Intern, I was living in the economic capital of Yangon, but I had the chance to travel around the country in the scope of my work with the FOF.

Beforehand, Myanmar is a developing country that opened its doors to the world only in 2012, the country has a rich cultural heritage, history and civilization, however ethnic and religious conflicts have slowed down its development and the country remains one the poorest in the region. Although it is true, the country’s new democratically elected leader, Lady Aung San Suu Kyi has been struggling to maintain peace in Myanmar as the military junta and a rebel group are still fighting in the North. The international community has given enormous attention to human rights issues in the Eastern part of Myanmar where, the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, are being cleansed. This short blog post will illustrate my three months internship in the beautiful country of Myanmar by discussing on the country and the peoples in the scope of my experiences.

To begin with, while landing in Yangon International Airport, the first noticeable characteristic of the country is the lack of economic development, the pollution and the unclean streets. However, once your feet have landed on the ground and you are slowly discovering the country, you immediately understand what makes Myanmar so fascinating. The people are sociable, welcoming and you can feel the warmth, munificence and hospitality only after a few seconds of interaction with the Burmese people.

While enjoying your first taxi ride at a singularly cheap price, you can observe the unique character and architecture of the economic capital. Although it’s true, the economic life is a stagnant and motionless watercourse. By looking at the microeconomics of the country, you can observe that many citizens are unemployed, do not have decent wages and suffer from poverty. Furthermore, there are many market places around the city where you can buy cheap goods and services, however since there is almost no economic life during the week-ends, those shops are most likely to be closed. In other words, Yangon is dormant during the weekends.

While wandering around the city, expatriates will notice the rich cultural heritage of the old Myanmar civilization before the English colonization. Of course, ‘‘Westerners’’, as the Burmese people like to call them, are viewed as despicable by some traditional Burmese citizens. But, without exaggeration, tourists, expatriates and Canadians are generally well treated by the majority.

In every radius of around 10 km you can find a beautiful Buddhist temple decorated with gold and jewels where Buddhists and Monks go to meditate. This high number of Pagodas illustrate the importance of Buddhism in Myanmar’s society. In Myanmar, Buddhism is the official religion, nevertheless Buddhists share their religious authority with the high percentage of Muslims.

Consequently, in 2017, there are still disputes and tensions between the Muslim minority and the Buddhist majority. Historically, the demography of the country does not only consist of Burmese peoples, but also Chinese and Indian immigrants that have settled in Burma in the mid-20th century. In Yangon, a large number of banks, industries and small businesses are owned by Chinese and Indian immigrants which also created tensions. Subsequently, in the mid-20th century, there was a rise in the educational level of the Burmese-middle class and many Burmese students decided to study in Western countries and bring back the acquired knowledge in the country, resulting in the rise of an elite Burmese middle-class. In other words, this elite group of students are the ones that initially brought the idea of democracy in the political dialogue in Myanmar.

Besides, I have had the curiosity to visit the University of Yangon, which is situated at the heart of the economic capital. Indeed, the maxim of the school is to provide a competitive education in order to survive the post-information age. Henceforth, I observed that the University had been modernized with computers and large classrooms. Although it’s true, when visiting the library, one can observe the few quantity of books, the very old traditional library system and the old web based library system.

In sum, the situation in the economic capital is relatively peaceful and Yangon will soon become an important economic capital in Asia if democracy is implemented successfully while development and peace is sustained.

The value of international internships

3 août 2017 | Nevena, ECI, Ghana, Unitera, RAINS, Communication Officer

As a student in international development, I was looking forward to fitting an internship into my program of studies from the day I applied for my undergraduate degree. Now, two semesters prior to graduating, I was finally able to participate in one. My geographical interest in development has always been Sub-Saharan Africa - I have always been fascinated with the intricacies shaping the paths to development (or sometimes unfortunately underdevelopment) of the various countries in this region. After participating in a field research course via FSS International in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2016, I decided that I wanted to try get a better understanding of West Africa during this internship. I selected an internship in Tamale, Ghana where I worked as a Communications Officer with a local NGO entitled RAINS. Their work focuses on helping the marginalized in Ghana’s northern region to help themselves. Tamale, where I was placed, is not a large city. Unlike my previous experience in Nairobi, there were no large supermarkets, little western food products, or coffee shops. However, there was a lively market, filled with friendly faces and all the products you could ever need. Living in this environment, where everything I needed was available in town within a 5 minute walking radius, taught me more about development than being in a classroom ever could have.

