Santiago Internships: Eight Students Tell Their Stories

August 23, 2021

Over the past year, the Santiago Center has been responsible for organizing a total of 66 virtual internships for Columbia students, in partnership with 29 organizations. In the last term, during this year’s northern hemisphere summer, 16 students had the opportunity to work with seven different organizations in learning new skills or honing existing ones while coordinating across countries and differing time zones in an international context. Below are the stories of a selection of these students.

Silvia Andrade

A master’s student in Sustainability Management at the School of Professional Studies (SPS), Andrade is working with the Chilean corporate governance firm Razor Consulting, under the guidance of Gabriela Gutiérrez and Héctor Lehuedé, on a joint project with a multilateral bank to improve corporate governance practices in state-owned companies in Latin America.

“Previously, I worked in my country [Colombia] in the capital markets industry, and I understood that we need to change the model in which we normally do business towards one that is more environmentally friendly, based on transparency and trust of all the agents involved, whether they are consumers, shareholders, clients, or employees,” she says. “Being part of this firm and having people like Gabriela and Héctor in this internship has confirmed my desire to contribute to the transparency and trust in companies through practices that promote sustainable growth. This is ultimately key to their credibility towards a business model that cares for the environment and society.”

Yimo Chong

A Columbia College student majoring in Politics and Economics, Chong, a native of Beijing, participated in a month-long virtual internship at Universidad de Chile’s Institute of International Studies (IEI), researching foreign policy and women’s inclusion in Latin America.

“Since this was the first research position I have held, at first, I was unsure of what to do, but with the help of my supervisors, I became familiarized with the expectations and experiences of the position,” he notes. The internship allowed him to learn how to organize and extract information from online documents and statutes, as well as gain a clearer picture of the contributions and limitations of Argentine women in foreign policy. “Even though it was a virtual internship, and we did not get to meet each other in Chile, I still loved the position because of the independence and schedule flexibility, as well as the research skills I acquired over the course of it,” he adds.

Cameron Diwa

A Master’s in Education student at Teachers College, where he is specializing in Sociology and Education, Diwa is one of two interning at Universidad Católica’s Vice-presidency of International Affairs, researching the internationalization of higher education. His tasks include conducting a literature review and concept analysis of global competence as it relates to the Latin American perspective, and he hopes this work will expand knowledge on global competence, as the Global South is often overlooked in scholarly discourses around the topic.

“I love that I am on a team that is motivated to include the people of Latin America in the scholarly discourse and application of global competence,” he states. “Our work fits in the broader task of decentralizing western-centric understandings of higher education, specifically in international contexts.”

Kristina Kim

A rising sophomore at Columbia College, Kim – who grew up in Vancouver, Canada and moved to Seoul, Korea at an early age - is working with two different projects under the Santiago Center’s “Chile @ Columbia” initiative which aims to document and celebrate the stories of notable Chilean Columbia alumni and highlight the impact Columbia has had on the lives of these individuals.

The first project is to interview three Chilean scholars - Professors Juan Asenjo, Pedro Rosso, Giorgio Solimano - who previously taught at Columbia. The idea is to document their experiences teaching and researching at Columbia and living in New York, as well as how such experiences shaped their careers in Chile. The second project is a historical research project on the lives of seven Chilean feminist leaders who all studied at Columbia. Together with colleague Yuxiu Lin, she is reviewing Columbia’s archives and other databases to research the women’s experiences at Columbia and trace the effect their experiences at Columbia had on their fight for women’s rights upon their return to Chile.

“I find it remarkable that although we are all located in different regions of the world, we share a common link that is Columbia,” she says. “We are all a part of this bigger community and through this link, we are able to collaborate effectively despite the challenges of working virtually like varying time zones.”

Angela Leonardo

Pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work at the Columbia School of Social Work, Leonardo grew up in Philadelphia and spent seven years traveling the world while teaching English. She is working with fellow Columbia student, Cameron Diwa, at Universidad Católica’s Vice-presidency of International Affairs, researching how global competencies are defined and measured. The goal is to publish a literature review using Walker and Avant's concept analysis methodology of this topic, as well as propose definitions and measurements of global competencies from a Latin American perspective, since much of the literature on the topic comes from a US-European perspective.

“This internship has been a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the education system in Chile and to think critically about who decides what should be a global competency,” she notes.

Yuxiu Lin

Lin, a graduate student at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and working towards her Master of International Affairs, is a native of China. She is collaborating with colleague Kristina Kim in writing a paper for the Santiago Center’s “Chile @ Columbia” project, supporting the historical research project on the story of Chile’s feminist leaders that studied at Columbia, reviewing archives and other resources under the mentorship of Barnard College History Professor Nara Milanich and the Santiago Center Director Karen Poniachik.

“I have had several meetings with mentors and colleagues online to discuss my progress and have received constructive advice from others to enhance the project,” she says. “What I like best so far about working with the organization is that everyone I have encountered is very genial and kind and always willing to offer help whenever asked.”

Martha Njuguna

Njuguna is an upcoming sophomore at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and is working with the Latin American platform WoomUp, a venture that seeks to promote mentorship networks among women.

With plans to major in Computer Science, her internship work includes helping to develop WoomUp’s new internal platform, which will be used by instructors on the team to upload learning materials for mentors and mentees, as well as more easily manage their numerous mentoring programs.

“During my time as an intern so far, I’ve had to pick up a little Spanish, especially when communicating with some of my colleagues or benchmarking with other companies in Latin America. It’s a welcome challenge, one that has certainly sparked my interest in learning to speak Spanish, and I am excited at the prospect of taking a Spanish class or two at Columbia very soon,” she notes. “I really enjoy working with the WoomUp team, and especially my supervisor, Mary Valdez, who have all made a big effort to help me learn more about the business and software development practices. They have been very welcoming from the beginning, and I have absolutely no regrets about accepting the offer to work with them this summer.”

Jennifer Su

Hailing from Texas, Su is a rising freshman at Columbia University, where she will study Economics & Philosophy, while pursuing a dual degree at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. She is focused simultaneously on two internships: one with Universidad de Chile, working on a book project for Latin American foreign policy at Universidad de Chile’s Institute of International Studies to produce a literature review on the history and contemporary trends of diplomacy; the second is with the Santiago and Rio Centers as well as the Columbia Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) to come up with a media guide to connect the press and other strategic stakeholders with Columbia professors and experts.

“Getting a deeper understanding of a concept or area by identifying gaps, patterns, and inconsistencies in existing research—it’s certainly an enlightening experience,” she says. “And then being able to take a step back and link ideas together or even propose different ways of thinking about these ideas—that makes it even better.”