Why intern while studying abroad in Palma de Mallorca?
Name: Brittany Vulich
Semester: Spring 2011
Program: Liberal Arts
School: University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Work while studying abroad, you say? -Not exactly. Interning while abroad is a fantastic way to earn credit and get real world work experience in another country (minus the homework!) Think of an internship abroad as having a normal class load but studying in a professional atmosphere, acquiring skills that you will actually use later on and learning about what interests you. Not to mention, an internship, much more abroad, will look impresionante (impressive) to potential employers.
Sounds intriguing? -Read on. I can say from first hand experience that interning in Palma de Mallorca has been a really positive experience for all the above reasons and so much more. Since early March, I have been interning with Fundación Vicente Ferrer a NGO organization based in Antapur, India. A little history about my empresa (business,) Fundación Vicente Ferrer works specifically in Antapur, India, the poorest state, improving the lives of the people there through initiatives such as building schools, health care facilities, viviendas (housing) and creating employment opportunities for women. Unfortunately, equality for men and women has not been realized everywhere in the world, especially in India where the caste system and dowries drive some families to abandon their daughters rather than face financial hardship. Moreover, there is little governmental or familial support for persons with disabilities and much less for a woman. To combat the social injustices that leave women particularly vulnerable, Fundación Vicente Ferrer created talleres (workshops) for women of all physical and mental capabilities to come and create handmade products to be sold in stores all across Spain, giving these women an opportunity to earn a salary and gain economic independence. All of the products (earrings, games, clothing, baskets etc) are made from 100% organic cotton and are fair trade.
That said, my first project has been to e-mail the organic cotton manufacturers and producers based in India that are listed on greenpeople.org in order to inquire about details of the product, the process of placing an order, the pricing, the shipment, etc. I've then taken the information given and organized it all in an excel sheet for English and Spanish. The end result is that FVF will have a "phone book" of organic cotton sources to reference for future orders. The work has been a bit tedious, admittedly, but I have learned a lot of new vocabulary in Spanish that I know I will come in handy later on. More importantly, I have learned a lot about Non Governmental Organizations, which I plan to be involved in after college.
Once I wrap up that project, I'll be investigating which requirements the foundation needs to complete in order to have the official seal of "fair trade" as constituted by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. What makes this project so great is that I won't be focusing on the theories of international regulations on fair trade, but putting them into practice, something that the classroom alone couldn't offer.
Okay, besides a rewarding experience, what is the "work" aspect like? A CIEE internship is comprised of 135 hours total for 3 credits. 15 hours are dedicated to a weekly diary entry and meeting with your advisor (short and sweet) to answer any questions you have. Also included in the 15 hours are the prep time and execution of your 15-page reflection paper and 15-minute power point presentation, which you will give at the end of the semester. The remaining 120 hours are spent actually working in your internship.
TIP: If you are receiving transfer credit for this internship, be sure to double check that the minimum hours and overseeing of the internship through CIEE are compliant with the standards at your home institution. My home university, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, requires Global Studies students to do 160 hours in an internship for 3 credits so I have had to slip in a couple extra hours here and there.
NGO's not your cup of tea? -No problem. Fundación Viecente Ferrer is just one example of the many internships to choose from. CIEE has many connections within the community to make sure you have the best of the best to choose from. Business majors, Economics majors, etc all have found rewarding internships here in Palma de Mallorca.
On a closing note, while internship technically means a "job" it also means "networking", "connecting", and "community involvement". For example, my Fundación Vicente Ferrer focuses on spreading the mission of our organization through public talks, visiting different institutions, or setting up a stand in the metro station. Just last week, I was fortunate enough to tag along with Isabel and Sasi, from India, whose mother actually worked in one of FVF's workshops, to "Good Morning, Baleares", the morning show for the Balearic Islands, as he gave a candid interview about his personal experiences within FVF. Later on, Isabel invited me to join her in showing Sasi around the city of Palma. It was such a nice break from the office. Furthermore, on Fridays, everyone in the office at Fundación Vicente Ferrer brings in a lunch and spends a good part of the afternoon outside on the patio enjoying food, drinks, and one another's company. I can sincerely say that I enjoy my internship and the people in it.
I hope that I have given you some lesser-known insight into the positives of interning abroad. Whether your goals abroad are to learn about another culture, meet new people, or live and work in a new environment, interning while abroad will be a great supplement.
For more information on la Fundación Vicente Ferrer's projects, volunteer opportunities and updates, go to http://www.fundacionvicenteferrer.org/en/
"Transform society into humanity" - Vicente Ferrer