WASH Program in Ghana

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 AnnaClaire Osei-Akoto, COL ’19

This summer I spent a month in Accra, Ghana executing a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program in a local school.  The program was aimed in teaching children about issues pertaining to WASH whiles allowing the children to develop a project that they felt could help with some of the issues they discussed. The teaching style was done in a project based manner. Hence, the students did multiple mini projects to learn about the issues that surround water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The program was executed at Saint Martin de Porres school for four weeks. We had 30 students from 6th grade up to 9th grade participate in the program. Initially, it was intended to have high school students for the program. However, due certain circumstances, many of the high school students were unavailable. Thus, the age range was adjusted and we decided to include middle school students.

During the first week, the main focus was on water related issues. We started off by having a general discussion on the importance of water as well as general facts of what water is. This was followed up with a discussion on the importance of safe drinking water, how to distinguish between safe and unsafe drinking water, and how to purify water. After each topic discussion, we had the students write new things that they had learned. Most of the discussion involved proposing questions to the students and having them discuss with their peers. This allowed for them to think critically about the issues and share out the information to each other. This depicted that the students had some knowledge on the issues and by coupling the discussions with interactive presentations we were also able to provide more information. Additionally, we showed them a movie that discussed the importance of water and how lack of it and safe drinking water affected communities around the world. This forced the students to think of their home communities and how they may be affected and what change could be done in the slightest manner.

During the second and third week, we discussed sanitation and hygiene related issues. We had the students break up into six different groups. Each group was given a topic to educate the rest of the students on. For instance, one group was given the topic of good hygiene practices. Hence this group came up with a skit performance on what constituted good hygiene practices. The students were able to use what they had learned from the discussions and presentations to put together informative skits in which they performed for the school during an assembly meeting.

The last week was devoted to executing a project of the students choosing that would aid in solving WASH issues. The students decided that they wanted to create posters to put up around their school and in some of their neighborhoods that discussed these issues as a tool for educating their communities. This allowed the students to feel empowered with knowledge and give them a sense that they can be change makers.

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.


Impressions of a Summer Internship in Antigua

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant, and the first entry from our 2015 recipients.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This blog is by Esther Rose Needham, Penn Design, MCP ’16


My first impression of Antigua was the dryness. It was everywhere, even the aloe had turned brown and was beginning to shrivel in on itself. Flying into the Caribbean Island, where I spent my summer interning at the government’s Environment Division with the help of funding from Career Services, I could see the sunburnt cliffs sloping into the turquoise water. The contrast was breathtaking yet harsh. Antigua and Barbuda, the twin island nation, has been experiencing lower than average rainfall for several years, dipping into a severe drought this spring. Though the lack of groundwater and limited surface water has been an asset at times throughout history, it now presents a struggle for those that call the small island home. Relying primarily on collected rainwater, which has been in scarce supply, the public utilities department has been forced to put the island on rotating water rationing. No water means no functioning plumbing, not even government offices are excluded. So from learning how to flush a toilet with a hand scoop, to dancing in the rain at a carnival fete, to a 5 a.m. hike to a reservoir, this summer has been all about water and discovery.


Even at work I have been learning and it has been all about water. My internship revolves around spatial data, mapping and analyses, specifically that of hydrologic information. I have spent hours meticulously combing over aerial images and hot afternoons conducting fieldwork to map water features. Ultimately working on projects related to watersheds and flooding, I have learned an incredible amount about hydrologic modeling and have felt an intense satisfaction in my work. Though I have been lucky enough to live on a beautiful hilltop with a cistern to catch rainwater, protected from both seawater flooding and water rationing, I know that most residents of Antigua are not so lucky. Here and throughout the world many people are affected by decreasing rainfall and increasing drought and flooding as a result of climate change. I am incredibly blessed that I have had the opportunity to make a small contribution in this field, especially on such a beautiful and welcoming island.

ester1When I first arrived here I had never snorkeled on a reef or kayaked through mangroves. I had never seen sea turtles mating or traced their tracks up a white sand beach. I had never gone free-diving, swam with wild sting rays and eels, or night snorkeled with phosphorescence. I didn’t know that putting guppies in your cistern would get rid of the breeding mosquitoes or that lizards would eat those mosquitoes off of your legs if you sat very still. I had never photographed a night-blooming cereus, eaten raw sea urchin on the beach or mastered left-hand driving. I had never felt the mist of tropical rain on my bed or the wind at my back on the bow of a sailboat as the Caribbean sun sank. I have learned so much. I have had the rare chance to experience the world from another perspective and I am grateful. Antigua has embraced me and I can only hope that I have given back as much as I have received.

