BA/MA Economics and International Relations, Minor in African Studies
This summer I had the great fortune of returning to Zanzibar, Tanzania, after participating in the Boston University’s Zanzibar study abroad program in 2014. Since returning from my first trip to Zanzibar I knew I wanted to return the next summer, I just had to figure out how. I researched internship programs in Zanzibar, but most seemed to be pay-to-volunteer systems that were both costly and didn’t quite offer the skill building internship experience I was seeking. Spring semester came around, and I started working on my senior thesis on microfinance in Tanzania. As I was researching organizations, I decided to try reaching out to them and see if they were interested in an intern. Fortunately for me, I received several positive responses, one of which was YOSEFO, a microfinance organization based in Mwanakwerekwe, Zanzibar, where I would be their first intern ever.
I knew I wanted to do this internship, but was concerned about the feasibility of working with them since they couldn’t offer me any financial support. I was on the fence when, quite serendipitously, I was offered a solution: BU’s Engineering Department had been planning a Health Initiatives trip that summer to Zanzibar. Early in the spring semester, Dr. Zaman, who was in charge of the trip, reached out seeking feedback and advice for his trip. I maintained contact with them as they planned, and in May they offered me a position as the trip coordinator. It was perfect—I would get to help coordinate the trip for three students and the director, and they provided a stipend that covered my travel and living expenses. In addition to that, I had applied for the CAS Honor’s Thesis Travel Grant and was awarded a grant in support of my research. Between the two I was able to make my trip to Zanzibar work financially, while getting to do the internship that made my trip meaningful.
The trip itself turned out better than I could have ever hoped for. Through my internship, I learned so much about the limitations and solutions of microfinance in Tanzania, I gained valuable skills and knowledge, and also collected amazing information and data for my thesis. The coordinator position was a lot of fun, getting to show new-comers around the island that I had really begun to cherish. In a typical day I’d go into work in the morning, we’d usually make a site visit to a rural area and while the managers were collecting loan repayments I’d register new clients. After filling out a daily report in the office, I’d get back to town in the afternoon and either meet up with the students, go to an interview with another microfinance institution, or have a Swahili lesson. I lived in town so I’d return to my apartment afterwards and make dinner with my roommates, two recent European graduates who were both volunteers for the UN. Time flew by, and at the end of the two months I was still amazed that I had been able to make it work. This was one of the best two months of my life, and I’m so happy that I was able to make my dreams happen and am grateful to all the people that helped me do it.