My international internship experience is nothing like I imagined. I learned about the Tandana Foundation through a class led by Founding Director and Whitman alumni Anna Taft, and two of her colleagues in the fall of 2019. I was interested in Tandana’s focus on nurturing mutually beneficial relationships between people from different backgrounds and was motivated by their commitment to respect and responsibility. Receiving the news that I was going to work with the Tandana Foundation in Otavalo, Ecuador with the support of Whitman’s international internship grant was incredible. As a storytelling intern, my main role was to conduct interviews with people of the Tandana community, including but not limited to members of the staff, surrounding communities and past interns. This, with the goal of writing stories for the foundation’s blog in order to share the experiences and connections built from their work to the broader community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to travel to Ecuador. I started -and will most likely finish- my internship at home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. At first I was uncertain about how much I could contribute and learn being so far away, but soon I discovered distance was not impossible to work around.
While my communication with the rest of Tandana’s staff is sporadic, I can happily say I feel part of the team. Thanks to the contacts provided by my supervisor, I’ve been able to connect with many wonderful people; all from whom I learned from. As an experiment and part of Tandana’s effort to adapt to the challenges COVID-19 posed on their work, I was set up with a virtual host family with whom I would hopefully connect with despite not actually living with them. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to connect with them but it took no more than one zoom meeting with my assigned Equatorian parents Don Segundo and Esthercita, and siblings Kuri and Kamari, to feel like part of the family. They have made me feel appreciated and welcomed even from the distance and little by little, I’ve felt our relationship growing stronger.
Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is the Kichwa language lessons I have the opportunity to be a part of. Two times per week, I gather with the rest of the Ecuador staff to learn from our generous Teacher Margarita, who is committed to teaching us despite the challenges of online learning.
Through my work as a remote storytelling intern, I’ve had the opportunity to improve my writing, communicating and translating skills. I am grateful for the connections and the trust given to me by the Tandana Foundation and I hope my stories are able to honor what people in the communities are willing to share with me. Ultimately, distance has been challenging but has not prevented me from having a truly enriching experience. And I look forward to meeting everyone in person one day hopefully not too far from now!
Experiences like Adriana’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez