Neagheen Homaifar ’10 helped to create a financial literacy program for a microfinance bank in Mexico City, and Samantha Fang ’10 examined practices on trade and sustainable energy while writing articles for an international organization in Geneva. Kaitlyn Coil ’10 studied alternative splicing in neurons at a university in Buenos Aires, while Bisnhu Thapa ’10 lived and worked with children at a shelter in Dehradun, India. These are just a sampling of the variety of internships that 29 Harvard students arranged, secured, and then pursued this past summer as part of the Weissman International Internship Program. The program, which is administered by the Office of Career Services, was established in 1994 by Paul ’52 and Harriet Weissman to help foster the development of Harvard College students’ understanding of the global community in which they live and work. Since its inception, the Weissman Program has enabled more than 350 students to work in fields ranging from public service to business, science to arts administration.
In their final reports, the 2008 Weissman interns related the joys and challenges of living and laboring in another culture: negotiating new environments, working with a supervisor, and operating in another language. Lois Beckett ’09, who wrote features for a women’s magazine in Mumbai, India, detailed a reaffirmed interest in international journalism, particularly in areas of human rights and development. After spending the summer at a community health organization in Sikoro, Mali, Katherine Walter ’10 related the sometimes frustrating but infinitely rewarding experience of working with a public health project in a developing country. Michael Nguyen ’09 expressed a feeling that he is on the way to finding a true passion after spending the summer working with Lawyers for Human Rights in Durban, South Africa. Xiang Ling Yap ’10, who worked in Geneva, found her work on national cybersecurity programs for developing countries to be a very instructive experience, and she is now seriously considering a future in science and technology policy.
The Weissman Program was designed for returning undergraduates to ensure that students enrich the Harvard community and, in turn, have their remaining undergraduate time enhanced by their global experiences. Each year, the Weissman interns who have newly returned are welcomed back at an annual luncheon held at the Harvard Faculty Club. Last week (Oct. 31), the 2008 interns spoke with Paul and Harriet Weissman, Associate Dean for Centers and International Activities Jay Taft, and others of insights gained, perspectives shifted, and worldviews broadened. In most cases, internship experiences not only yielded significant workplace accomplishments but also had a significant impact on students’ personal, professional, and academic plans. For many, having such an opportunity for career and cultural exploration has fueled a passion for further international experience, be it work, study, purposeful travel, or research abroad. And that is certainly something for Harvard — and the world — to celebrate.