Everyday I came face to face with major development issues such as food insecurity, climate change, poverty, and gender inequalities. Through my interactions with locals I was able to pick out and better understand these issues and how they directly impact these people, giving the issues a human face. For example, a delayed rainy season due to climate change meant that certain crops were delayed in coming to the market, while others were running out, causing their price to increase since they had to be brought in from far away districts to meet the local demand.

Working with a local NGO allowed me to learn the intricacies of implementing development work. I now better understand what constrains an organization from being as beneficial in their community as they would like. A lack of sustainable funding, local capacity, and logistical problems can delay projects. But I also learned how dedicated people are to their work and how much they truly care about the beneficiaries they are collaborating with. The connections that Ghanaians have with their coworkers is also incredible - I honestly felt as if I was among family at work. There is so much that we can each learn from each other in these placements, which goes beyond the capacity building and skill transferring. I am so grateful for the knowledge that was passed on to me by my coworkers not only about development but also about social practices and values which I hope to at least somewhat bring back to Canada with me.

My highlight of this placement was having the ability to go to the field. I went to assist the project officers with the auditing of women’s microfinance programs all over the northern region. There is no feeling that compares to being in the field - it is exhilarating and eye-opening and for me, confirms that this is the field of study that I love. Development work is not easy, we hear this time and time again. There are challenges faced everyday with regards to the work and simply living as a foreigner in a country so different and far from home however, this is also what draws me into it.

I would recommend an international internship to anyone completing their degree. It is such an incredible way to better understand and explore what you have spent countless hours studying and reading about. It challenges you emotionally in ways you’d never imagine but in the end teaches you important life skills such as adaptability and patience. Many people go into these hoping to grow professionally, but I can guarantee that you will grow immensely personally as well.

Deux mois plus tard…

31 juillet 2017 | Toufic, DVM, Uniterra, Vietnam - DTU, Communications and Public Relations Officer

Cela fait maintenant deux mois que je suis arrivé au Vietnam. Lorsque nous imaginons le pays, nous pensons directement à Hanoï et Ho Chi Minh Ville, connues pour leurs embouteillages monstres et leur fort achalandage. À Da Nang, dans cette petite ville du centre du pays, la vie est différente.

Il y a environ 20 ans, cette ville était séparée par une rivière sans aucun accès entre les deux côtés. C’est en 1998 que le premier pont (Song Han) est construit afin de relier les deux territoires et à partir de ce moment, Da Nang a commencé à connaître un boom économique, d’autres ponts ont été construits, le populaire d’entre eux étant le Pont du Dragon (Cầu Rồng), symbole de l’ouverture sur le monde de la ville de Da Nang.

Depuis quelques années, cette ville est en développement exponentiel et le secteur touristique bat son plein et rentre dans le cadre la stratégie de son développement. La ville est parsemée d’hôtels en tout genre et de restaurants aux spécialités du monde entier. Les projets de construction sont par centaines et provoquent ce contraste propre aux pays en développement. Aujourd’hui, nous retrouvons une ville qui est devenue un hub économique où l’on voit émerger plusieurs start-ups ainsi que d’autres projets et qui accueille des touristes venant des quatre coins du monde.

Fraichement arrivé du Canada, avec une longue escale à Hong Kong durant laquelle nous en avons profité pour visiter la plus grande statue de Bouddha, j’ai tout de suite eu cette fameuse « première impression ». Non pas quelque chose de nouveau, mais comme un semblant de déjà-vu, ce que j’appelle le « Joyeux Bordel » des pays en développement. En effet, ce mélange d’odeurs de poisson, de nourriture sur le feu et de pollution renforcées par la chaleur accablante et l’humidité fait partie du quotidien des citadins.

