As I conclude this virtual internship, I cannot help but reflect on the connections I made and the valuable skills I learned. Firstly, getting the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of people enhanced my communication skills, as I learned to adapt to the new circumstances of a virtual environment and improve my cultural competence.
Intercultural communication is a tenet that has guided me throughout this experience, as I constantly drew parallels and differences between the United States and Morocco. For instance, during our last meeting today, the UVA interns extended their gratitude to Yossef and Katie because they have been so attentive to our interests and constantly made us feel valued. One of the UVA interns pointed out that at her past internship, she met with her supervisor a few times over the course of the internship, but she was not given as much attention and equal treatment as this. When thanking Katie, Yossef, and other High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff, I was thinking about the cultural component of this internship, as it played a huge role in shaping my relationships and comfort levels with HAF colleagues. The warmth and words of encouragement that were constantly reiterated made me feel validated and as though I was doing meaningful work.
In contrast, if I was to have done an internship in the United States, I feel that my colleagues and supervisor would have viewed me as inexperienced and unworthy of recognition. The reason I think this is because exchanges in the American workplace tend to be transactional and mainly focused on the completion of tasks. In Morocco, it seems as though the work culture is centered around relationship-building and individual development.
Another takeaway from this internship was the fact that I was still able to enhance my critical thinking skills and engage in a variety of tasks from a remote place. I am sure that if I had gone to Morocco, each day would have invited a new adventure for me to explore; thus, I would have been preoccupied with different activities and allured by opportunities for discovery. I was scared that the virtual conditions of this internship would limit my creativity and result in a lack of energy on my part. This unique virtual setting ended up re-energizing my passion for development work and desire to help marginalized communities due to the fact that I became more intentional about the articles and media I was exposing myself to.
I read personal accounts and heard from HAF staff about people’s experiences of not being able to continue their studies, having women’s reproductive rights policed, and seeing statistics of domestic violence cases surge during this pandemic. In absorbing all this information, I wanted to force myself to feel uncomfortable and envision myself in another person’s shoes. As a result, I humbled myself with these stories and fueled greater energy to affect economic and social change in my community and other corners of the world.
I will continue to hold myself accountable and take social responsibility for my life as well as the lives of others because in a world as unstable and scary as this, it is important to engage in small acts of kindness and keep service as a core value. To conclude, humility and discovery were the biggest takeaways from this internship, as I was able to find out more about myself as well as learn compassion from others. The High Atlas Foundation created a platform for me to advocate for historically silenced voices and delve deeper into my career interests.