Shannon’s Summer – July Blog

At the end of my internship with Aqua Clara International in Kenya, I’m looking back at everything I’ve learned during these two months.

Of course I’ve learned the things that were included in my job description, like how to test biosand filters to see whether they’re filtering drinking water well enough. But I’ve also learned quite a bit that I hadn’t anticipated – like how to communicate water quality test results to coworkers, partners and end-users by translating lab data into constructive advice. I’ve also planted maize, bailed water from a flooded greenhouse and trained community members on handwashing and disease transmission. Some of my work even hinted at the specific applicability of certain skills I’ll gain at SPEA – I dabbled in program evaluation and GIS, for example, so now I’m particularly motivated to take those classes.

It’s difficult to leave an internship that I’d like to be a permanent job. Since my work with Aqua Clara is pretty close to my dream job, two months doesn’t seem adequate. I’ve had enough time to become familiar with the organization, assist with its daily operations and complete my projects. That, plus my research on water projects and my SPEA education, provided the foundation to make recommendations on how Aqua Clara can improve its program success and sustainability. I’m pleased to know they’re already implementing some of my suggestions, and I feel confident that the internship benefited both me and the organization.

In making plans to work and study in Kenya this summer, I received a lot of support from SPEA. Dr. Wakhungu regularly checked on the progress of my plans this spring; the office of Career Services hosted informal meetings between students with experience in Kenya and those of us planning to go; and I was even lucky enough to receive a scholarship from SPEA to fund some of my expenses. That support definitely helped ensure that my logistics were taken care of so I could focus on the content of my internship and how it fits into my career plans.

I ended my internship in Kisii, Kenya, and the following day met SPEA Professor Henry Wakhungu and recent MPA graduate Sarah Perfetti in Nairobi. (They’re visiting Kenya to expand SPEA’s relationships with organizations here and solidify internship opportunities for future students. So far, they’ve had lots of success, so SPEA students can expect great opportunities here next summer!) We had dinner with other SPEA students, and it was great to catch up on what everyone’s been doing with internships at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, United Nations Environment Program and other organizations around Nairobi.

Up next in my summer plans: the SPEA study abroad program at Moi University in Kenya. Eight other students and I are taking an Environmental Impact Assessment course at Moi and traveling around the country. I’m excited to begin the program, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

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