En journée, le soleil est si fort que les rues sont pratiquement vides et se remplissent momentanément le matin et à midi. Ce n’est qu’au coucher du soleil que les rues se bondent et que Da Nang prend vie. Les hommes et les femmes se retrouvent en terrasse à siroter leur succulent café vietnamien, au restaurant à partager un large plat de fruit de mer et poissons ainsi qu’au bord de la plage afin de profiter des bains nocturnes. La population locale rentre chez elle assez tôt. Autour de 20 heures, les familles se retrouvent ensemble au-devant de leur domicile à discuter et voir leurs enfants s’amuser. Quant aux expatriés, c’est à ce moment qu’ils décident de sortir et profiter de la vie nocturne. Les endroits fréquentés sont souvent les mêmes et deviennent donc des points stratégiques de rassemblement avant de décider de l’activité de la soirée. En semaine, c’est plutôt classique : Bar au bord de la plage, billard et bières. Le week-end est une tout autre histoire, les bars se remplissent et la débauche règne, autant pour les jeunes étrangers que vietnamiens. L’alcool coule à flots et la musique se fait entendre à des centaines de mètres. Les rues du centre-ville se bondent et les vendeurs ambulants sont fortement sollicités. Ce n’est qu’aux petites heures du matin que la soirée se termine et que les rues Da Nang retrouvent leur calme habituel.

En parlant de rues, avez-vous déjà joué à GTA? Si oui, figurez-vous que vos heures passées à conduire en faisant ce que bon vous semble et en entravant le code de la route vous servira ici. Il n’y a pratiquement aucune règle, peu de feux de circulation et le scooter est le moyen de transport le plus utilisé, car le moins cher. Le klaxon, si mal perçu dans nos villes, est le principal moyen de communication sur la route. Ce dernier, qui, durant les premiers jours, vous cassera les oreilles, deviendra peu à peu une douce mélodie qui vous réveillera lorsque votre alarme n’y parviendra pas. Ici, le mot d’ordre est « désordre » ! Tentez de vous frayer un chemin et surtout, ne soyez pas hésitants. Les camions et voitures avanceront sans pitié tandis que vous serez en train de zigzaguer entre les autres véhicules. Il faut donc garder son calme et ne pas céder à la panique, c’est le meilleur moyen d’éviter un accident.

L’un des avantages d’habiter au Vietnam en tant qu’étranger est le faible coût de la vie. En effet, en connaissant les places locales où manger et en sachant négocier le prix de vos articles au marché, vous pouvez vous en tirer pour moins de 5 $ par jour. Que dire de la nourriture si ce n’est qu’elle est succulente. Plusieurs restaurants locaux n’offrent pas de menus mais un plat diffère chaque jour et ce pour environ 1 $. Certes, l’hygiène peut laisser à désirer mais votre estomac n’en souffrira pas pour autant. Durant mes premiers jours, je mangeais exclusivement dans des restaurants offrant des menus afin d’être sur du prix et d’une meilleure salubrité des aliments. Cependant, en prenant mon courage à deux mains, j’ai décidé de goûter aux vendeurs de rues, aux spécialités locales et depuis, c’est chez eux que je trouve mon bonheur culinaire. Même si les commerçants ne parlent pas forcément l’anglais, l’argent est roi au Vietnam. Le prix est toujours sujet à négociation lorsqu’il n’est pas affiché. Le meilleur conseil est de partir une première fois avec une personne locale, et connaître le prix. Dès lors, vous pourrez revenir et payer le même prix et même tenter, dans la mesure du possible, de converser avec les personnes qui vous servent. Utilisez votre téléphone pour traduire et le tour est joué !

