Women on Wheels

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Mariel Kirschen, PennDesign ’17

mk2As the summer comes to a close, I am thankful that I was provided with the opportunity to pursue an internship with Kota Kita, a non-profit organization in Solo, Indonesia. The organization works throughout Indonesia on participatory urban planning which allowed me to work with local community members as I developed my skills of research and analysis.  This allowed me to better understand the processes behind the scenes of community-based initiatives, such as focus group discussions and community mapping.  The skills, experiences, and perspectives that I gained from my summer internship in Indonesia have strengthened the foundation of my education and expanded my opportunities for my future career in transportation planning.

My work at Kota Kita focused on the Women on Wheels pilot project in the city of Solo. The goal of the project is to promote bicycling for women and girls in developing countries to increase their mobility and access to economic opportunity.  One thing that made my internship so unique was that I was able to witness as Kota Kita went into the community to gather input.  With this information, we were able to draw our conclusions and plan actions to improve the lives of the residents of the city.  The process behind both collecting responses and analyzing the feedback was an opportunity to use many of the skills I had acquired during my first year of graduate school and develop new techniques that I will be able to use later in many academic and career settings.

Working on the Women on Wheels project was an invaluable experience that allowed me to pursue a number of my academic interests in one internship. The majority of my work was on developing a methodology that could be used by any city interesting in looking at the current conditions for gender and transportation.  For this, I was able to combine my undergraduate work in gender studies with my current graduate studies in transportation planning, something I did not anticipate doing before this summer.  In the Indonesian context, a foreign perspective helped me to develop both topics further and frame them in a way that I may not have without the international exposure.  All together, I was able to use my past experience with the lessons learned in Indonesia to create a part of the project of which I was proud.

In addition to my internship work, life in Indonesia was filled with unique cultural experiences, beautiful sights, and new friendships. For my first experience in Asia, I was able to adapt to certain aspects faster than others.  I was able to spend time traveling around Indonesia and taking in the diverse cultural traditions and numerous volcanos.  I was fortunate to be able to work within a very supportive office culture with generous coworkers who were always willing to show you around.  I will miss my time on the other side of the world but am looking forward to how I will be able to use my experience in the upcoming year.


Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.