Works and Days



Frankfurt Consulate Public Affairs Internship, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Nicole Thompson

Nicole Thompson ’16, political science-ICPS major, received the McGill Lawrence Summer Internship Award to work in Geneva as a member of the Frankfurt consulate's Public Affairs team.

It is comically difficult to summarize the events of this summer into a short and legible blog post. Perhaps that is the best way to summarize this adventure.

When I accepted the McGill-Lawrence award, my plan was to work for the US Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. Two weeks before my departure I was notified that issues with my security clearance meant this was a no-go. Three days later, thanks to the grace of some higher power and the inhuman prowess of our own Brooke Hunter, I had secured a position in Geneva with the WHO. The next morning I received an email congratulating me on my approved security clearance and welcoming me to the Frankfurt consulate's Public Affairs team.

The Smiles of the Children: Marshal Academy Internship in Pakistan, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Ahyan Panjwani

During the scorching summer of 2014, I worked with Mashal Academy, an alternate school for underprivileged children in Neelum Colony, a squatter settlement in Karachi, Pakistan. The initiative is primarily run by high school students from The Lyceum; they spend afternoons and early evenings with primary school level children from the area helping them with Math, English, Urdu (the national language) and basic sciences which are part of the Department of Education endorsed curriculum. Mashal was based in a single room, rented by the high school students where they used to help around 15 children with these subjects.

However, because of the superior quality and consistency of education that the students offered, there was a surge in the number of children wanting to attend Mashal. In light of this, I worked with the students to lease a new space which is much bigger and accommodates 34 children and the activities that the mentors plan for them. The new place has two rooms and a huge veranda allowing the students to be divided into two groups depending on their prior academic learning. Over the summer, we also created lesson plans for new subjects including Music, Arts, Drama and Physical Education while also allotting an hour every week for reading time. Given the pedagogical methods in the schools usually available to the children, these new additions are phenomenal – almost unheard of. We also laid ground for two other programs at Mashal: monthly medical check-ups for the children by a qualified pediatrician and a daily lunch program. Both of these are aimed at incentivizing parents to send their children to school while also providing quality services in area where infrastructure for health and hygiene is almost negligible.

Most importantly, we put in place a sustainable donor model for Mashal over the summer. Since the school was housed in smaller premises earlier, the rent was not a very big issue. However, the new house and the expanded services being offered mean that the operating costs have risen substantially. I guided the students towards finding and approaching donors who would pledge to chip in with the costs on a monthly basis for an entire year before renewing their commitments.

Peruvian Rainforest Conservation Project: Jaclyn Calkins, Winter Fellowship for International Travel

Working on a conservation project for two weeks at Chontachaka Lodge in Manu Ecological Reserve, Peru, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Time flew as I spent my days surrounded by a dense, green, and immensely beautiful Amazon jungle environment. I got my hands dirty helping to save it for future generations. Volunteers ate a completely vegetarian diet, since the space required for meat farming has widespread and devastating impacts on forests. We also used only biodegradable supplies, including clay-and-pasta-based toothpaste and lemon oil bug repellant (which didn't do much to prevent me from getting back to Cusco covered in insect bites from head to toe, but DEET-based bug repellants are terrible for the ecosystem!) The idea, in addition to being out there helping with conservation, was to leave as little of a footprint as possible - and I was able to do just that.


My tasks in this project included planting species vital to the region (such as the leche-leche plant, called such because of its white sap, which attracts an uncommon species of green butterfly), using a machete to remove invasive species (like bamboo) that threaten the growth of native plants, and monitoring wildlife such as Peru's native bird: el gallito de las rocas, or cock of the rocks, and a number of frog species impacted by climate change. In my free time, I had the opportunity to hike the reserve’s many trails, walk to tiny local jungle villages to practice my Spanish, journal about my experiences and the history I learned in Cusco to inspire future fiction writing, visit an animal sanctuary, and swim in nearby waterfalls! Only in Manu can a variety of animals such as wild monkeys, jaguars, giant anteaters, giant otters, and caimans still live without fear of hunting or other human influences, and a majority of insects there have not been studied by science at all. Most of the reserve (which is the size of New Hampshire) is accessible only to licensed biologists, so it was a blessing to be able to work in part of it as a student. I hope to return to Manu in the future to explore even more of the area as a field biologist. This was an amazing and eye-opening way to spend my Winter Break, and I'm very thankful to Reed for making this opportunity possible.

Escaping Eritrea: Stories of the Mass Exodus (Part 3)

In her first and second blog entries, Winta set out on the President's Summer Fellowship journey, travelling to Uganda to interview Eritrean refugees for a documentary, and reuniting with members of her family along the way. In this installment, she travels to Rome to interview more refugees.

            After leaving Uganda, my plan was to stay with my aunt in Italy and rely on her to help me connect with Eritrean refugees in the area. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding about my arrival date and I actually landed the day she was leaving the country. Since I knew absolutely nobody else in Rome, I decided to get a hotel room in the city center. I noticed there were several Eritrean restaurants nearby and decided go in and ask the servers about where I might find Eritrean refugees in Rome. This required a lot of courage because I had no idea how they might receive me, but it turned out to be a successful endeavor. 

            The owner of the restaurant walked me to this place referred to as “The Palazzo” (which was two blocks away from my hotel room), and told me to talk to the Eritreans at the front desk. Though I couldn’t possibly describe everything that happened afterwards in this short blog, I will talk about two of the major highlights. 

Slim to None: the Eritrean Exodus: Part 2

A young boy leaves his home that he helped build at the Nakivale Refugee Camp.

In her first blog entry, Winta set out on the President's Summer Fellowship journey, travelling to Uganda to interview Eritrean refugees for a documentary, and reuniting with members of her family along the way. In this installment, she travels to a nearby refugee camp for her project.

When my brother agreed to drive me to Nakivale Refugee Camp, which is five hours away from Kampala, I assumed he knew how to get there. A few hours before we were set to depart, however, I noticed his apprehension. That’s when I found out he had never actually driven there himself. As I begin to rethink my plans he assured me that there was only one road in that direction, which meant there was no possible way to get lost. 

We decided to travel through the night, so we could arrive there early in the morning. Though I expected unpaved roads and minimal traffic lights, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming darkness that threatened to swallow us into the wilderness. For most of the ride, it was so dark that my brother and I could not see each other in the car. I couldn’t help but think about how we were completely on our own, with no way to call for help if necessary. 

A Long Overdue Reflection, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Sunny Yang

The author, Sunny Yang, holding a microphone and being the MC for the closing ceremony of the summer pre-service training.

Me being the MC for the closing ceremony of the summer pre-service training.

The past two months have been a whirlwind of events, feelings, and encounters. Quite different from my original imagining of this summer internship, yet equally as fantastic, or even more so.

Originally, the plan was to spend half of my time doing a field research project in rural regions in Taiwan for the organization Teach for Taiwan, and the other half of the time would be spent assisting the organization in finding mentors for Teach for Taiwan's pilot cohort teachers. Well, plans don't always work out, especially independent internship projects like this.

The playground of an elementary school in Taitung

Joan Wang on New Upcoming Student Publication

Joan Wang is the Editor-in-Chief of Homer’s Roamers, a publication featuring collection of internationally-oriented creative works produced by students. Homer's Roamers is still accepting written and visual creative submissions from students who have traveled abroad while at Reed.

MW: What motivated your idea for Homer’s Roamers?