Concernant mon expérience professionnelle, je pense que, avec les ressources disponibles, j’ai tout de même pu délivrer des résultats positifs. Je m’explique, mon partenaire local m’a accueillie comme étant le premier stagiaire international. N’ayant aucune expérience dans ce genre de processus, il était de mon devoir de les éclairer quant à mon rôle au sein de leur faculté. En effet, j’ai dû discuter longuement avec le doyen de la faculté afin d’arriver à un accord quant aux tâches à faire. Lorsque lui voyait en moi un expert en communication qui allait faire tout le travail, je me devais de lui expliquer qu’au sein de l’ONG, notre rôle est le renforcement de capacités. Cela passe par de la collaboration et des séminaires en communication. De plus, étant donnée la période estivale, le personnel était très occupé par les examens de fin d’année puis les vacances d’été. J’ai eu la chance de travailler avec le personnel que très rarement en raison de cela. J’ai tout de même pu organiser deux séminaires en communication et j’ai aussi émis des recommandations quant à la stratégie de communication de la faculté. En bref, cette expérience m’a montré, une fois de plus, que la pratique est très différente de la théorie. Rien n’est acquis, tout est sujet au changement, et la flexibilité est une qualité essentielle à avoir.

En bref, au-delà de mon expérience professionnelle, je pense sincèrement que ce stage était une expérience personnelle très positive. La vie loin de sa zone de confort peut s’avérer rude au départ. Cependant, après quelques temps et avec un peu d’ouverture d’esprit, cette zone de confort se transforme peu à peu pour devenir une deuxième maison et le retour au pays devient très dur à accepter.

AYITI CHERIE

27 juillet 2017 | Maxine, DVM + mineure en ADM, Haïti, Uniterra, CCI d'Haïti, Conseillère en gestion des déchêts

J’ai passé un merveilleux 3 mois en Haïti. Ce stage a été ma première expérience de travail sur le terrain me permettant de découvrir les réalités du milieu professionnel dans un pays en développement.
Ce que j’ai trouvé de plus valorisant est que mon temps ici m’a permis de concilier quelques notions que j’ai appris dans mon programme de développement international avec des expériences pratiques.

Tout d’abord, je n’avais que quelques idées générales de la culture Haïtienne, surtout basé sur les informations télévisées et les images diffusées sur Internet ne représentant pas de manière complète l’image d’un pays. Ainsi, un stage à l’international est une très bonne opportunité pour en apprendre davantage sur un pays, briser les stéréotypes perçus de l’extérieur et connaitre les différents points de vue des populations locales tout en acquérant une formation professionnelle essentielle pour le monde du travail. En effet, il devient difficile pour les jeunes de trouver de l’emploi car les entreprises demandent de plus en plus que les étudiants aient eu des expériences de travail au préalable. Si vous avez la chance de faire ce genre de stage, je le recommande fortement puisqu’à mon avis il représente un atout important à présenter aux futurs employeurs.

En ce qui a trait au monde professionnel, j’ai gagné des compétences fondamentales dans le domaine du partenariat, entre autre. J’ai aiguisé mes compétences en réseautage, appris à créer des liens avec des professionnels et rédiger des demandes officielles de partenariats entre organisations. J’ai aussi approfondies mes connaissances en recherche-terrain, que je n’avais que parcourus en survol dans certains cours de développement international à l’université. C’était donc très valorisant de mettre ce que j’ai appris en pratique.

Ce stage m’a aussi permis de grandir sur le plan personnel, me permettant de mettre en œuvre mes capacités de débrouillardise et d’autonomie ainsi que de gérer mes réactions faces aux situations imprévues et les quelques difficultés dont j’ai d û faire face. Ceci étant dit, j’ai eu le soutien nécessaire de la part de mes collègues qui m’ont encadré tout au long de mon mandat. De plus, j’ai eu la chance d’agrandir mon réseau social, de rencontrer des personnes extraordinaires qui m’ont accueilli très chaleureusement et ont rendu ces 3 mois encore plus agréable. Qui aurait cru que des amitiés si proches pouvaient être crées en si peu de temps ?
Hélas, c’est avec tristesse que je quitte Haïti mais je ramène avec moi de multiples histoires que j’ai hâte de raconter à mes amis, ainsi qu’avec de futurs étudiants qui envisagent de faire un stage international. Je suis contente d’avoir pu en connaitre plus sur le domaine du développement et d’avoir eu l’opportunité de voir comment fonctionne les dynamiques de travail dans une organisation canadienne de coopération internationale, qui m’aidera à orienter ma carrière future.

