In my fourth and last year as a Political Science student specializing in International Relations, I was beginning to worry what the next steps in my life would be. I was applying to a variety of internships and job applications when I came across MEDA. To be honest, I was drawn to MEDA because I was able to not only improve my professional skills, but also to travel abroad. I had no idea that MEDA would become my backbone in strong morals and the ideal view of a non-governmental organization.
In arriving to Nicaragua, I was completely lost, to say the least. I had volunteered continuously throughout my high school and university career and had already lived abroad, but MEDA provided a unique opportunity in becoming comfortable within a career setting. MEDA sparked my individual strengths and gave me a strong voice within a well known international organization where I was able to view my point and use creativity in projects.
I'm asked if working in the realm of international development is what I expected..I was surprised at every turn of the internship because this was completely new to me. If you become an intern with MEDA you will learn very quickly that MEDA employees are passionate about what they do and want to share that passion with you. I gained a wide breadth of knowledge that would not have been possible without the generous time that Waterloo and Washington staff took the time to give me. I was fortunate and greatly blessed to work with a local, Roger Larios. Roger was beyond a mentor to me, he is a friend and he calls me his daughter now. He taught me how to have interviews with clients when I was travelling throughout Nicaragua; I knew nothing about agriculture before I left Canada, and he patiently described new technologies and the companies that MEDA worked with; alongside everything, he was an amazing Spanish tutor. There is no way in words to describe my gratitude to everyone at MEDA.
Looking back, the most rewarding experience was having interviews with local farmers that were apart of the Techno-Links Project. Each interview per client was about 1 hour and the questions regarded income, level of education, impact on the climate, and other positive outcomes they have experienced or not experienced. Overall, each interview shocked me in the difference the was made over the projects three year time span. Non-governmental organizations are not about giving pity money to individuals, they need to be based on providing knowledge, and the right to the individual to lead their own life. MEDA shocked me in doing this and taught me this value. One interviewee was in his 40's and had never had a stable job. When the Techno-Links Project began he was asked to join and now he has an income, he is able to help his daughter in school, and his wife has returned to school. Alongside my pride in working with MEDA, I am astounded by the breadth of knowledge I was able to acquire in 7 months. For example, I can have a full conversation in Spanish now about irrigation systems and biolabs working on embryos to improve crop yields.
Not only did this internship offer me with exceptional experience, but it has made me a driven individual that has become passionate about sustainable development. At times, yes, it was hard and I have to admit there were times when I wanted to go home, but I have never learned more in 7 months then I did with this internship. The best advice to give anyone, I believe in national or international work, is to be prepared to expect the unexpected, and be OPEN to it. My experience was unique, in that my studies were not related to the internship, being agriculture. I am now passionately driven to do a Master's in sustainable development the following year. I am currently not working in the field, but I have amazing news that's working towards helping others.