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Maria is a senior Global Studies and Political Science major with an Urban Studies & Planning minor. 

As the summer draws to a close, I take a lot of lessons about the world around me and new and different ideological perspectives on life. This summer was an efficient and valuable time in my life that allowed me to experience a virtual internship at an NGO, attend guest lectures from prominent leaders, take an economics course for academic credit, and network with leading professionals within the realm of international affairs. If there is something I learned this summer is how much I don’t know and realized that that is more than ok. Surrounding me were professionals who are still learning about themselves and the world around them. Through the Fund for American Studies (TFAS), I was able to acquire a goldmine of resources and opportunities that were incredibly valuable for my personal, professional, and academic goals. Despite the fact that because of Covid-19 most of the events, including my internship, were virtual I still learned a good amount about international affairs and how it correlates to my studies in political science and global studies at UNC.

Throughout my economics course, ECON 309 Economic Problems and Public Policies, I learned to think like an economist when discussing topics relating to public policy issues. This in and of itself was incredibly insightful and different from any previous course I had ever been exposed to before. I learned that economics doesn’t just entail the stock market, business ideals, or money, but rather it’s a subject that analyzes all forms of decision making from seeking profit to charity. Key themes that were discussed throughout the summer were ‘the economic approach,’ ‘property, trade, coordination, and institutions,’ ‘the market process,’ the economics of politics,’ ‘the rule of law, regulation, and development,’ ‘the economics of terrorism,’ and ‘economic nationalism, development, and foreign intervention.’ The course consisted of a midterm and a final exam and two written assignments where we were responsible for writing two entries for the “peaceableness project.” While there were moments within the courses’ discussion that I happened to disagree with certain topics I was glad to be presented with a different point of view from mine when it came to public policies and their status in society.

This summer I had the opportunity to work as the New Business development virtual intern at Counterpart International, an NGO whose work focuses on building the capacity of local partners and organizations in order to ensure sustainability, while fostering inclusive and participatory approaches to development. Counterpart International, I learned, partners with local health non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, public and private health care professionals, ministries of health, and numerous other local stakeholders. Within the New Business Development team I learned about the day to day process of networking and researching opportunities for potential partnerships or potential funding opportunities. I was able to receive trainings on USAID funding and the grant process and every minute detail of the process of applying and what is required to make sure to make a good application.

I was also able to engage in a couple simulation exercises where I was able to create my own trip report on Malawi where I had to detail background research on the economic, social, environmental, and political areas of the country and provide feedback on established local and international organizations that are either potential partners or potential competitors for two specific funding opportunities. The two funding opportunities that I was assigned to focus my desk research on were the Governance for Solutions USAID program and the Strengthening Parliament’s Role in Malawi’s Development USAID program. Each of these opportunities were focused on the governance side of Counterpart International’s efforts and just being able to contribute to the team on actual capture initiatives was a great experience. I was also assigned a lot of desk work such as filing and tagging on a program known as iCIMS where I was actually involved in looking through potential candidates’ resumes which is actually really insightful as I took advantage of that and made sure to make note of what types of opportunities, I should look into applying for to potentially include them in my future resume. All in all, the connections I was able to make with my supervisors and the connections they shared with me were invaluable and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work alongside such great professionals in the field of international development.

I want to thank the Global Studies department for aiding me financially so that I would be able to participate in a great and foundational program like TFAS which was able to afford me amazing opportunities that I have just learned so much from.