Even for a Seasoned Traveler, International Internships Expand Horizons

May 8th, 2013 / Development Com...

Carrico “Carra” Torres ’14 was raised with a deep appreciation for the role of individual agency in the world. The daughter of two professional relief workers, she and her younger brother often accompanied their parents on trips from their home in northern New Mexico to overseas disaster relief sites.

Carrico TorresBut her two summers with Princeton’s International Internship Program “really opened my eyes,” she said. “They have been among the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Each one was gratifying in its own way. In the summer of 2011, she interned with the staff of Centro de Desarollo en Energía Solar, a Bolivian nonprofit dedicated to economic development through environmental sustainability. Working alongside staffers, Torres helped set up solar ovens in rural homesteads, tracking the benefits of this clean-energy initiative on disenfranchised populations.

She experienced, for the first time, what it meant to be a member of a professional staff committed to the welfare of others. “It got me thinking more deeply than ever about what I could do with my education,” she said. And it made her eager for another internship.

So the spring of 2012 found Torres once again bundling up for “summer” in the southern hemisphere (“I’ve had four winters in a row!”). This time, she embarked upon an internship with the International Water Management Institute in South Africa, an organization that studies water and land conservation issues across the developing world.

Carrico Torres

From the moment her plane began its descent into a sunrise so colorful that she describes it as “actually looking like the Lion King,” Torres was immersed in not only a new landscape and culture, but in international development work at a level she never anticipated.

With the support of the institute’s scientists, Torres and her research partner, Lilia Xie ’14, were given the opportunity to create their own project. After attending a conference with key policy makers from 15 African nations, they synthesized what they had learned from the experts and their own fieldwork and turned it into a 60-page report: Evaluating Stakeholder-Scientist Interactions in Research Uptake of Mozambique Strategic Analysis. “We wrote about how to build a system that tracks statistics based on good, consistent data. Sound data is the foundation of good policy.”

At the end of the internship, Torres and Xie presented their findings to the staff and scientists of the International Water Management Institute, which has since used some of their recommendations. It was a thrilling turn of events for Torres. “I’m still amazed by how seriously interested these high-level people were in our work,” she said. “I have always been aware of need in the world -- people who are hungry or who don’t have clean water to drink -- and I’ve always wanted to help.”

Carrico TorresIn addition to being able to lend a hand, Torres had hoped to emerge from her internships with a direction for her independent study projects and experience in the working world. She feels she realized all of her goals.

“I would recommend an internship to anybody,” Torres added. “I learned so much -- about international development, about working in a professional environment, and about what I might want to do as a career.” Not surprisingly, she’s leaning toward international marketing or development.

For the summer of 2013, Torres has accepted an internship in New Jersey with the marketing department of Church & Dwight, a company that makes household and personal care products. But she maintains close ties to the Office of International Programs, volunteering with the staff she has come to love -- “they are so supportive and kind” -- and helping to process new applications.

For these future traveling interns, Torres has a few words of advice. “Consider what you are most hoping to learn, because the program can match you with so many different, amazing, and pertinent experiences. Know what your goals are.” And don’t forget to pack “mosquito repellent, a waterproof bag for your camera, and extra socks.”