Then on August 19, I left for school. Looking from the sky while on the airplane, Minnesota had already stole my heart before I landed. There I met Amal, my “local mentor,” who lives in Minnesota. She hosted me at her house, and it was great to experience living with an American family. I felt a sense of belonging and enjoyed watching her family interact on a daily basis. On August 20, Amal brought me to the campus. The first time I saw the university’s logo I realized finally I made it! And I know I wouldn’t be here without the immense help and support from my mentors and the SHE-CAN organization. Their guidance throughout this entire process so far has filled my heart with joy and gratitude!
The most interesting part of my orientation was meeting my academic adviser Melanie Johnson. She was so professional, resourceful and funny. I like her a lot. It’s the first time I’ve had a personal academic adviser who’s someone I can talk to and discuss my academic career.
Additionally, I also enjoyed the “Chew and Chat” activity where all of us new transfer students had the opportunity to eat and chat with the transfer student ambassadors. It was really fun. I learned so much about life as an international student and the on/off-campus experiences. Also, in the evening I had the chance to join the “New International Welcome Day with President Kaler and Goldy Gopher,” where I met Scholar Sreytom Tim, my SHE-CAN sister. She introduced me to Gabriel and other board members of the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)!
Another fun aspect has been using Google Maps to explore the campus. The University of Minnesota is so beautiful! It’s green, clean and there’s water everywhere. Living in temporary housing at the dorms was a unique experience. I got to meet many people from different nationalities, who speak different languages and I told them about where I’m from in Cambodia. I’m learning that people here are friendly and they’re willing to help me under any circumstances.
Along with exploring campus, Amal brought me to a Cambodian restaurant in Minnesota where she got to try our great Cambodian cuisine. She liked it a lot and tried Cambodia Noodle. I thought the restaurant's food tasted good, and I enjoyed being able to speak in Cambodian with the server. Later, I tried Amal's traditional cuisine - Arabic food. I liked it a lot because spicy food is delicious.
While on campus, I got a gift from Amal - three UMN sweatshirts - and OMG I love them! This upcoming weekend, I can’t wait to move into my apartment, meet my roommates and start my first class on September 5 at the University of Minnesota! Go Gophers!
The SHE-CAN staff chatted with Scholar Peninah Ingabire, rising junior at Muhlenberg College, about her summer internship with the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) in Kigali. This was her first time interning with the RBC and although it has multiple divisions she worked within the maternal, child and community health division. Peninah’s internship was full-time, and she generally worked 5 days a week, 9 hours a day. Originally, she had applied to work for two months (June-July). However, she ended up working through August because she wanted to be involved in a couple more programs and really liked the Center.
SHE-CAN: How did you land this internship and when did you apply? Did SHE-CAN or your mentors help you or did you apply for this on your own?
Peninah: I researched through multiple health organizations in Rwanda to find which one was the best fit for me. After going through many options, I realized Rwanda Biomedical Center had the perfect division for my career goals and worked to improve children’s health in Rwanda which was exactly what I wanted. I was able to get different contacts through online research and networking and sent in my application and resume last spring while on campus. I got my acceptance letter in late May. I was so happy and excited and shared the news with my mentors. It was so exciting to know that I was going to spend the entire summer doing something I love back home!
SHE-CAN: What attracted you to interning at the Rwanda Biomedical Center?
Peninah: As a Public Health major, I wanted to intern this summer within the Rwandan health sector and learn more about it. RBC was a great fit because I had seen their work back home. RBC works with the community mostly through field work and this was so important to me because I wanted to be able to meet the people I was working with and not just complete office work. Lastly, in the future, I want to work with children. Since one of the RBC’s main priorities is children’s health, they were my first choice in where I wanted to intern.
SHE-CAN: As an intern what were your responsibilities? Can you describe a typical day?
