Amanda Morelli (2017), a cultural anthropology and environmental studies major, spent her junior year studying abroad. With the help of a UVM Internship Scholarship, she was able to return to Central America in order to work with DESGUA, an organization that focuses on empowering returned and potential migrants through educational and economic justice.
Amanda credits this internship experience with helping to clarify her interests and goals. She notes, “Overall, my experience helped me explore my options of what I wanted to do after UVM. It confirmed that I was on the right track; that racial justice, youth development, and immigration/refugee related services are what I’m most passionate about. Being abroad also helped me realize that I want to pursue these interests more or less domestically, rather than internationally. My time abroad provided me with an extensive, more holistic comprehension of just how much of a dominant superpower the United States was, and continues to be. Throughout my time in Guatemala, I witnessed the horrible ways in which U.S. corporations, U.S. foreign policies, and the historical U.S. intervention has continuously brought injustices amongst the local people. That within itself really pushed me to want to work on creating long term, positive institutional and social change within my own country. Furthermore, Americans have this idea that they have to go to a developing country in order to make a difference, which very much plays into problematic concepts such as voluntourism and the white-savior complex. The reality is though, that help is needed right here in our own country and who better to work on that than us.”
Amanda’s experience combined career development, cultural immersion and community involvement. She describes her internship: “As an intern, the majority of my work involved translating, advertising, interviewing returned migrants, assisting with budget and sale strategies, and implementing various workshops and presentations for incoming foreigners. However, my time there also involved a lot of farming and really getting to know the local communities.”
For Amanda, living abroad and working with DESGUA helped her to stretch herself. She shares, “Forcing myself outside of my comfort zone in terms of living conditions, language, culture, and isolation thoroughly helped me gain confidence in both myself and in my abilities. I was able to enhance my Spanish skills significantly and learn a great deal about the complex causes and effects of migration in Guatemala specifically.”
Amanda has built upon her experiences at UVM and in Guatemala and now works at Clark University in the Multicultural and First-Generation Student Support office. She reports, “I really love the work I do. The Mosaic Center for Students of Color is what made my experience at UVM and so I’m excited to be given the chance to empower other students of color in that way.”
Sometimes great internship experiences like Amanda’s can seem out of reach. UVM Internship Scholarships are designed to help make it possible for you to participate in this kind of life changing experience. Do you want to apply? Learn more about UVM Internship Scholarships here.