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Malawi

Lindsey McMahon

Organization: SIT (School for International Training) World Learning
Dates: August 20, 2017 to December 10, 2017
Traveled to Malawi, India and Italy for this internship

In Lindsey's own words

How I contributed: The goal of the program was to observe and study international food systems in a small discussion based setting. I brought a unique perspective as somebody who grew up on a farm in the U.S, and who has studied farming in the broad context of international development. We did not visit these countries to "help" or "teach." Sharing the experience with community members and host families in an enjoyable and culturally educative (for us) way was the goal.

What I felt most challenged by:   As a person with a life long farming background, I was challenged by those in my group constantly scrutinizing the many industries that comprise the food system when they themselves had little to no farming experience. It was extremely frustrating to engage in class discussions as an individual within the group with minority thoughts and opinions. Therefore, not resisting the curriculum was very challenging.

What I enjoyed most:    The cultural immersion of the experience. We resided with host families and engaged in constant activities that provided an interpretation of what every day life in each setting was actually like. I left each country with a clear image of what it was to live day to day there, and the enjoyable, difficult, and beautiful aspects of those days.

Would I recommend this experience:   Yes 100%. It isn't the type of study abroad program that is easy or the stereotypical idea of college fun. It turns your world upside down, and makes you question your privilege and position constantly. It provides you ample opportunities for hands on work in the global food system and introduces you to professionals in a vast number of fields. It exposes you to the good and the bad. It doesn't paint an aesthetic picture for you, it paints you many truths, and leaves room everyday for self-discovery and self- reflection. It is easily the most challenging thing I have ever done, and I am grateful for that.

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Emma Herrighty

Organization: Villages in Partnership
Dates: 6/1/2016 to 7/27/2016
Web page: http://villagesinpartnership.org 
 

In Emma's own words

How I contributed: I feel that my impact on the organization, and the people it targets, wasn't as great as I had hoped for going into the internship. Though I worked alongside the staff members working towards VIP's goals to empower rural villages so that they might lift themselves out of poverty, I cannot help but think I did not contribute anything new, of my own doing. I contributed to the mission of the organization by assisting in many agricultural demonstrations and trainings, though my interaction with the local people was limited due to language barriers. I wish I had been able to have my own responsibilities, so that way I could have contributed something original to the project, but without the knowledge of Chichewa, this seemed impossible. I feel that going forward, I would be able to contribute more to VIP, if I were ever given the chance to go back to Malawi.

What I felt most challenged by: I was definitely most challenged by the language, as I felt that was the one barrier that prevented me from being more of an asset to VIP. Had I been able to communicate in Chichewa, I feel I could have interacted with the local people in a way that both allowed me to share knowledge that I have, and learn from them in return.

What I enjoyed most: The people of Malawi are absolutely amazing. Everyone I met was warm and welcoming, and the friendships that I have made will follow me well into the future. I had read that Malawi is nicknamed, "The Warm Heart of Africa," and found this to me the most truthful bit of information. Whenever I felt discouraged and frustrated with the culture or anything at all, I was always made to feel more comfortable by my friends and peers. If I ever get the opportunity to return to VIP in Malawi, I would be doing so for the people I have met.

Would I recommend this experience: Though I believe in the work that VIP is doing in Malawi, I would have to state that this program does need some alterations before the next student intern were to arrive. As I was the first intern, my experience was a bit rocky, which I do not fault VIP or Cornell with at all. I went to Malawi knowing that it would be a learning experience for both VIP and myself. I hope that my working with VIP will pave the way for more opportunities for IARD students with this organization.

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