Peninah: The work at RBC is divided between office work and field work. The biggest part is field work. My work revolved around the vaccination unit, community health unit and health facilities unit. As an intern, in my first days I had to quickly learn about the organizations through a lot of reading. Later, I was assigned field work which varied from monitoring and evaluating different health centers in different districts, following up on the cold chain supply within vaccination centers and other vaccination storages, following up on the nationwide hepatitis vaccination campaign and trainings of community health workers around the country. Additionally, I also had the opportunity to attend different trainings and meetings on health campaigns and projects through partners such as WHO, UNICEF and Jhpiego.
SHE-CAN: What was your favorite part about your internship?
Peninah: I really did love working with community health workers. In most districts I visited, it was a group of volunteer women who closely worked with their communities to address health issues. It was so empowering to see women working every day to help improve living and health standards in their communities. It was the greatest experience because I was able to personally work with the community and visit health centers around the country which was so helpful as a learning opportunity!
SHE-CAN: What has your internship taught you?
Peninah: I’ve learned so much both academically and professionally. RBC has greatly helped me understand the way Rwandan health care works. I was amazed by the tremendous work being done within all divisions. This internship was a bridge that connected what I learn in my classes to the actual work out in the field. It has also taught me perseverance and flexibility because I’ve realized every community and every situation is unique. As one of my supervisor’s told me, it’s important to listen to the community because you can achieve more things with their support. Furthermore, my internship has taught me about work ethic and job duties such as writing reports, project presentations and networking amongst others which will be great assets for me in the future!
SHE-CAN: What are your future goals after graduating from college, and how does interning at the Rwanda Biomedical Center help you achieve those goals?
Peninah: When I graduate, I want to work within the Rwandan health care system to improve health education and health care access to children especially vulnerable children. This internship was a great opportunity for me to get a glimpse of what my future career will look like. After graduation, it would be amazing to come back and possibly become an employee at the Rwanda Biomedical Center because it’d be a perfect fit for me to use my knowledge while also giving back to my country!
SHE-CAN Scholar reflects on internship at the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Cambodia - by Vuochnear Ly
After staying in the U.S. for almost a year, it’s very exciting to come back home during the summer break. Coming home this time isn’t just a visit to the family, but it’s also a stepping stone for me to get hands-on experience and discover a pathway for my future career as a diplomat. Thanks to SHE-CAN and my mentors, I’ve earned an interesting internship at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA). They’ve helped me apply for the internship and revise my resume and cover letter while I was still at school in the U.S. On April 27, I got an email from the ministry that said I had been accepted as an intern! It was exciting news, and I was really looking forward to coming back to Cambodia to see my family and friends and for my internship.
I started the internship two weeks after I arrived in Cambodia, which was on June 5 and I will finish my internship on August 15. While working at the ministry, my colleagues often ask what interests me to work here. I tell them I’ve been concerned about gender equality in Cambodia as I learn that this society is conservative and women are subject to inferiority and vulnerability. More importantly, I wish to gain experience working in a government agency, to absorb more knowledge on gender mainstreaming and equality work and to create a powerful network with successful Cambodians.
So far my expectations have been achieved. I was first introduced to the General Directorate of Gender Equality and Economics. I stayed in his department for about a month and a half. The Deputy General Director is very helpful and welcoming. He assigned me to help him and the team revise a newly proposed project called “Leading the Way for Gender Equality.” Meanwhile, this gave me an opportunity to learn how to initiate and create a new project. Working in the General Directorate, I was also involved in community work organized by the Project for Agricultural Development and Economic Empowerment (PADEE), led by MoWA with the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture. This project aims at empowering economic power for women and their communities through agriculture and handicrafts. The project provides funds and technical assistance to the female farmers and local entrepreneurs. On June 15, I went to Prey Veng province with the PADEE team. Our team went to monitor and evaluate their progress. I was delighted to see their economic situation is improving and advancing, which contributes to empowering young women, reducing domestic violence and allowing them to send their children, especially daughters, to schools. Most of the women in Prey Kneas commune have significantly realized their power and emphasized the importance of education for their children.
