After applying to internship upon internship, and subsequently getting denied from each and every one of those internships, I decided to look into Learning Enterprises. The more I read about the program, the more I realized that organization’s goals aligned with my own. Though it did not specifically have to do with my major, I knew that gaining international experience would be pivotal to my understanding of global health.
So, I took a leap of faith and applied to the program (my parents were not aware of this fact…sorry Mom & Dad!). After two rounds of interviews, I was informed that I was accepted. Fast-forward to June, I was off! I landed in Budapest, Hungary to meet the other volunteers for a quick orientation. After spreading out to our respective villages, we were abruptly on our own, attempting to figure out how to negotiate the language barrier and live with strangers. I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing host family that treated my like I was part of the family. They went above and beyond so I could more deeply understand the culture and people of the area. By the end of my time there, Dioszeg felt like home.
My summer highlights:
- Figuring out that I am not a natural teacher! Knowing what you don’t want to do can be as helpful as knowing what you do want to do
- Learning that I can build very close relationships with people that do not speak the same language as me. For example: my host mom! She did not speak a word of English but we learned to communicate in many other ways. This gives me hope in pursuing a career in global health, where, chances are, I will not be able to directly communicate with community members.
- Relying on myself. While abroad, I learned that I did not need to depend on anyone but myself. I realized that I am perfectly happy being alone, which is an invaluable skill in the real world. Knowing that I was capable of finding my way, building relationships, and dealing with unforeseen issues made me confident in my abilities.
- Being a role model for the girls in my classes. The year before, the village hosted a male volunteer. Because he was a guy, many of the girls in the town did not feel comfortable coming to classes. However, my host brother told me that the girls were far more invested in learning when I was teaching they were able to see themselves in my place.
Though my summer was nothing like I had pictured it, I would not have changed it for the world. It had its ups and downs, but taught me so much about Romania, Hungarian culture, and myself. It reaffirmed my love of international development and working directly with local people to develop strategies suited to unique communities.
My final advice is this: summer internships do not need to directly correlate with your major. Give yourself room to investigate other options. Not everything you do needs to be a resume builder --do something you want to do! Become a more well-rounded woman by applying the skills you have developed in your STEM endeavors to something new that will make you happy about how you spent your summer.