A Step Towards Creating the Zimbabwe of My Dreams

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 Farirai Baya, SEAS ’19

bayaWhen I was in primary school, Zimbabwe was known as the breadbasket of Africa, exporting different products to the rest of the continent. Back then, I envisioned a nation blessed with a beautiful scenery, lovely whether conditions and abundant natural resources. Most importantly, the citizens were happy and content with their lifestyle.

However, from the breadbasket status, it went to being associated with terms such as poverty, corruption and anger. These are the most immediate words which come to mind when I think of my country at the moment. My Zimbabwe weeps for a better economy and a better society. My Zimbabwe cries for a better government.

Hence, I found that my decision to pursue an internship back home in order to contribute to making the current situation better, was inevitable.

I spent my summer working at the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB) in Zimbabwe under Zimbabwe Career Connect. PAAB being the regulator of the accounting and auditing profession, my main responsibilities included: accounting functions, debt collecting and addressing corruption and fraud within member companies.

Being a student in engineering this was a different experience for me. One of the things I learned to understand was the fact that whenever there is fraud or any financial disaster in the big national companies, an accountant or auditor is usually involved to cover it up. Considering that corruption is one of the main reasons why the economic state of Zimbabwe is not improving, I realized my experience in learning the procedures to ensure zero fraud is always going to be relevant as I work towards improving the situation in Zimbabwe.

Through the board meetings I attended, I also began to understand more about the governance in Zimbabwe, and the decision making procedures. Moreover, it was during this time when I assisted in organizing the Olivia Kirtley Tinokunda Scholarship for students who are studying at local universities and are pursuing an accounting degree. The OKT Scholarship is aimed at promoting women leaders in an environment where there are only about 5% women representatives. One of my main focus was researching on how to create a “women success enabling” working environment.

In addition, I also attended meetings once a week at Zim Career Connect to talk about the problems in Zimbabwe with college students and advisors we had met through the program. It was during these meetings when I learned about the feasibility of coming back home and the challenges this decision would present. Some of my best days during the internship were spent at 3 college fairs where we had presentations for high school students about the application process to colleges in America and this was the experience which concluded my summer.

My Summer at the United Nations

This 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 Mara Zafiu, WH ’17

mara-zafiuMy first day of summer was hectic, yet filled with excitement. Within 24 hours, I packed up my room, took my last final and moved to New York City, ready for my first day of work at the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations. Although diplomacy and international relations were never part of my curriculum at Penn, where I study economics and healthcare-focused global development, I had long been interested in world affairs and wanted to get an insight into the negotiation processes at the UN, as well as into my home country’s role and influence in the multilateral system.

Yet the amount that I learned surpassed my expectations. I had the opportunity to work in the Economic and Financial Committee of the General Assembly, where I got to represent Romania at various conferences and within negotiation meetings at regional or global level. Some topics that I covered during my summer were the new sustainable urbanization agenda Habitat III, the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda of sustainable development, the South-South Cooperation Forum and Middle Income Countries Conference. I was also able to participate in various negotiations within the Economic and Social Council, in the Commission for Social Development and in humanitarian resolutions. While all these topics were very related to my interest in global development, this experience enabled me to understand the opportunities and challenges in development from a completely different perspective than I had previously held.

Outside of my officially assigned tasks, it turned out that my UN delegate badge gave me access to even more sources of knowledge. My experience wouldn’t have been complete without meeting delegates from all over the world at events in the Delegates’ Lounge, going to the Security Council or General Assembly to hear the most recent debates on combating youth terrorism and further curving the transmission of HIV, or getting to learn from the vast experience of diplomats from the Permanent Mission of Romania. And, to add more flavor to my summer, I also experienced Euro Cup watching parties organized by the host countries, soccer games between country ambassadors to the UN (including the United States’ Samantha Power), and electronic dance music parties at the headquarters.

While I already miss my daily walks between the Romanian Permanent Mission, the UN Headquarters, and the European Union building, I am confident that my career path will intersect with the multilateral system in the future. In the meantime, I am grateful for this incredible learning opportunity and excited to continue to cultivate my passion for global development and world affairs.