My name is Rita and I recently came back from my internship in Buea, Cameroon. I just graduated in Global Resource Systems and I was looking for something to do after graduation. Combining my love for travelling and my desire to gain some field experience before I started looking for a ‘career’ seemed like a perfect thing to do after graduation. I first heard of AIESEC in my last semester at UBC through a presentation made in one of my classes. I learned that you could participate in international internships at a relatively low cost, so I applied right away, and before I knew it, it was April and I finished my last exam. Before my internship with AIESEC, I had another internship already lined up with another organization in India, so at the time I was more excited and busy preparing for that internship, which turned out to be amazing and life changing. It was also interesting to compare the two internships – the one in India and Cameroon.
My Global Community Development Program internship in Buea was for two and half months, and it was such an incredible experience. I knew nothing about Cameroon before arriving at the airport. All I knew was that it was a bilingual country in French and English, and it was on the west coast of Africa. I knew nothing about the food, culture, or economy of the country. However, I was warmly welcomed at the airport (though it did take a while to find the AIESECers who came and picked me up at first), and quickly immersed myself into Cameroon’s culture. A few things that surprised me were how spicy the food was, the huge amount of white bread eaten, how friendly the people were, and the lack of available running water. Because I was just in India, I was accustomed to living in a developing country, so the lack of electricity and western amenities was not such a big bother for me.
It took a while for me to start my work at the NGO I was assigned to, so I waited for two weeks to actually start work, which was frustrating. But I spent that time getting to know the people and small city on the base of Mount Cameroon. I spent the majority of my time with AIESEC Buea members, who welcomed me so warmly and treated me like their best friend as soon as I met them, and I found myself going out and travelling to other cities, and often eating meals together with them. I was never alone. Once I started working at the NGO Nkong Hill Top, I was assigned various tasks the organization worked on. It included research on sunflower oil production in a rural setting, soap making from jatropha oil, and how to drill effective well holes in cities. I also assisted with planning an environmental education event in a rural village, which was my favourite part of my internship—experiencing life in a village where I stayed for two weeks, helping out in the farms, and working with children on environmental education was incredible. I learned how different it is to manage projects in a rural setting opposed to an urban one, such as the importance of planning an event during a time where there is little rain, so roads would remain intact and villagers could actually attend the event.
Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in going on an internship abroad. It gives you a different perspective, valuable work experience, and most importantly, it’s fun.