Check out how SIA students spent their summer making a difference in the world

This summer, School of International Affairs students were busy around the globe, making a difference in the world while gaining hands-on, real-world experience. Cody Amengual, Jennifer Montoya, and Kaitlynn Ward are three examples of SIA students who interned this summer honing their international affairs skills working for nongovernmental organizations. Read about their experiences.

Student gets hands-on experience and life lessons in Buenos Aires

While spending two months interning in Buenos Aires, Cody Amengual not only gained skills for a future career in the human rights and environmental fields, but also received a cultural education via the surrounding neighborhoods and towns and from the Argentinian people.

This summer, Amengual, a Penn State School of International Affairs student, worked as an intern at the Argentine Network for International Cooperation, a nongovernmental organization in Buenos Aires. Having previously visited Peru and fallen in love with South America, he decided to spend his summer in Argentina after careful research on available internships. He chose Buenos Aires because of its vast internship opportunities and the city’s rich culture. Plus, as a Spanish speaker, he saw it as a chance to improve his language skills.

Amengual’s typical day involved researching other NGOs around the world to investigate if any of the organizations offer funding or grants for Argentine citizens and communities in need of assistance. He said his academic experience at SIA helped during his workday, specifically citing Professor Sophia McClennen’s Global Cultures and Leadership (INTAF 804) class, which he said gave him a foundation in understanding how different cultures communicate with one another.

The internship gave him the opportunity to put that understanding to work in the real world while he gained on-the-job experience.

“I honed my research skills and I was able to learn about other NGOs around the world,” Amengual said. “And my Spanish language skills have drastically improved as I used them every day at work and in talking with the local people.”

To get the internship, Amengual worked closely with the SIA Career Services Office and its director, Grant Littke. After reviewing Amengual’s interests and career plans, Littke connected Amengual with an organization that develops and administers internship programs in Argentina. Once Amengual found a position, the internship program organized housing, travel, and events in Buenos Aires.

“Mr. Littke was extremely helpful and knowledgeable in helping me to find this opportunity,” Amengual said. “Without his help, it would have been very difficult to get this internship.”

Instead of following one of the established study tracks at SIA, Amengual created his own, blending the International Security Studies track and the Environment and Resources track, as he is passionate about both. After graduation in the spring, he hopes to work in Washington, D.C., with an NGO or a private organization to push for human rights, environmental conservation, and renewable energy. “My favorite part about this experience is meeting many people from all over the world, making valuable connections, and experiencing life in Buenos Aires,” he said. “I enjoyed after work events, ate food that I never knew existed, and even took Tango lessons!”

SIA student scores ‘Nothing But Net’

While in Tampa, Fla., for the Penn State Women’s Basketball team Final Four game, School of International Affairs student Jennifer Montoya got the call that she was accepted as an intern at the United Nations Foundation (UNF) working on its Nothing But Nets campaign. Montoya’s work as a manager and operations assistant for the women’s basketball team helped her network to get the position with the UNF grassroots organization. Nothing But Nets raises awareness and funding to fight malaria deaths in African children, and donates mosquito nets to African families.

“I applied for the position because I was inspired by the work of Ruth Riley, a spokesperson for the campaign,” said Montoya. “My position with the Penn State Women’s Basketball Team gave me the opportunity to communicate with Ms. Riley and she put me in touch with the organization’s director.”

As a Nothing But Nets intern, Montoya drafted promotional letters and leaflets, developed ideas on how to engage Olympic sponsors, strategized how to engage the global community, and attended meetings and strategizing sessions. Additionally, she honed her research skills investigating Olympic rules and regulations.

“Interning with the UNF exposed me to nonprofit work and how to utilize sports and athletes to promote awareness,” she said. “This experience has alerted me to the indirect way that sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize, and inspire.”

Montoya said she felt confident in her internship because of her background in collegiate sports, and credits Professor Dennis Jett’s Colloquium on Current Policy Challenges (INTAF 590) with opening her eyes to malaria and other diseases as pressing global social problems and approaches to combat them.

In the future, Montoya would like to work for a nonprofit that uses sport as a component for their global goals. She hopes to one day work for a U.S. National Olympic Team or to work with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Sports Diplomacy Department. With these goals in mind, she created her own SIA study track focusing on the use of sport for development and peace.

“This internship experience has shown me that while my day to day duties may seem minute, they play an instrumental part in the functionality of the team,” she said. “When we all carry out our small parts, they come together, and, as a result, Nothing But Nets sent over 7 million bed nets to protect families in sub-Saharan Africa. Being of a part of such a visionary organization ignited a passion in me to do this type of work.”

SIA student promotes peace through sport

Kaitlynn Ward fell in love with the Olympics 15 years ago, watching the parade of nations for the 2000 Sydney games. As a Penn State School of International Affairs student, Ward fell in love with the Olympic value of promoting peace and diplomacy through sport, and she fulfilled her passion this summer working at the Boston 2024 Olympic Organizing Committee as an athlete engagement intern.

While she said her job duties varied every day, she got plenty of experience for her future career in international affairs, from researching athletes, to working on small forms of diplomacy in public relations projects to boost excitement for the Olympics.

“I want people to understand that the Olympics are not just about sports, but the power of almost every country in the world coming together for an event, forcing them to put aside conflicts,” she said. “What other organization can do that? The world stands still in peace for those 17 days of the Olympics and the 10 days for the Paralympics. It eases tensions between countries, allowing conversations and diplomacy to happen.”

With family in Massachusetts, Ward directly contacted the Boston 2024 Committee in February about the internship program. After applying and a few rounds of interviews, she started in May and spent the summer working with others passionate about Olympic values.

“The energy there is unmatched,” she said. “Everyone works hard, because they believe in the cause, and we are all working toward the one goal of winning the bid.”

Ward credits Professor Dennis Jett’s Foundations of Diplomacy and International Relations Theory

(INTAF 802) class and Professor Johannes Fedderke’s International Economics (INTAF 506) class with providing her with a strong knowledge base in these topics to fulfill her internship duties. The principles she learned gave her a greater understanding when researching Olympic values and dealing with the economics of the Boston 2024 Committee.

“In the future I want to work with the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee,” she said. “I’m passionate about their goals, or ‘Olympisms,’ which bring friendship and fair play globally, and the IOC’s partnership with the U.N. to promote peace through these games.”

Unfortunately, Ward’s internship ended abruptly when the U.S. Olympic Committee withdrew the Boston 2024 Olympic bid. While disappointed, she hopes to continue working with the Olympics and recently interviewed for a volunteer position with the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to work on something I love,” she said. “When we heard the news at the Boston office, everyone quoted the motto from the Special Olympics: ‘Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ I firmly believe that.”