"This is one of the few times in my entire life that I can honestly say that I’ve had an epiphany, it almost sounds like too much, but it happened, and it couldn’t have come at a better time."
Program of Study: International Relations/Spanish
Internship: The Center of Parternships for Development (CAD)
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
Global CAD (the Center of Partnerships for Development) is a non-profit organization that forges partnerships between the public sector, private sector as well as civil society organizations in order to promote sustainable and human development in the world’s most desperate regions. Originally, the director of the organization told me that they were looking for a native English speaker that would work primarily as a translator of documents written in Spanish. I was hired as such but the director, Fernando Casado, told me once I got there that there were other tasks that I would be able to complete as well and I was thrilled to hear this. After editing a number of CAD PowerPoint presentations in English, I met with him to discuss what my schedule for the summer would be. Two of my main tasks were determined to be, 1. Researching and presenting possible European Union Commission projects that could be of interest to CAD, ways in which CAD could collaborate on these projects, which they could apply to direct/lead, etc. 2. With Fernando, design a strategic plan for CAD’s Washington/New York trip in August, involving researching and choosing which NGOs, IGOS, consulting firms, private corporations could serve CAD, in the form of consulting (financial as well as advice for development strategies), investment (money for projects), and potential partnerships (collaboration on projects etc.).
How did you find your internship?
My brother attended graduate school with the head of the organization and I had been doing a semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain and was looking for an internship for the summer, and so I contacted Fernando Casado, the head of CAD (El Centro de Alianzas para el Desarollo in Spanish) and I sent him my CV and I really lucked out because he happened to be looking for a Spanish/English translator at that time.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
Well obviously my brother, but I applied to a number of other internships as well but I did a lot of the research on my own.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
My search for an internship began all the way back in November of 2008 because I knew that I was going abroad in the Spring so I wanted to make sure I had all of my recommendations in line etc. before the end of the first semester. I applied for internships with four American-based NGOs related to the field of development and two internships on Capitol Hill. I ended up hearing back from one of the Capitol Hill internships while I was travelling during Spring break and had to conduct a rigorous 45-minute phone interview from a pay phone in the middle of Rome. So it then came down to CAD and an internship in Washington and it was really a no-brainer for me because I had already fallen in love with the city when I visited in March, it meant another two and half months learning Spanish, and on top of all this the organization was in the same field that I had been interested in.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I think probably the language thing. Because I had had four months of practice in Salamanca, in a good language program, and I had developed a good level of comfort with the language, but I wasn’t sure whether I would be doing live translation or written (thankfully it turned out being the latter).
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I hoped to improve my language skills, written and verbal, as well as gain a base-understanding of the civil sector’s role in sustainable and human development. And also to meet a lot of interesting people! Because I knew going into it that the organization was not lacking in diversity.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
This is the type of thing you don’t necessarily expect to happen going into an internship but it did, and in a big way. My boss, Fernando, took me out to dinner towards the end of the internship and during the course of the dinner, and almost out of the blue, he asked me to act as if I was 41 years old, where am I living? What am I doing professionally? He asked. It seems like a simple question but my stomach dropped because I realized that I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into that, and even if I had, I had never been able to honestly visualize that far into the future. Now I was literally on the spot and had to think fast. We had briefly been talking about sports, and I told him a bit about the importance that sports, specifically soccer had played in my own life and all of a sudden I had an epiphany. This is one of the few times in my entire life that I can honestly say that I’ve had an epiphany, it almost sounds like too much, but it happened, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I told him that I was working for a non-profit organization (which later after being convinced by him, I had founded) called “More than a game," which was dedicated to catalyzing the cultural iconic nature of sports, especially soccer (or football), and its widespread popularity, in a way to promote human development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. There’s a lot more to it, and with his help we started to flush out the idea a bit more, but I have since then decided to pursue a senior thesis on this subject and he has really inspired/encouraged me to take the idea seriously as a real career path.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The single most challenging aspect of the internship was the fact that Fernando was often away travelling due to the nature of his work and as a result I didn’t have anyone looking over my shoulder all the time making sure I was on task, so I really had to push myself to stay focused. Some days I did better with this than others.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
Working in a professional environment, for an organization devoted to a cause that I genuinely believe in, in a language that was not my own.
Any funny/ embarrassing things happen during your internship?
I had just completed my main task for the summer, a Washington/New York report for his trip to the States in the fall, and we had been trying to schedule a time to meet and go over the report one-on-one. It was then he invited me to dinner and after accepting realized that I wasn’t sure whether he still wanted to talk about work or whether it was going to be informal. So just to be safe I brought along my trusty notebook and pen. I met him outside at a restaurant where he was having a few drinks with some friends before taking me to another restaurant and quickly realized it was definitely going to be an informal occasion. I had written the directions to the restaurant on the notebook however, so that saved me some embarrassment. Not sure how funny this story is though.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
Well, I must say that CAD is a unique organization in that it is led by Fernando Casado, who unlike most directors, maintains and practices the philosophy of horizontal management to such a point that I felt as if I was as important to CAD as anyone else that worked there. Although this wasn’t exactly the case, it made for an extremely warm and positive working environment that nurtured productivity and collaboration. I guess, I hope the "real world" is like this?
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Be proactive and enthusiastic. Always ask questions too. That’s something I actually learned from a previous internship but that can’t be stressed enough. Employers and organizations know that interns are generally inexperienced and are going to make mistakes. Cut back on those mistakes but asking questions when you have any doubt whatsoever.
How do you utilize the skills you developed in your internship experience in your job now?
Not applicable-- [I've] still got one more year at Goucher.