GRIP, Internships Abroad Education & Community Development Student Highlights
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November 20, 2020
Erin Feeney, Penn Abroad Graduate Assistant
Global experiences in the fields of education and community development can provide key opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience and apply their knowledge and skills in a new context. Through the Global Research & Internship Program (GRIP), Penn students from across schools have spent the summer abroad taking on exciting research projects and professional opportunities. Let’s explore the past experiences of GRIP participants within the fields of education and community development to gain insight into the student experience abroad and how Penn students can make the most of these opportunities.
Reflection and Self-Discovery
Brittany Shore’s (CAS ‘21) experience at Generations for Peace in Amman, Jordan reaffirmed her interests in international affairs, human rights, and security. Generations for Peace is a leading international peace-building organization with a mission to empower youth to lead sustainable change in communities experiencing conflict. The opportunity to work directly within communities at the grassroots level confirmed Brittany’s desire to one day work at a higher legal level to enact change. “More than anything, I want a career in which I can help people. I want to be able to advocate for and fight for human rights. I come from a place of immense privilege with access to quality education and day-to-day stability and feel the duty to help others that do not,” she writes.
By working with Keru, a consultancy organization that helps grassroots nonprofits and social enterprises in rural China and Southeast Asia increase their impact, Kevin Yang (CAS ‘20) not only solidified his desire to pursue a career within the social impact field, but also reflected on his own upbringing and past experiences. “I have grown up in resource-rich cities. My income has never depended on a fruit that exists for only three months. Education was my only choice growing up. I had read and seen videos before about left-behind children, child labor, migrant workers, etc...but the villagers I met added flesh to that text,” he writes.
Professional Experiences and Relationships
Through internships with Manna Project International, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving underserved people of impoverished communities in Ecuador, Jason Wu (CAS ‘22) and Toya Liu (Wharton ‘23) gained meaningful professional experiences and relationships. Jason spent his time with Manna developing a new curriculum for adult English classes and drafting proposals for new health and livelihood programs including a community clean-up initiative, a teen drug/alcohol abuse prevention seminar, and a sex education program. He connected regularly with a language exchange partner in Ecuador and attended professional workshops provided by Manna.
For Toya, the relationships she formed throughout her internship became the highlight of the experience. “Even though I wasn’t physically in Quito, I was still growing close with my intern class. We bonded over icebreakers and plans to start a band over Zoom while simultaneously brainstorming the best way to answer the needs of the Sanqolguí community on the Spanish website we were developing,” she writes. Like Jason, Toya also bonded with her Spanish teacher and language partner who helped her improve her Spanish-language skills and learn more about Ecuadorian culture.
Cultural Education Through Food
When Benjamin Bond (CAS ‘20) arrived in Beijing, China for an internship with Etonkids Educational Group, he was exhausted by the journey. After navigating his way to his apartment, meeting his landlord, and getting some sleep, he woke up eager to explore his new neighborhood in search of a place to eat. To his surprise, his landlord welcomed him to his table for some homemade dumplings and even taught him how to make them. “I felt welcome not only in this new home, but in this new country as well. With a belly full of homemade dumplings, I looked ahead to my time in China, ready to face any challenge head-on, knowing that I would learn something new with each one,” he writes.
For Shaila Lothe (CAS/Wharton ‘22), food was an important avenue through which she gained a deeper understanding of Argentinian culture. Every day around 1:00 pm she would make her way to her favorite lunch spot, fill a to-go container from the “comido por peso,” food by weight, offerings, and trek back to eat with coworkers. “Like the US, Argentina has become a melting pot for various cultures. For me, food has become a delicious cultural education. Going off the beaten path into my hole-in-the-wall comida por peso place has both educated me and fed me,” she writes. Similarly, partaking in la merienda, or teatime, an early-evening meal of pastries and coffee, not only helped curb Shaila's appetite until the typical 9:00 pm Argentinian dinner time, but also reminded her of the importance of carving time out of her busy days to spend with loved ones. Since returning to Penn, she’s been more likely to say yes to midday coffee breaks with friends, and less likely to feel guilty about treating herself to the occasional afternoon slice of cake.
The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.