NYUAD Students Participate in Global Internships, Part One

NYUAD junior Yuqi Sun visits an Ethiopian coffee plantation to gather data during his internship with Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED).

Over the past few weeks, Salaam has shared the summer experiences of a few NYU Abu Dhabi students who submitted posts on their internships, research projects, and artistic endeavors. We caught up with a few others to find out where on the globe their summer opportunities took them and what they entailed. From Addis Ababa to Santiago, NYUAD students dabbled in professions such as programming and international law, and learned a few things along the way.

We Begin in East Africa…

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mastewal Taddese, Class of 2015, launched the Qine Association for Promoting Education Quality (QAPEQ), a youth association formed by Taddese and a group of fellow Ethiopian NYUAD students that "will work toward the betterment of education quality in Ethiopia." As she explained, "We all had a shared academic experience at the secondary school level and easily agreed that something must change."

QAPEQ was launched at an inaugural youth forum that brought together students from 14 high schools in Addis Ababa alongside policymakers from the Ministry of Education and other non-governmental experts in the sector. Divided into three discussion sessions — which, Taddese said, "encouraged students and the policymakers to discuss present challenges within the country's secondary education system and the potential for improvement" — the forum also challenged participants to "construct a vision of an ideal educational environment and the role that each stakeholder would need to play in order to realize the ideal."

In addition to introducing and promoting a culture of open dialogue in Ethiopia's education sector and empowering the beneficiaries of the sector to take an active role in improving the standard of their educational experience, the forum provided students with unique access to policymakers and experts who are directly involved in crafting education policies and strategies. As Taddese said, "Action plans drafted during the event revealed the great potential and commitment among high school students to become ambassadors of active learning."

QAPEC is now in the process of completing an analysis of the information from the forum in order to design a long-term project that the association will carry out in 2014. A comprehensive report will also be presented to relevant governmental and non-governmental institutions in Ethiopia.

Elsewhere in Ethiopia, Yuqi Sun, Class of 2015, accompanied Yaw Nyarko, founder and director of NYUAD's Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED), and Isaac Baley and David Johnson, two of Nyarko's PhD students, on a weeklong research trip. With the aim of reconciling contradictory findings of market volume data in Ethiopia's coffee industry, the team trekked to remote coffee plantation fields where they experienced the production process firsthand and collected valuable data.

As Sun explained, "For some time now, Nyarko and the CTED researchers have been working closely with the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), an organization that supports the coffee industry through a more institutionalized, or formalized, market structure, thereby providing farmers and exporters with increased access to valuable market information and, in doing so, further aggregating the economic wellbeing of all involved along the supply chain. The Center provides ECX with technical support on various aspects of their operations." One such example is CTED's extensive analysis of ECX's accumulated data on coffee prices, trade volumes, memberships, and signed contracts so it can better understand the international market in which it operates and therefore more efficiently manage its development.

As a second-year undergraduate student accustomed to pondering the intangible economic theories presented in textbooks, nothing could have prepared me for experiencing true economic progress firsthand.

Yuqi Sun, Class of 2015

During the trip, the team — by speaking with local plantation experts about the entire process of cultivating coffee from planting to marketing — concluded that a certain portion of the procedure actually reduced the previously calculated trade volume by 20 percent, which explained the data discrepancy.

For Sun, the experience was "both enlightening and edifying. It profoundly shook my prior assumptions and economic views, and has undoubtedly had an impact on my academic career," he said. "As a second-year undergraduate student accustomed to pondering the intangible economic theories presented in textbooks, nothing could have prepared me for experiencing true economic progress firsthand."

Heading West

Meanwhile, across the South Atlantic Ocean, Matthew French, Class of 2015, had a summer internship with the Centro de Estudios de Justicia de las Américas (the Justice Studies Center of the Americas or JSCA) in Santiago, Chile, where he was immersed in pro-bono Inter-American international law. Primarily researching the topic of conventionality control in the Inter-American System of Human Rights — which helps strengthen the laws and institutions that provide human rights protections throughout the Americas — French "investigated not only the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and other consultative opinions from the general scope of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, but also considered a broad spectrum of academic perspectives regarding the highly debated subject." The result was a 13,000-word paper written entirely in Spanish describing the intricacies of the conventionality control in the jurisdiction of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, which is slated for publication in future JSCA reports.

Beyond research, French's internship also provided him with "great knowledge of a formal legal setting as well as valuable interactions with local and international academics through seminars in Santiago." As he explained, "Attending talks with judges of the Chilean Supreme Court and listening to seminars led by Diego García Sayán, the current president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, provided me with intriguing, tangible information regarding the topics I was studying at the JSCA as well as connections with the top professionals within the field."

Reaffirming his interest in international law, French's summer experience was an "unforgettable" opportunity. "I am excited for the prospects that the experience — and what I learned from it — may offer me in the future," he said.

Moving North

Shortly after finishing his spring 2013 semester finals, Anthony Spalvieri-Kruse, Class of 2014, headed to Mountain View, California, where he worked as a programmer at LinkedIn, the social networking site. His first week consisted largely of orientations and a "seemingly endless chain of installations" before he could begin mapping out his portion of the software stack, learning how to incorporate his own code, mastering the organization's code versioning system, and navigating LinkedIn's internal wiki pages. However, after getting settled and familiarizing himself with the company's processes, he got to coding.

Regardless of what I do after this summer, I'll go in with the skills and confidence that I gained from being there, and for that I'm extremely grateful.

Anthony Spalvieri-Kruse, Class of 2014

Under the guidance of a hands-on mentor and with the help of his team members — who routinely assisted each other by sharing skills — Spalvieri-Kruse "learned the ins and outs of pushing code to production." It was through this culture of support that he gradually found his stride on the team and "grew significantly as a programmer." As he said, "Before this internship I had no idea where I wanted to be after graduation, and to some extent that's still true. However, my time at LinkedIn gave me true exposure to software development at a major company, and the experience was wonderful. Regardless of what I do after this summer, I'll go in with the skills and confidence that I gained from being there, and for that I'm extremely grateful."

On the opposite coast, Benjamin Jance, Class of 2015, spent part of his summer in Washington, DC, working with the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council (USGBC). There, he had the opportunity to "help students breathe easier, give teachers the appropriate resources, and provide state legislators with the right tools to work with administrators to build better schools."

As a Political Science major with a concentration in the environment, Jance's internship was an ideal crossover between the two subjects and, being in DC, he connected with state legislators and leaders in Congress to track and detail the 125 green schools-related pieces of legislation that have been proposed by lawmakers since the beginning of the year. Additionally, he learned about the science behind green building and the need for green schools. "Getting familiar with and advocating for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, for example, teaches the importance of sustainable design through water usage, indoor air quality, and materials, and resources," he explained.

With this knowledge and information gleaned from the USGBC's 20 years of green building research and practice, Jance prepared documents and presentations and, switching focus from green schools to international policy, wrote briefs for more than 20 cities "summarizing key green building policies and showcasing the plans and accomplishments of cities including Jakarta, New York, and Sydney." As Jance said, "USGBC is a goldmine for those with interests in policy, environmental science, marketing, and education. I was blessed to be accepted into a community whose passions overlap with mine."

NYUAD Students Participate in Global Internships, Part Two