Friday, August 2, 2019

Internship Spotlight: SAISers in Brazil

Seven students pursuing the Latin American Studies concentration (LASP in SAIS jargon) are doing internships/research fellowships in Brazil. Among them, four of the students have spent their first year of the MA at SAIS Europe in Bologna. The work they are doing is diverse and remarkable. Read more about four student experiences below.

Niki Ottolia 
Summertime in the Northern Hemisphere is wintertime in the Southern Hemisphere, my Brazilian coworkers remind me every time I explain my “summer” internship.

I am spending this Brazilian winter interning at the World Bank Group country office in Brasilia. I work in the Human Development Department with the Health Team at a time when Brazil is undergoing several reforms, including healthcare reform. My team is working directly with government ministers and officials to reform Brazil’s Sistema Unico de Saúde (SUS), Brazil’s healthcare system.

Niki (second from left) and her colleagues
My career goal is to make an impact in Global Health Policy. The opportunity to get a country-level look at how Brazil is working to improve access to healthcare and the political hurdles that ministers and organizations like the World Bank have to navigate is critical for my professional growth. Speaking Portuguese every day, while learning and utilizing Brazilian medical and economic terminology, is also a reason why I pursued an internship at the World Bank in Brasilia.

I work with people from different parts of Brazil and they are some of the warmest, kindest and most generous people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. Whether it is teaching me northeastern Brazilian slang or taking me to a specialty market to buy chimarrão (a southern Brazilian tea), everyone has been willing to share about their career trajectories and answer any questions or concerns I may have. They have also bequeathed me with the much more Brazilian name: Nikolé.

One of the reasons I was attracted to SAIS’s Latin American Studies Program was the opportunity to gain professional experience in Brazil, and I would not be here today if it were not for the work and support from Anne McKenzie and Cornelius Fleischhaker.

An internship is what you make of it. Do the work assigned to you in a timely and orderly fashion, but also take the time to get lunch with your coworkers, ask them about their lives/work, and learn about their cultures and countries. Although beware, you might just get a new name and an inverted sense of the seasons in the process.

Christina Chabali 
Having previously spent two years teaching English in Brazil, I knew upon leaving in 2017 that the Brazilian people and culture had left a lasting impact on me. I worked to continue developing my Portuguese language skills and kept apprised of current events with the hope of eventually returning to work in the country. 

Christina at Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brazil
This summer, I am interning in the Economic Section of the US Embassy in Brasília.
I found the work of a Foreign Service Officer intriguing, and when the State Department internship application opened last September, I jumped at the chance to apply, hoping to get a firsthand look at life inside an embassy.

Here in Brasília, I have the chance to apply my coursework in Macroeconomics and Economic Development in Latin America and my oral and written Portuguese skills. My work ranges from attending meetings regarding Brazil’s role as a member of the BRICS, researching the impact of English proficiency on Brazil’s overall productivity, and editing the weekly US Embassy Economic update. But, my favorite aspect has been working and trading skills with my Brazilian colleague, Francisco, on a diplomatic cable, who has helped me better understand Brazil’s current fiscal situation, and whom I’m helping in the writing process.

During the weekends, I spend time with Brazilian friends and dive back into Brazilian culture. I know the opportunity to continue enhancing my language skills, and deepen my knowledge of the Brazilian economy will prove invaluable no matter where my professional life will take me after SAIS.

Colin Jarvis
Before starting my studies SAIS studies, I worked as a data analyst for a healthcare technology company and I lived in Rio for a year teaching English. When it came to look for internships, Anne McKenzie and the LASP program helped me find an opportunity that would match my skillset and interests, and would enable me to return to Brazil.
The Eixo Monumental of Brasilia

I'm doing my internship at a political marketing consultancy in Brasilia. The work I’m doing ties together my SAIS academics with real world experience in the heart of Brazilian politics.
It's been an interesting experience working with a small but well connected team of Brazilian political scientists, marketing specialists, public opinion researchers, and data scientists, to name a few of the backgrounds and skill sets that comprise our business.

The company specializes in public opinion research and leverages its proprietary database, research, and analysis to inform clients. Projects vary from public opinion polling, impact evaluation, market segmentation, political campaign consulting, and social media monitoring. I've been tasked with creating a public opinion data dashboard to drive client strategy and I have helped analyze data on Bolsonaro's first seven months in office.

Rachel Clayton
I am interning in Rio de Janeiro at the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education Policies (CEIPE) within the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, a higher educational institution and a top think tank in Latin America. As a research assistant, I have explored topics relating to improving 21st century education from how teacher experience affects student outcomes, to how to better integrate vocational and technical education into high schools to diversify the future labor force.

I would not have found the opportunity if not through Anne McKenzie and Prof. de Bolle in the LASP program who supported me in my quest to find an opportunity within international education. The LASP network is strong, and can get you almost anywhere you want to go as long as you are vocal about and committed to your interests, and more importantly to yourself. 

Rachel at CEIPE
At CEIPE, I have refined my research methodologies and I have been able to learn about the structure of education systems and the specific problems that many youth and families face in education not only in Brazil but across Latin American and worldwide. Upon graduating, I intend to work in international education policy and child development and this knowledge will help inform the work I hope to do in my career.

A highlight of my internship was an event CEIPE hosted focusing on the role of teachers and their value in public education. The keynote was by Kenyan science teacher Peter Tabichi, winner of the 2019 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize. Though I have long researched education policy, there is something special about connecting and hearing from teachers who have the most direct impact on the lives of students. It really takes a village.