The Value of “Pole Pole”

27 juillet 2017 | April, ECH, Uniterra, Tanzania - MVIWATA, Advocacy and Learning Officer

As my 12-week internship is quickly coming to a close, I will be leaving Tanzania with a mix of excitement, disappointment, gratefulness, and accomplishment. My experience thus far has been one of personal growth and practical skill development. Returning with me to Canada, I will not only bring souvenirs, but the memories I’ve made, the friendships I’ve forged, and the numerous life lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps the most important of these lesson is the value of taking things slow.

Upon arriving in Tanzania, the volunteers had a three-day orientation at the Uniterra office. The biggest impression I was left with based on stories from the local and foreign staff was that Tanzanian work culture was going to be difficult to adjust to coming from a fast-paced country like Canada. Not to encourage generalizations, but we were told that the pace of Tanzania was “pole pole,” meaning slowly slowly. As volunteers from Canada, we were raised in a society that pressures us to be time efficient, to get the most done in the 24 hours we are given. As new interns, we were especially eager to start our mandates and get our feet wet in a new country. We were advised that we would have to adjust to this new pace, something previous volunteers had found difficult to do at times. I did not realize the accuracy of their words until the other volunteers and myself experienced this first hand. What I also failed to understand at the time was the depth and significance of this lifestyle.

Canada in the 21st century. A time when technology is heavily influenced by supporting innovations that promote time-efficiency and productivity. As George Ritzer calls it, it is the McDonaldization of the world. Technologies are created with the intent of making our lives easier, to save us time, and to get more done. After living here for 3 months, I have come to realize that this mindset of productivity and control comes with consequences. Self check-outs, ATM’s, and drive-thru’s all save time by cutting out the aspect of human interaction. The “pole pole” lifestyle of Tanzania holds onto the importance of human contact. Above all else, it puts human relationships at the forefront of daily life. It values people by exerting effort and time into learning about another human being, to take it slow, and as they say, “go with the flow.”

Coming from a society that fights against this culture, at first it was difficult, and at times frustrating, to adapt in the workplace. Especially in the beginning, finding the balance between taking the initiative to ask for work while not infringing, and being sensitive to cultural differences in the Tanzanian work place context were important. The difference is not that the organization is not busy, or that there is a smaller workload. In fact, the last three weeks of my internship were full of overnight trips in the field, workshops, proposal writing, and training up until the last day. The difference lies in the choices people make.The pole pole lifestyle chooses to put relationships first, while our fast-paced lifestyle back home further separates us from our human nature. We replace people with objects, relationships with technology, and meaning with convenience, and in doing so, deprive ourselves of that which gives our lives value.

I came to realize that the reason behind appointments being pushed back and late meetings was not due to tardiness, but because they choose to put people first, to accommodate to humans instead of a schedule. A story which was brought up during our Uniterra training in Ottawa is a perfect example of this. In the story, an older gentleman took twice as long to patrol the same neighbourhood as the other employees. The other men had difficulty understanding why. Was it because he was older, or did the job slowly? Instead, they discovered that this man was going into the neighborhood and speaking with the locals, getting to know the residents, sitting down for tea and learning about their families. This proved to be useful later on, as an incident in the town caused the locals to only trust him to get the job done. I have come to realize that building relationships is sustainable. Learning more through the experiences of others, forging bonds through taking the time to talk to others can serve a great purpose in the long run.

We work towards possessing objects which don’t contribute to our happiness and only fuels the need to possess more in an effort to achieve said happiness. In replacing conversations and interactions with screens and automated messages, we become overworked and unhappy. We are working towards the wrong things, and in doing so, we have lost sight of what truly matters. Being busy is hard-wired into our DNA from a young age, so much so that when we do have free time, we are anxious to do something productive with it.

