Student Testimonials: Reflections on an international internship
Name: Alex Josephsen, '09
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Wayzata, MN
Position Title: Social Officer Intern
Name of Company or Organization: Bangkok Refugee Center
In two to three sentences, please describe what your internship entailed.
I conducted home assessments and interviews with newly recognized refugees living in Bangkok , Thailand . After reviewing their living situation and speaking to them about their experiences I would write a report requesting funding from UNHCR to help assist those who were in need of additional financial support. I also helped with various tasks around the office such as distributing food and supplies to the refugees that came to the Center.
Which country(ies) did your work take you to?
How did you find your internship?
My mom used to live in Thailand working with refugees in the camps along the Thai-Lao border. I sent my resume to various organizations that my mom is still in contact with and BRC emailed me back expressing their interest in hosting me for the month.
Why did you choose to intern abroad instead of domestically?
I realized that once I graduate from St. Olaf I will have less opportunities to travel and experience life abroad so I might as well do it now while I have the chance. I also would like to eventually work internationally so this was a great way to get some experience working abroad before committing to something that is more long-term.
Which parts of your St. Olaf education best prepared you to work and live internationally?
St. Olaf's mission to incorporate a global perspective into our education allowed me to take classes that were internationally focused and exposed me to international issues. The various clubs and student organizations at St. Olaf also work to raise awareness on campus of important international topics with speakers and workshops.
What is the most difficult or challenging aspect about interning internationally?
One of the hardest parts of interning abroad is getting used to living in a foreign country while also adapting to a new work environment. Being completely immersed in a foreign culture and language is overwhelming but then add on the stress that comes with starting a new job with brand new people. The key is to accept the fact that you will make mistakes and have some awkward encounters.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working internationally?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work internationally was the relationships I made with various people from all over the world. I loved talking to the refugees and hearing about their experiences and lives. After getting to know them it was great to know that I was making a difference in their lives and hopefully making their day a little brighter by providing some financial support to live on from UNHCR.
What does being a “global citizen” mean to you?
A “global citizen” in my mind is someone who feels a common bond with every other human being in the world. That connection to humanity is what motivates us to look out for one another and provide aid and assistance to those in need around the world. Even though my passport says I am an American citizen, I feel a strong connection with every other country in which I have traveled and lived.
What advice would you offer other students interested in interning internationally?
Make sure to start searching early for internships because time differences and lack of internet access sometimes makes communication difficult with internship sites. It is also important to realize that you will probably take away more than you are able to contribute to your internship.Back to student bio page>>