Students experience worldly work through international internships
January 31, 2013 By Leigh Cocanougher
Unite for Sight in Tegulcigalpa, Honduras, where she conducted
vision screenings and helped patients select glasses.
Rachele DiFebbo (fourth row up, third from the left, during the
2011 CentreTerm trip to Israel), returned to Jerusalem this past
CentreTerm for an internship with Jerusalem ARC.
Liz Ko, who studied abroad with Centre-in-China in 2011, spent
CentreTerm 2013 interning at Parque Aak in Merida, Mexico.
This is the first of a series of stories about international internships at Centre.
On Jan. 31, 21 Centre College students returned to campus as changed people. Having spent their CentreTerm weeks abroad completing internships, the students are beginning spring semester with new world views, new knowledge and new appreciation for work—and life—in foreign countries.
Global Health in Honduras
For her international internship, Sarah Bugg ’14 headed south to Tegulcigalpa, Honduras, where she gained knowledge of the medical world through her work with Unite for Sight.
Having studied abroad through the Centre-in-the-Yucatan program, where she interned at a local government hospital, Bugg was eager to return to a Spanish-speaking country and become involved in the medical field.
“The internship experience in Merida was my first taste of global medicine,” she says, “and it was both terrifying and captivating.” Though Bugg had already planned to attend medical school, she says that “after those three months in Mexico, I begin to really consider that my future in medicine may lie on a different continent. I felt that my experience in Mexico alone was not enough to bolster this passion, so I decided to spend CentreTerm having a similar adventure to really examine my interest in global health.”
And her interest was piqued by her recent weeks abroad. Working with Unite for Sight, Bugg took part in medical brigades throughout southern Honduras. “I traveled with a local optician from a clinic in Tegucigalpa,” she says. “We provided vision screenings and eye glasses to patients and partnered with other groups who provided more general medical consultations and dental care so that patients coming to the brigades receive a variety of services.”
Specifically, Bugg performed near or far vision screenings and helped patients select glasses. “I collected 300 pairs of reading glasses and 300 pairs of sunglasses in the States and brought them down with me,” she says. “It was so incredible to be able to personally hand out those glasses and see the patients’ joy when they received them.”
Though her Spanish was strong before leaving for Honduras, Bugg says the “nature of the experience caused my Spanish skills to improve very rapidly.” She adds that learning the “local slang” from her new friends there—“they taught me how to speak like a ‘catracha’ (a Honduran)”—was rewarding.
Also rewarding was the pace of life in Honduras. “It was wonderful to slip away from the real world and enjoy the slower pace of the pueblos,” she says. “Time is not in control of people there, which is a difficult thing to appreciate sometimes. In Honduras, there is all the time in the world to sit and have a conversation with someone. It’s a really rewarding principle that I hope I don’t forget.”
Research in Israel
Like Bugg, Rachele DiFebbo ’13 was inspired to take part in a CentreTerm 2013 internship abroad by a previous study abroad experience.
“I took part in the CentreTerm 2011 trip to Israel with Dr. Tom McCollough,” DiFebbo says. “The experience was life-changing for me, and I knew I wanted to return to Israel someday.”
On the 2011 trip, the students met the director of Jerusalem ARC, Khalil Abdinour, “who was so gracious to us,” DiFebbo says. “When I heard that I had the opportunity to intern with Khalil, I couldn't turn it down.”
At Jerusalem ARC, DiFebbo helped conduct research on Palestinian Christians. “They are a vulnerable population whose numbers are in decline,” she says. “I assisted Jerusalem ARC in exploring why this is the case, why it is important to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land, and what can be done to work towards the continued presence of Palestinian Christians.”
Although she's grateful for having “learned a lot about a minority that I knew little to nothing about before this internship,” she says that the most rewarding aspect of the internship was, “without a doubt, getting to meet and speak with some really incredible people. It was so surprising how many individuals, from bishops to directors of organizations, were willing to take the time to speak with me.”
She adds that the opportunity “to witness the reality of what it means to be a Palestinian living in the West Bank, such as going through multiple checkpoints to drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah,” was exceptionally captivating.
Education and Environmental Work in the Yucatan
Liz Ko ’13, one of seven Centre students who spent CentreTerm in Merida, Mexico, says that having “always been interested in experiencing life abroad, sharing culture and conversations,” the decision to complete an internship in Merida was “a no-brainer.” Interning there, she says, she was “exposed to the work culture in Mexico and had the opportunity to add something extraordinary to my resume.”
During her time in Merida, Ko interned at Parque Aak, which she explains “focuses on environmental work and education.” There, she “added key pieces of recycled material to their current exhibit about a room made entirely of recycled materials—cups are made from cut wine bottles, a chair is made from a repurposed shopping cart and a book case is made of a repurposed crate.”
When she wasn't interning, Ko and her fellow Centre students soaked up the Mexican life around them. “The sheer beauty and relaxed nature of Merida surprised me,” Ko says. “I never knew a city of one million could be so relaxed!”
Stay tuned for more tales of international internships in China, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ghana.