Monday, March 19, 2012


Remember all of those posts where I complained about my apartment being 65 degrees with the heat on? Remember the flannel sheets and down blanket Sean's family gave me for Chanukah? Remember the big pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove for most of the day? Well...I think I may have been a bit too much of a complainer. It is HOT outside! I stubbornly refuse to state that spring is officially here, because I did not move from Chicago to Madison in order to be sweating under my ceiling fan in March! Although it does make me feel a bit better when I remember that I'll hopefully be out of this apartment before the summer really gets into swing. (Of course, any country that I move to probably will not have quite the same affinity for air conditioning as America...)

Now, I bet you're all (and by "all", I mean "Mom") asking yourselves why I'm suddenly updating my blog. No, I do not have any other internship news. Well...sort of. I still don't know where I'm going to end up. It's beginning to look like it might be more of a warmer climate than originally expected. My parents aren't so keen on the idea, but I have to admit...I've caught the Senegal bug again. (Er...metaphorically.) Perhaps it's the fact that the weather is getting warmer out again, perhaps it's a result of meeting a couple of new friends who also studied in Dakar, perhaps it's the Yassa simmering in my crockpot, or maybe I've just actually started thinking hard about where I want to spend three months working for relatively no money and how my experience will relate to my studies.

The truth is, I'm still looking at France, but I only really want to go there if I work for an organization like Handicap International. I'm frustrated with the way things are going getting an internship there, but going to Senegal isn't a way to avoid this frustration "because it's there". What originally spoke to me about an internship with Handicap International was that I could learn the bureaucratic side of a non-profit organization which implements programs for people with special needs in developing countries. What this search has turned into is "any organization which helps people with special needs in France". Don't get me wrong, I've volunteered for local disability non-profits all my life, it's something I like to do and I think it's important; but what I'm looking for with this internship, especially as a student of international development, is how to resolve problems that arise through implementing a program in a developing country. The key word here is development. Something different from the experiences I've had previously that I can point to on my resume showing what I can do. All I can say, for people who equate me+Senegal with bad news, is that it feels right.

Yes, my experience in the past wasn't as great as it could have been. Yes, they are going through elections right now which may cause some tensions, but just this morning in France 4 people were killed when a rogue shooter drove by a Jewish school, and he's being linked with a string of other attacks targeting ethnic minorities. France is becoming increasingly xenophobic in some ways (just check out a strong candidate for their presidential elections, Marine LePen if you don't believe me). While the dangers aren't similar in nature, they're both threats that I would have as somebody studying in a foreign country.

So...this is where I'm at right now. I'm still keeping France in my back pocket as a "plan B" (no organizations suggested as of yet by the coordinator), but I have contacted a school in Yoff (a neighborhood of the Dakar region right near the airport), which was created by parents of children with special needs so that they could get the education that were unable to receive in mainstream schools. The school also does a lot of community outreach, and they've taken on foreign interns before to help lead programs in the community as well as teach the kids and help with administrative duties. I really think this would be perfect for me, but as you may or may not know...if the French are slow at getting back to you...well...let's just say I once had a professor who was 2.5 hours late for class in Dakar. So we'll see where this all takes me! (I know, you're getting tired of responses that don't actually mean me, you aren't the only one...)

In the meantime, classes are going well. I'm enjoying them for the most part, some definitely more than others. I really enjoyed a presentation I had to give recently where we posed as stockholders in Rio Tinto Alcan (a mining company in Canada) and essentially gave them an ultimatum regarding their employee lockouts. In my business class we had guest speakers from the Food Network and American Girl come in, and in my oral communications class we have a guest lecturer for 4 classes who founded S.O.S. Racisme in France and now works for an organization called Nouvelle Cour. So things have been pretty interesting around here. I also took on my first freelance translation job last week for a dairy commodities company, which I think went well. I guess I'll know if they contact me for more work later on and I should be receiving  my check in the mail any day now!

I think that's's going to be a busy couple of weeks before spring break when I take a trip down to Chicago for a few days, then I'll be off to Boston with my brother to visit my sister and brother-in-law and meet my new nephew!