Feeling like a Champion – My summer in Germany 2014!

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 the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This blog is by Ashlee Anderson, SEAS ’15

After traveling for almost 12 hours, arriving in Düsseldorf was a bit of a daze. As I walked into the arrivals hall, there stood a McDonalds and a couple feet away a Starbucks, so it didn’t quite feel like I was in a different country. It wasn’t until I walked into a supermarket and realized that I couldn’t understand anything that was being said or read anything that I saw, that it hit me – I was in Germany, and I was about to embark on one of the best experiences of my life!
By the first weekend I could tell that my time in Germany was going to be nothing short of extraordinary. I experienced a record-breaking heat wave, followed by a massive thunderstorm, the worst the region has seen in over twenty years. But that night as the rains fell and the winds blew I was too excited to be bogged down by the weather. In fact, watching the storm from my window was more intriguing than anything else. It seemed somehow like the lightening and the thunder were more impressive in Germany. And not to be disappointed, the marvel of German efficiency shone true over the next couple days as streets and railways were cleared in impeccable time and the city of Essen was back to normal in a matter of days!

As the month of June went on, the excitement of learning German, exploring the Ruhr area, making news friends, and of course, being in Germany for the World Cup, grew with every passing day. I love languages so it was a joy going to our German class everyday, learning the language and the culture, and seeing evidence of their efficiency everywhere, even in their grammar! The university tours, company visits and cultural excursions throughout the Ruhr area were equally as interesting. The Civil Engineering department at the University of Essen made the theory of stress and strain practical as we tested the yielding point of concrete samples; as a Mechanical Engineer I felt right at home as during our tour of TU Dortmund’s Institute of Forming and Lightweight Technologies; and the Ruhr University in Bochum knew that we wouldn’t be able to resist delicious ice-cream made from liquid nitrogen! The company visits left me awestruck. The vastness of the Thyssen Krupp steel manufacturing plant, the depth of the Prosper Haniel Coal Mine, and the simple genius of the Axel Springer printing press gave me a new appreciation for the manufacturing industry and a deeper understanding of why German products are so revered. And the cultural excursions were not to be out done! Our visit to Zeche Zollverein, an old coalmine that has been refurbished into a museum, was a perfect example of how old and new can co-exist; and the FC Shalke 04 football stadium was in one word – impressive. Not surprisingly, one of the most impressive things about the stadium was the amount of beer sold on a typical match day, and subsequently, their ingenious beer distribution system that keeps their fans happy and refreshed. There was truly no better place to enjoy good beer and exciting football than in Germany this summer.

By the time July came around German spirits were high as the national team advanced gallantly through the World Cup, and there was good weather for the lucky lot who were enjoying their three-week vacation. My high sprits however came from the excitement of starting my internship at TRIMET Aluminum AG Essen. At TRIMET, I was introduced to the primary manufacturing stage of aluminum, that is, the process of converting aluminum oxide (alumina) to molten aluminum via electrolysis. The molten aluminum is then transferred to the furnace where various alloying elements are added based on customer specifications. Finally the liquid metal is casted into either slabs, ingots or billets, heat treated, and packaged for customer delivery.

