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For my FSD internship, I worked with an organization called Changuito Dios on the outskirts of Salta, Argentina. Changuito Dios is primarily a daycare for children from birth to age 14. I taught English language lessons and led physical education activities for approximately 90 kids in small classes. In Argentina, students only go to school for half a day, so daycares and after school programs have become a key part of their lives. I also wrote a proposal which focused on workshops for the women who worked at the daycare. Six of the ten mothers/teachers had not completed secondary school, and none of them had received professional training of any kind. The goal of my proposal was to have the mothers attend workshops in educational strategies and classroom management. The process of writing a proposal and working with an instructor to create a new project was instructive and very rewarding.
At the end of my high school career, I knew that I wanted to study something with an international focus. As a young adult preparing to start a college career, I wasn’t exactly sure what international development meant or required. Many students go straight into college at a young age without completely knowing what they are interested in and/or what a certain career entails. I wanted a clearer sense of the work and people that went into sustainable development. Through my experience as an international volunteer with FSD, I gained valuable insight in the field of socio-economic development. My internship cemented within me a drive to learn about international development and made me excited to go back to school where I could learn and be ambitious about my studies.
One day, I mentioned to a FSD staff member that I was concerned that I wasn’t doing enough. She replied that just my presence at the daycare was huge for the kids, since very few of them had any positive male role model in their lives. She believed that my presence alone helped the children understand that men can be both strong and caring. I learned that we are often helping others in ways we might not realize. My favorite part of the internship in Argentina was meeting the locals and becoming a part of the Argentine culture. When you meet an Argentine, they’re interested in knowing you, not necessarily what you’ve accomplished in your life. They are thrilled when you pick up on cultural specifics. Adding Argentine slang like “dále” and “che” into my Spanish and having dinner at 10 at night was new and exciting for me. Learning dances to traditional music and how to cook empanadas allowed me to truly experience another culture.
I was moved by how relaxed and family-oriented Argentines can be. It was refreshing to be part of a less consumer-oriented culture and to truly value relationships and the small things in life; something we forget in the US all too often. The host families were excited to share their lives with the interns and I felt extremely comfortable in my homestay because I always knew that I belonged.
Coming from a small town in Vermont, I’m accustomed to tight-knit communities and I felt that same feeling of support and happiness in Salta. I knew that the site team was always there if I needed it. They were more than just facilitators for the interns; they were also friends. Our group of interns was very supportive of each other and we made a lot of close connections.
My only piece of advice for a prospective FSD intern would be this: do not rely on the other site interns and friends back home for comfort and entertainment. Argentina is a wonderful place and the people are even better. It’s easy to fall back on those who are like you and who are from the same culture. If you let this happen, you’ll lose the authentic atmosphere and miss an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and into a new culture.
I am currently a freshman at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut, class of 2016.