I wish that I were able to begin this blog with an entertaining anecdote of witnessing Jamestown’s famous boxing arenas or Accra’s highly symbolic monuments, but this sadly is not the case. I had landed an internship with a nonprofit based in Accra, Ghana, but the summer of quarantine caused this opportunity to be completely virtual. The University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) matched me with the Play and Learn Foundation (PAL), an organization that seeks to empower underserved Ghanaian youth to become leaders of their community through academic and athletic development. My role was to aid the development of a new program called Learning on the Go which aims to introduce kids to experiential learning and job shadowing opportunities within Accra.
Much of my work involved researching similar initiatives so as to further improve our current program proposal. I initially tried to tackle this project by coming up with strategic Google searches to produce promising results. It was difficult for me to find exactly what I was looking for this way, but I soon recognized that I had completely disregarded all the groups I had personal connections with. Despite this internship being my first professional endeavor, I realized that I knew many people that could be helpful towards my research. I was then able to contact my former school district, my current place of work, and the large corporation based in my hometown to gain insight on their academic programs. My limited experience in the professional world did not necessarily hinder my ability to be successful as I previously anticipated it would. I have gained a better recognition of connections that could prove useful in my future ventures, and I believe this awareness has also encouraged me to be more optimistic when going into new situations.
Through my research, I was able to create a partnership between the Play and Learn Foundation and the Myers-Briggs Company. The Myer-Briggs Company is now going to provide PAL with access to VitaNavis, a platform where students can explore vocational pathways. Before embarking on job shadowing opportunities, the kids will take VitaNavis’ SuperStrong Assessment to discover their top three occupational themes as determined by the RIASEC Model. These occupational themes will help educate the kids on careers that align with their interests. The platform can further be utilized to map an education path to a career by providing information about academic institutions as well as a feature for resume building. This personality/career assessment was a new idea I had proposed to my supervisor, and we hope that this addition will encourage students to make informed career decisions.
Though I was not able to gain any in-person experiences in Ghana, I was still able to learn about Ghanaian culture through my meetings with the Play and Learn Foundation. A cultural aspect that was difficult for me to navigate was the lack of deadlines. In fact, the program I was helping develop did not even have a target start date. It was stressful not knowing whether I was working too fast or too slow, but I was never criticized for my pace and eventually adjusted to this. My meetings also exhibited informalities in that my supervisor would dress very casually and be in and out of our meetings. I found that my organization was structured more lateral than hierarchical due to their leadership style, emphasizing consideration and sensitivity for everybody. This was very different from the style of corporate America, but I appreciated Ghana’s easygoing mentality.
I thoroughly enjoyed carrying out my internship through USAC, and I would highly recommend virtual internship seekers to look into their Global Perspectives Virtual Internship Program. In addition to my supervisor at the Play and Learn Foundation, USAC provided me with a couple of other mentors who were readily available for any means of support. USAC also complemented my internship with weekly seminar sessions that allowed me to deepen my understanding of my professional and cultural experiences. These seminars were completed by other students engaging in various virtual internship programs, granting me even more peers offering assistance and encouragement. Though I did not gain the international experience I thought I would when I originally planned to study abroad, this virtual internship still brought professional and cultural insights that further developed my character.
Megan Sattler is a math major from the University of Arkansas. Megan’s post first published on the University of Arkansas Honors College blog.