Growth as an intern lies in openness to learning
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
This is the personal story of Greta, a human rights graduate student, who is also a crew member of the Peer Support Group. After a specialization in Latin America studies, she did a six-month extracurricular internship in a local NGO in Bogotà, Colombia.
When I say I am currently doing a Master’s in Human Rights and Multilevel Governance, usually people show a lot of interest, but then remain confused. Here comes the usual question “What can you do afterwards?” In fact, working with human rights involves a wide range of activities and areas of interventions. During my Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, I had the opportunity to do a specialization in Latin America. The continent always attracted my attention both for its fascinating culture and for the political context. After graduating, I felt the need to take a break from the university so I decided to do an internship.
After some research and teacher’s support, I found a six-month internship with the feminist and pacifist organization NGO, LIMPAL (Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad), the Colombian section of WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom). As an intern, I had the possibility to work in two fields of interest namely, peacebuilding and women’s rights at their headquarters in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.
As it happens with several internships in human rights-related fields, this internship was unpaid. Moreover, I had to organize everything by myself. Luckily, I was in the position to do this, thanks to savings and family support. Organizing housing in an unknown city and country was definitely a challenge, but in a few days, I managed to find a place very close to the organization, which helped cut transportation costs.
An intern has to be aware of his/her limits and to take any chance to learn from the experts.
It was my first experience as an intern therefore, I did not know what to expect and ended up doing multiple activities. At first, I helped a colleague working in logistics and communications. Afterwards, I did translations from Spanish to English and vice-versa. Towards the end, I contributed to project planning activities. At times, I felt I was not contributing much to the job environment, because of a lack of adequate skills and knowledge. Even though I was not creating any project, I learnt a lot about gender action plans, feminist and pacifist schools, and advocacy work in a multilevel framework - both at a national and at the UN level -. I had the chance to attend several events and to meet experienced people. Listening to their talks, discussions, and experiences has been a precious learning opportunity that I could have never attained just from books.
I also participated in some protests, such as the one on the 8th of March for International Women’s Day, which was incredible. The feminist movement in Latin America is very active. Despite different backgrounds, hundreds of women stand together for gender equality. Another valuable activity that I took part in was the “week of planning” during which all LIMPAL offices gathered in Bogotá to discuss and re-define the mission, the objectives, and the structure of the organization. It was a very open and inclusive environment; everyone could contribute, including myself. The event was remarkable for my personal experience because I had the opportunity to see the overarching functioning of an NGO. In the end, I completely felt part of the organization. The thing I liked the most during my internship was the inspiration I got from all the incredible empowered women I worked with.
I absolutely encourage every student to do an internship. Reflecting upon my experience, I would suggest the following; do not underestimate small local organizations because the environment can be very rewarding; do learn the local language and be aware of the cultural situation; be patient and flexible; and finally, look for scholarships or ask the university for financial support.
The internship made me decide to continue my studies in human rights. While in the field, I felt that I was lacking some specific knowledge. I still do not know where I want to work, but the experience with LIMPAL made me aware of the actual impact of NGOs in local communities. Advocacy work and international cooperation will drive a social change. I will be forever grateful to the women I met. They taught me what it means to work in the field of human rights and to stand for women’s rights. I would like to end with one of my favourite slogans of the feminist fights. “Nos quisieron enterrar, pero no sabían que éramos semillas”, “They wanted to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds”.
Written by Greta Sophie Codda
Edited by Giulia Rosina
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Greta Sophie Codda is a second-year human rights graduate student, passionate about peacebuilding, women’s rights, and gender justice. Follow Greta's story on Instagram @gigi_sophiec
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