After a month staying at the General Directorate of Gender Equality and Economics, I have moved to the cabinet of the minister, where I work as an external communication assistant to the minister. My responsibility is mainly to electronically communicate with development partners and other international corporations regarding crucial meetings and projects with the Minister of Gender Her Excellency Dr. Phavi. I’m also responsible for writing official letters and memos to embassy and international partners. Writing formal letters on behalf of the ministry is a bit of a challenge for me because it requires a specific skill. Even though I had no experience in writing formal letters, I’m delighted to work on it because I've been able to practice this important skill. In the meantime, I’ve had the chance to attend many formal meetings with line ministries, women networks and development partners like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Instead of hanging around after I finish my work, I always go around and ask my colleagues if there’s any other work that I can possibly help with. Interestingly, they usually give me English related work. They said I’m excellent in English because I’m studying in the U.S. Even with their high expectations, I just try my best and I’m happy to help my colleagues in correcting and revising English for their written correspondence.
Overall, working at the ministry for these two and a half months, I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge regarding gender mainstreaming and policies led by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. I acknowledge that gender isn’t a simple issue, but it’s a cross-cutting issue, which has to be institutionalized in essential sectors, such as education, economics and health. Moreover, I gained more understanding on government procedures and roles in empowering women and advocating gender equality in Cambodia. Also, I’ve gained skills in public relations, experience working with a team and I’m able to put my English skills to use. This internship is a stepping stone to my future career.
In one week, I’ll leave for America and I’ll leave the ministry with good memories of my colleagues. They’re understanding and helpful, showing me around and they’re willing to assist and support me no matter what. We work hard and play hard. In just a short time, I’ve created a strong bond with them. We often have lunch together. We share not only food, but also love and wisdom. We all appreciate and respect each other’s effort. More importantly, working with Minister Phavi has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve gained invaluable insights and wisdom from her. She’s not just a leader, but also a mentor to me. I’m fortunate to have worked with her and in the institution. This is what I love the most at the institution and will not be erased from my memory.
My first summer at Lafayette College has been filled with happiness and uncontrollable excitement about everything from my very first job to new experiences. I’ve explored and experienced life on and off my college campus with some of my friends and also at my workplace.
I enjoyed working at my first job. I was an employee in the Catering service on my college campus. It was tiring and fun but never boring. I met new people, acquired a few skills in the kitchen and learned how to be a good worker. My job duties included setup, delivering food and cleanup after events. In Catering, I worked alumni events and a camping event. This coming school year, I might return and work for Catering again. However, I’m looking forward to possibly working elsewhere on campus such as the library or art center!
Besides working at my first paid job, I participated in a variety of adventurous summer activities. I went to a carnival and it was eye-opening. They had country music, various kinds of American foods, drinks, a transportable Ferris wheel, fire trucks and even a balloon and dart game. I had a marvelous time and enjoyed it wholeheartedly.
This summer, I’ve also spent some time exploring other religions and going to church. I went with a friend of mine to her church for the first time near school and she showed me around. I had never been in a church before. Just looking at the outer building before I entered made me so happy and ready to experience it. It was refreshing to do something I’ve never done.
Many times it even felt great to do simple activities and turn them into fun collectible memories. For example, going shopping or going to the grocery store isn’t supposed to be fun at all for a lot of reasons because there are a lot of choices at the store so it’s hard to know what’s good to buy. In addition to that, American people tend to have a car so they don’t have much to worry about whenever they want to go somewhere. As an international student, staying on campus during the summer, I was always happy and excited if one of my friends offered me a ride to go to Giant or Target because it made it easier to go to the store and it was another chance I could hang out with my friends.
Although being in the U.S., especially for an entire summer, is a life-changing and incredible journey, it’s very different compared to where I was born. I still miss a few things back home in Cambodia including the food, the customs, the weather and especially my family.
Overall, I feel like I’ve enjoyed my first summer in the U.S. Additionally, I’ve finally learned about something that I used to always wonder about which is what life is like for a college student living on their campus during the summer. The exploration of this summer was fresh and fun. One thing happened after another and this period in my life has become an amazing adventure!
Read stories written by our talented scholars and multiple voices across the SHE-CAN network