Even locals have taken notice of this. During our three-day orientation in Arusha, we stayed at a guesthouse called Adia’s Place. Adia, the owner, would make us breakfast each morning as we waited to be picked up by a Uniterra staff member and brought to the office. One morning, we had woken up later than usual. As such, when the Uniterra staff member arrived we were all still eating. As an instant reaction, we rushed to get up and go, taking our last sips of coffee and leaving with toast in our mouths. Adia interceded and told us to take our time, not to rush, to take it easy. She proceeded to tell us how she had a pervious volunteer from Canada and noted that because of the obsession with time “you guys are always stressed out,” and we were. From work to class, class to work, from the grocery store to the gym. In an effort to squeeze the most into one day, to get the most out of 24 hours, our lives are passing us by without holding onto what is important.

Developing countries are referred to by some scholars as “backwards societies.” However, I beg to differ. Instead, I would suggest to critically analyse this statement. We are the ones replacing relationships with machines, and people with objects. Yet, as opposed to this technology contributing to a stress-free, time-efficient lifestyle, recent studies have proven that more and more people are unhappy and plagued with anxiety. In a commercialized world, we consume more, buy more, are engulfed in debt and yet are still unhappy and stressed. Apps which are meant to globalize and connect us with people all over the world such as Instagram, are instead negatively impacting our mental health. During my internship, I learned skills and techniques in lobbying and advocacy. I have learned how to ask the right questions, how to hold effective workshops, how to write proposals, and even public speaking. However, despite all this, I would say the most important skill I have developed is how to value human beings more. As such, I would like to thank Uniterra, MVIWATA, and the University of Ottawa for providing me with this opportunity. I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the locals of Tanzania, who made this experience meaningful by being hospitable and helpful everywhere I went.

Namaste Nepal – Until Next Time

26 juillet 2017 | Kristen, Dbl major Sociology/Criminology, Nepal, Uniterra, Small Farmers Development Bank, Knowledge Management intern

My time in Nepal is coming to an end, a reality I am finding quite difficult to grasp. When first arriving in Kathmandu, the capital city, I was overwhelmed with how different the atmosphere was from what I have experienced in Canada. This overwhelming sensation soon turned to admiration for a country that infuses spirituality, spices, colour and hospitality into every aspect of daily life. I now understand why so many individuals travel to Nepal in their search for enlightenment and why so many leave this country with a new perspective on time, friendship and sense of self. Having spent almost three months here I will leave with a strong appreciation for what I have learned about Nepalese culture and a strong desire to come back as soon as I can.

Life in Nepal is different in comparison to the Western world; however, it is also similar in many ways, particularly in Kathmandu. Most individuals have cellphones and use Facebook. Most children love buying candy from the corner store and playing games with their friends after school. There are several large malls where teenager’s hangout, public transit can take you anywhere you want to go to in the city, movie theatres are elaborate and many organizations are in place to improve life for Nepalese like homeless shelters, health clinics and retirement homes.

Despite these similarities there are so many things that differ from Canada, that it becomes difficult to put them all into words. One of the most noticeable aspects is the respect between not only family and friends but amongst strangers. People are kind and generous and always willing to help. I often wonder if having shared misfortunes like the tragic 2015 earthquake and the Nepalese Civil War plays a role in this. The strong sense of community is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I have been warmly welcomed since my arrival.

I am also reminded on a constant basis about why Nepal is considered a developing country. Kathmandu is accurately nicknamed “Dustmandu” for good reasons and it would be foolish to not wear a mask when travelling. Tap water is undrinkable; garbage litters the streets and the devastation from the earthquake is still visually noticeable. Yet, in the midst of all this, there is so much beauty to be seen in every direction. The breathtaking views of mountains in the far distance on a clear day, the intricate wood carvings on windows and doors, the majestic temples and stupas scattered across the city, the faint smell of incense burning wherever you go. I sometimes get caught up in the little things that bother me about Kathmandu like the dust and the garbage, but once I take a step back I become mesmerized in how beautiful this country is. I cannot believe in just a short amount of time how easy it has become to call this place home.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to experience Nepal fully in three months. The history and religious elements of this country are so intricate that I’m not sure if any length of time would allow me to fully comprehend everything about Nepal and its culture. However, I have taken advantage of every opportunity I have been given here and look forward to one day returning to continue my exploration of this country. Namaste Nepal and thank you for the everlasting memories.

