Mount Allison’s 2018 Mansbridge Intern, Rebecca Zuk (’19), spent four months this past summer working in Semarang, Indonesia with an organization that helps youth build their skills and prepare them for employment.
Zuk, who is from St. Albert, AB, volunteered with EQWIP HUBs as a part of its Youth Leadership Team. She helped conduct research through surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions with past participants and assisted in turning the data into a country report for the organization, identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the program. She also helped with activities like French and English Club, Girl’s Night, and alumni events.
“My favourite memory was from Girl’s Night. I was a little nervous running it. Questions like, ‘How much could we talk about in a conservative culture?’ and ‘How do we bring up social issues without making it seem like we’re pushing a Western agenda on these girls?’ were rolling around in my head. But in the end we decided we would leave a jar in the middle for questions the girls were curious about discussing and go around the table answering them, Canadian volunteers and Indonesian participants alike,” she says. “It worked really well to break down the barriers between us and pretty soon we were discussing freely with the girls, sharing concerns that many of us, no matter our background, had experienced.”
Zuk says it took a lot of searching to find the right internship. A graduate of Pearson College, she used those connections to help her find the position with EQWIP HUBs.
“I decided to search (Pearson’s) alumni database for any graduates who were working in fields I was interested in. I then e-mailed them asking for advice on summer internships,” she says. “I applied to all the programs suggested and from those I got accepted to I decided that EQWIP HUBs was the one I was most interested in pursuing.”
The Mansbridge Internship, established by former University chancellor Peter Mansbridge in 2011, provides $10,000 to a Mount Allison student in their third year of academic studies to help defray the costs of a pre-professional experience with an international organization of the student’s choosing. Past Mansbridge Interns have travelled around the globe, including to Kenya, Greenland, the Arctic, Zambia, India, and Nepal.
Zuk was keen to try an internship to get some real-world experience of a potential career path.
“As an international relations major, the door is wide open in terms of career choices. The number of options can be exciting, but the lack of direction can also be nerve-racking,” she says. “I decided that an internship would be the best way to immerse myself in a field I am interested in and see if that is a line of work I am interested in pursuing after graduation. I’ve always been curious about working with non-profits internationally, and EQWIP HUBs gave me the opportunity to do just that.”
As it turns out, the internship was invaluable in helping Zuk realize that non-profit work is probably not in her future.
“I got to see the amount of time that non-profit organizations have to focus on securing funding, especially in the early years when funding is not well established. It can be very stressful trying to prove that the organization is worth funding renewal,” she says, adding that the necessity of focusing on funding renewal meant less time could be spent on tweaking programming to make it as effective as possible. “That was frustrating to me. But it taught me that maybe non-profit work isn’t for me. I’m glad I got to learn that before I spent years trying to steer my career in that direction.”
Zuk, who spent the fall term on exchange in France, is planning to work for a couple of years after graduation before continuing her studies, with a plan to focus on policy work or diplomacy.
Zuk, first from left, with a group of Canadian volunteers on a sunrise hike overlooking Indonesia’s Mount Bromo, the active volcano smoking in the background.
Zuk, third from left, with other members of the EQWIP HUBs team.