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This summer, thanks to the grant money I received from the Global Studies Department and its donors, I was able to intern with the nonprofit Library For All (LFA) three days a week over the summer. LFA has created a digital library platform to address the lack of access to quality educational materials in developing countries.

Working with LFA was my first experience interning, and the relatively small and minimally formal office space provided a good first experience in a professional office environment. I’ve grown to be more comfortable in that environment, and I’ve learned the basic courtesies and social expectations in such a space.

I also enjoyed learning about LFA’s involvement with their in-country partners. The COO and Programs Manager would travel to visit some of the schools we work with a few times a year. The frequency they visited each country depended on the relationship with the schools and their needs. I researched in-country pricing and currency conversion rates to create a budget for two of these trips, and learned about the logistics of these business trips in the process. Once they arrived in a country, they would travel with translators to assist them in speaking directly with community members, educators, and students at a particular partner school. This direct contact with community members and exposure to other cultures is something that I hope to seek out in my own future career.

I also researched local Congolese nonprofits, particularly in the capital city Kinshasa, to establish business partnerships. LFA’s programs in the DRC are relatively new, and they are in the process of establishing deeper community ties and networks in the region. I learned how essential these grassroots partnerships were in the success of LFA’s programs. These partnerships allowed them to gain insight into local culture, important community members, and resources. They are an essential part of establishing meaningful connections with a foreign community. Overall, LFA set a great example of how to respect other cultures as a western organization operating in developing countries.

Additionally, I learned how sustainability was central to LFA’s programs. After operating within a country for roughly a year and working with pilot schools in that region, they would begin to transfer most of the work involved in sustaining those programs to in-country officers staffed by locals. I researched fair, local salaries for these positions based on job descriptions provided by LFA. LFA strove to pay their employees a good wage consistent with the higher salaries offered in similar local job positions.

Ultimately, I think this experience will help me get an internship in DC next summer in Congress, the state department, or a larger human rights organization. And I think working with LFA has built a foundation for me to think about what I want to pursue after graduation. I’m excited to build on that foundation next year and am extremely grateful to the generosity of the Global Studies Department and its donors for helping me take advantage of this opportunity.