Why Not Having Expectations Can Be A Good Thing

19 juillet 2017 | Catherine, ECH Sénégal, Uniterra - CNCR, Conseillère en gestion d'entreprise

When I accepted this internship, I told myself early on that I would not read too much about the Senegalese culture or look at too many pictures of Dakar, where I would be living. Instead, I spoke to the few people I knew that were either from Senegal or had visited the country before so that I would be aware of the essentials – you know, the health and security stuff. My logic behind this approach was that I did not want to arrive to Dakar with any concrete expectations or concerns about what life would be like here, because the truth is, no matter how much you read about something, or how many pictures you might see on the internet, you will never truly know it until you experience it. So my goal was to arrive with no prejudices or expectations about anything. Of course, I wanted to be prepared so that nothing I was confronted with was too shocking for me to handle, which can be the result of being immersed in any completely new environment.

Overall, I feel like I had all the essential information I needed from the few people I had spoken to who were familiar with Dakar and the Senegalese culture. I am writing this now with just a month left in my internship, and I have to say, this decision I made months ago has really paid off. It is sort of the same principle to me as watching movie trailers – I mean, why spoil the highlights when you are going to experience it for yourself shortly anyway? As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt like I had made the right decision. I could feel that everything I was seeing and feeling was coming from me, and not something I may have read about or seen pictures of on the Internet. I feel that I have been able to interpret things based on what I feel, and it is important to me to be able to develop my own vision of things based on my own thoughts.

However, I recognize that I was only really able to be confident taking this approach because I had an organization that was taking care of all the important things for me – my housing, my orientation, answering every question I had about everything and nothing. My host organization, CECI, was more than there for me when it came to these logistical details along the way. My transition was made much easier thanks to all of the staff and I am so grateful for that.

I also had the advantage of attending pre-departure trainings with WUSC and the University of Ottawa, which really helped me mentally prepare myself for my mandate. Little did I realize it at the time, but every exercise we did, every topic that was covered, all of the questions shared between interns, would end up contributing immensely to how well I adapted to my new environment in Dakar.

My unique approach in preparing for my departure has contributed to an easier integration into life here and so far, a non-stressful internship. I feel as if I have started to learn to take things in as they come every day, and for me that is the best way to learn about a new culture.

Mets-toi au défi

19 juillet 2017 | Marc-Olivier, DVM, Sénégal Uniterra - CNCR, Conseiller en développement de plans d'affaires

Pour vous mettre en contexte, je suis un étudiant en développement international et mondialisation qui vient tout juste de terminer sa troisième année d’étude. À la base, j’avais choisi ce programme sans trop le connaître. Il m’avait été recommandé et j’ai sauté dans l’aventure. Toutefois, n’étant pas dans le programme coop, je croyais que je n’avais pas accès à des stages dans mon parcours universitaire. Faux. Le programme de stage international proposé par la faculté des sciences sociales de l’université d’Ottawa est une solution pour remédier à ce manque d’expérience. Tout comme à mon inscription

universitaire, le choix de participer à cette expérience outremer était une façon pour moi de me lancer dans le vide. À vrai dire, l’utilisation de l’expression « dans le vide », dans ces circonstances, n’est nullement justifiée, car j’aurai été encadré du début à la fin de l’expérience de plus de trois mois. Et bien que le périple soit éphémère, les apprentissages eux sont permanents. Cette occasion d’appliquer et de vérifier les acquis pédagogiques vous sera bénéfique dans un futur pas très lointain. Il est vrai qu’il est difficile de se trouver un emploi dans le domaine des sciences sociales lorsque vous sortez de l’école sans aucune expérience concrète, d’où l’importance de sauter sur cette occasion. Ces trois mois vous permettront de vous créer un réseau, ainsi que de mettre au défi vos capacités.