I worked on two main projects in the R&D division while at TRIMET. The first was an independent project: a literature review on the use of aluminum alloys in crash boxes and crash management systems in the automotive industry. As a senior planning to pursue graduate studies in Automotive Engineering this project was of particular interest to me. Though most of my initial days were spend siting at my desk reading, I enjoyed it and from it I gained a wealth of knowledge I would not have otherwise encountered. In addition, it gave me time to become acquainted with the machines and processes throughout the labs and to get to know my coworkers without the pressure of a hectic project. The second project was collaboration between myself and another student intern investigating the feasibility of implementing a new casting method. This project was a lot more hands on and I had the opportunity to be involved in each stage of the research and development process. Like the previous project, I started off reading a couple papers and reports, but by the time lunch rolled around I had donned my safety gear, hard hat, steel-toed boots, glasses and all, and I was on my way to the casting house. One of the fascinating things about doing R&D at TRIMET was that there were dedicated R&D furnaces and casting pits right alongside the furnaces and casting pits used in production, so I truly felt like I played a role in the entire process which was as important as the employee standing next to me. After setting up the casting table, adding the alloying elements to the furnace and casting the aluminum billets we took some samples back to the lab where I was taught how to grind, polish and etch the aluminum samples in order to analyze the microstructure.

Though I gained a lot of knowledge and practical skills in just a month, my experience at TRIMET would not have been the same without the people. The R&D division at TRIMET is a close-knit family and they welcomed me with open arms. The diligent handshakes each morning, the anticipated chorus of “Mahlzeit” (which translates to Mealtime) as we prepared for lunch, and the well needed coffee chats after lunch to give us that extra kick for the last couple hours of the day, each experience teaching me a little more about German culture and the warmth of the German people.

It seems that my time in Germany ended almost as soon as it begun, but not without a few more memorable moments: Germany being crowned World Cup Champions 2014, fireworks along the Rhine in Cologne, the sunrise in Vondelpark, Amsterdam, and pub hopping in Brussels, just to name a few. I guess it really is true that time flies when you’re having fun!

Finding an Internship Abroad

by Claudia Acha, CAS ’15


Finding an internship abroad can be difficult, but with the right approach you can make your search easier and more effective. First you have to figure out why you want to intern abroad. Is it to travel to a specific country, work for a specific organization, or get experience in a specific field? Once you figure out your objective, you can focus your search and start looking for opportunities that match your objective. Even though finding an internship abroad is harder than finding one in the US, the extra work is well worth it.

I wanted to spend this summer exploring my interests in marketing, Latin America, and the non-profit sector. Although there are opportunities to do this at in the US, the best option seemed like interning abroad.  I began my search on goingglobal.com, devex.com, Pennlink, iNet, and idealist.org. I submitted more than 30 applications. I didn’t hear back from any positions I applied to until late April. Despite this setback, I was determined to spend my summer abroad so I looked for alternate sources. I met with the staff from career services for guidance, and with their help I was able to narrow and focus my search.

At Penn we are constantly reminded how important it is to utilize our networks, and this was my next step. I knew someone who worked at the Oxfam office in Washington DC and was able to get in touch with Oxfam’s offices in Latin America through him.  I reached out directly to the Oxfam office in Nicaragua and was able to secure a communications internship this way. Securing this internship took much effort and time, but it was definitely worth it. I was able to get everything I had hoped out of my internship. I got to work at an international NGO, explore my interest in marketing, and travel throughout Nicaragua.

Tips on Interning Abroad
The biggest difference I have noticed with internships abroad and in the US are the cultural differences in the work place. During my internship at Korea Leadership Center there was an unspoken rule that employees should not leave until the boss leaves the office. In Nicaragua the workplace was a lot more casual than in most US offices. Employees are not required to be in their office from 8 to 5, instead, they are given much freedom and are each responsible for finishing their work by the deadline. Make sure to do some research about the country you will be working in to avoid any misunderstandings.

Some students rule out an internship abroad due to financial constraints. However, there are numerous resources to find funding for internships abroad. Like some students at Penn, I did not have the luxury of being able to have a non-paid internship. I tried looking for research opportunities, scholarships, and other sources for funds to pay for my internship abroad. Luckily, during my scholarship search I stumbled upon the Steven Alloy Global Internship Grant sponsored by the International Relations Department at Penn. Thanks to the generous support from the International Relations Department, I was able to spend my summer just the way I envisioned it.

My advice for students searching for opportunities abroad would be: start early, be creative with your search, tap into all of the resources you have access to, and persevere. This investment will be well worth the effort.