Internship in international development work?
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Oct 29, 2012 8:56 AM Last Post By: travelinstyle46
Oct 22, 2012 5:30 PM
Internship in international development work?Let me preface this by saying that I'm entirely familiar with the harm that voluntourism can do; from the sticky note on this site to books written on the subject, I've explored quite a bit of relevant literature and I know of the risks involved.
That being said, I'm eventually planning on going back to school to get my Master's degree in development practice. Before I do so, however, I would like to get some field experience in international development work abroad. Before you're so quick to jump on me for being another bachelor's degree holder who wants to "save the world" and have my picture taken in an African orphanage during my two-week stay there, I'd like to assert that my intentions are quite the opposite. I'd like to work for an organization or an NGO where I can gain some credible and practical work experience before I do head into the academic work. Yes, I'm admitting that I am relatively unskilled at the moment (although I do have two years of teaching experience). That's what an internship is, however; using your limited skills to gain knowledge and practical skills on-the-job.
I've found the field extremely hard to get into, and somewhat of a catch-22; most development studies Master's programs look for some on-the-ground international experience, while most on-the-ground organizations look for a Master's degree or higher in a relevant subject. Both seem hard to break your way into.
Ideally, I'd like to volunteer/intern for 6-12 months. I've travelled through Africa a bit, and it probably remains my region of greatest interest; I'm also interested in India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Central America and the Caribbean. I would consider any reason, however, given the right opportunity.
Can anyone recommend any organizations to contact that might match what I'm looking for? Essentially, I'm looking for a real, practical learning experience, rather than volunteering at an orphanage for a couple weeks (not to slight those who do, but that's just not the experience I'm looking to gain at the moment).
If anyone has any other suggestions on how to work one's way into the field, I'd be open to all suggestions. Please, I'm asking that you save all of your soapbox preaching for some other place; if you can't contribute positively, I kindly ask that you don't respond. Again, I don't have any grandiose ideas of saving the world or anything like that; above all, I'm just asking for suggestions on ways to "dip my toes in the water" and broaden my knowledge with first-hand experience, as I have been unsuccessful so far. Thanks for any help you can offer.
Oct 25, 2012 4:52 AM
1Where are you from? A friend of mine was teaching in a school in Ghana for one year as a volunteer. The programme was open to EU citizens.
Oct 25, 2012 8:10 AM
Oct 28, 2012 6:29 PM
3Hi, I'm doing this exact type of work with Foundation for Sustainable Development, they are based out of San Francisco and have programs in 6 countries. You can also check out idealist.org and matador for other ideas, good luck.
Oct 28, 2012 7:25 PM
If you can get past that, you might consider this program: http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/whyvol/eduben/mastersint/
Oct 29, 2012 8:56 AM
5Well where have you been unsuccessful so far? The next question would by why have you been unsuccessful? Do you know why? Have you gone back and asked why you were turned down?
I see it as the same process as any other 'job hunt' situation. In my experience if someone is qualified (applying for the right kind of jobs given their background) and a job opening exists, then they should get it unless someone else is better qualified OR SEEMS more suitable.
It is this 'seems more suitable that often escapes the applicants attention. The only way to know that is to go back and ask. It has to be prefaced by a statement such as, 'I am not calling to question your decision or attempt to change it. I am calling to ask you for help in identifying my shortcomings as an applicant.' You then use what is called the '8 magic words'. 'I have a problem, I need your help.'
Those 8 words are incredibly powerful in almost every situation. Most people cannot just refuse a genuine request for help PROVIDED they see no threat to themself. That's why you first make it clear you accept their decision and only want clarity.
I am assuming of course that when you say 'unsuccessful so far' you mean you have applied and not been successful more than 1 or 2 times with organizations and positions that make sense. Peacecorp for example.
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