En quittant pour une période de 12 semaines, vous allez assurément vous créer un réseau de contacts. Ces contacts humains seront de plusieurs types. Il y aura bien évidemment des amitiés, mais également des contacts professionnels. En effet, vous côtoierez des gens provenant de plusieurs secteurs. Avec ceux-ci, vous aurez l’opportunité de discuter de votre vision des choses. Pour ma part, j’aurai eu l’occasion de côtoyer des individus avec un impressionnant bagage de connaissances et d’expériences dans mon domaine d’étude. Ceux-ci m’auront conseillé et guidé face à mon questionnement postuniversitaire. En plus du réseautage, j’aurai appris à me connaître en tant que travailleur. Bien entendu j’avais déjà eu des emplois. Toutefois, c’était le premier qui impliquait directement mon domaine d’étude. Grâce à cette expérience, j’ai confirmé que j’étais dans le bon domaine. De plus, cela m’aura éclairé sur certaines branches du développement qui m’intéressaient plus que d’autres.

Pour moi, ces trois mois au Sénégal m’auront permis de confirmer mon amour pour le monde du développement. Bien qu’il y a des hauts et des bas, on en sort assurément grandi.

Home sweet home

30 mars 2017 | Pédina,Tanzania, Uniterra, Cultural Tourism Marketing Intern, Mto wa Mbu

I have to start with the fact that I am totally sad that my mandate here in Tanzania is about to end in a few weeks. These past two months have passed way too quickly and it’s difficult to accept that I will have to leave this wonderful country that I can now call HOME.

Tanzania is not only amazing because of the beauty of its nature and wild animals, but mostly because of the people who are so welcoming and friendly. It’s incredible how there is a strong value of human connection here, whether if people know each other or not, they will greet each other just as a sign of respect. This human connection value has giving me a sense of belonging and is one of the many reasons why I feel at home in Tanzania.

What I find even more impressive is that there are more than 120 different tribes in Tanzania and they all live together peacefully no matter their differences of cultures and religions. I was personally concerned before I came here of how I would be perceived as a black woman that is not from Tanzania, but the funny thing is that most of Tanzanians think I am also Tanzanian. The only funny issue with this, at the beginning, was that the first language people were talking to me was swahili, the national language. However, facing this language barrier ended up being a good thing, since it forced me to learn swahili faster, a beautiful language that I hope one day I will speak fluently.

Working with the Tanzania Tourist Board, I’ve learned so much about the tourism industry. I am particularly working with a Cultural Tourism Enterprise (CTE) from a village called Mto wa Mbu. My role as a cultural tourism marketing intern is to support this CTE to manage online marketing for their Cultural Tourism products. Marketing is not really related to my study program, which is Conflict Studies and Human Rights, but I am very grateful for this work opportunity, since it is a great personal learning experience and I developed new professional work skills.

Through my mandate I also had opportunities to visit other CTEs, but I also visited and learned a lot about the CTE I’m working with in Mto wa Mbu. For example, last week, I spent three unforgettable and amazing days in a Maasai village, an Indigenous tribe located in northern Tanzania and also southern Kenya, where I’ve experienced the Maasai lifestyle and their traditional ways of living. Mto wa Mbu is an amazing village to experience rich cultural diversity and I am having an amazing experience working with their CTE.

New and exciting experiences, personal growth, professional work experience and much more are what you gain through an International internship. Therefore, I would encourage anyone thinking of doing an International internship to definitely do it!

I am absolutely in love with my experience here in my sweet home, Tanzania! Three months in this wonderful country is clearly not enough, but I am really thankful that I have the chance to have this amazing opportunity. For now, I will make sure that I enjoy my last weeks here and hope that it doesn’t go as fast as the past two months (obviously it will…