Eli Pollak
BA International Studies (Political Economy and Development); Honors ‘25
Internship with the Montreal Protocol Unit of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization

I would like to sincerely thank Dr. William Siegel, Ms. Margaret Swaine and the Program in International and Comparative Studies for the Longwood Fellowship. My experience this past semester and summer would not have been possible without this critical, and generous, financial support. I am incredibly grateful for your sponsorship and will continue to be an extremely positive voice for this fantastic PICS resource.

As devastating wildfires swept through Maui, unprecedented floods ravaged Pakistan, and earthquakes decimated towns through Syria and Turkey, it is evident that the consequences of climate change have already started to arrive. There is so much work to be done worldwide to help save our planet. This is why I feel particularly proud and fortunate to have spent the past 8 months working for the Montreal Protocol Unit (MPU) within the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The Montreal Protocol is considered the most successful and effective environmental agreement of all time. It is expected to prevent the emissions of up to 105 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gasses, and helping to avoid 0.5 degrees C of global temperature rise by 2100. After the opportunity to work with this team, the foundation behind the agreement’s unparalleled success is clear and understandable to me. 

During my 6-month internship at UNIDO, I had the opportunity to work on projects based in Syria, Sudan, China, Bahrain, Oman, Pakistan, Malawi, Cote d'Ivoire, and several additional countries through the dissemination of key research findings via workshops, trainings, and other capacity-building activities. Each project focused on phasing harmful chemicals out of our atmosphere, healing the ozone layer, and allowing countries to continue developing in sustainable ways for years to come.

Returning to Michigan this Fall, I am extremely excited to incorporate my newfound technical skills and improved cultural understanding into my International Studies classes. As I continue to learn about development theories and ideologies and study past key moments in the foreign affairs field, I will be able to connect my experiences working at the UN to my academic studies in order to develop a more well-rounded perspective. Additionally, my passion for fighting to help save the environment has ballooned. While most of my previous work experience had revolved around humanitarian affairs, climate change is another realm of multilateral diplomacy that I want to be involved in as I debate how to start my career. I will be pursuing classes in sustainability during my last two years on campus. 

I would not have been able to have had this era of extreme personal and professional growth if it were not for the PICS program and the generosity and support of everyone involved. I am incredibly grateful for all the help I received in providing me with this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Kaitlyn Potter
BA International Studies (Political Economy and Development); BA Spanish ‘23
Internship with the Departmental Government of Antioquia under the Secretary of Citizen Participation and Culture with their program AntioquiaLAB

As an international studies major, it has been my goal to conceive a broad understanding of the causes and effects of global challenges and their potential redresses. As a Spanish major, I have aimed to become familiar with languages, people, and cultures different from my own. While I am unsure as to what career I would like to pursue, at the end of the day, I want to be able to help people. My interdisciplinary education through the Program in International and Comparative Studies has allowed me to develop problem-solving, communication, and analytical skills. At the same time, I have also been able to relate this knowledge to my research interests in food diplomacy and translation. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree in the spring, I elected to continue my education in international studies and Spanish at the University of Michigan through the AMDP in transcultural studies. 

This summer, in order to better prepare for my graduate education, especially as it pertains to translation, I lived and worked in Medellín, Colombia. I picked Colombia because, although I had previous experience living in a Spanish-speaking country through my CGIS program, I wanted to become accustomed to a different dialect of Spanish than what we are traditionally taught in the U.S.A., which tends to be Spanish from Mexico or Spain. Moreover, I was prompted by my INTLSTD 401 seminar on international human rights to research more on Colombia’s rapidly developing economy following the armed conflict and the potential role of trading agricultural products. With the help of the organization The Intern Group, I was able to secure an internship with the departmental Government of Antioquia under the Secretary of Citizen Participation and Culture with their program AntioquiaLAB. AntioquiaLAB is a program designed for the youth of the department to help facilitate the co-creation of collective actions and nonviolence. As an intercultural communication intern, my responsibilities ranged from planning events to researching international exchange opportunities.

I was able to join my work team at several of the events we planned for youth groups throughout the department. In July, I traveled to Apartadó, a town in the municipality of Urabá located near the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Urabá. The purpose of our team’s visit was for the “Urabá Carnival of Life” to help develop the next generation of local leaders through the programming from AntioquiaLAB. Most of the people in the village had never met an American before. However, after a few short days of interacting and conversing with the high school students, I was able to identify the major regional differences between the people of Apartadó and the Paisas of Medellín: food. Not only do people from the two regions speak differently, but their ways of life also distinctly revolve around their agricultural products. Medellín, heavily influenced by Spanish conquistadors, is situated in the mountains and heavily relies on the production and display of flowers and coffee; “Apartadó”, on the other hand, means “river of plantains” in the local Indian language and is much more influences by the indigenous and Afro-Colombian tropical cultures. Since coffee and flowers are more easily grown near Medellín and are more in demand internationally, this has contributed to the accumulation of wealth in the city versus the more rural coastline. Throughout the rest of the trip, I facilitated group activities discussing how we can achieve the United Nations' sustainable development goals in our own communities as well as how climate change affects societies located near water. 

I would like to thank Dr. William Siegel and Mrs. Margaret Swaine and PICS for their backing of my internship abroad this summer. This experience would not have been possible without their generous aid and consideration. My PICS and Spanish education allowed me to make the most of my time in Antioquia. Not only did I learn many things about the Spanish language beyond what my formal education prepared me for, but I also learned more about myself and my ability to adapt to and thrive within unfamiliar environments. Being able to communicate with Colombians in their own language while living and working with them in their country helped to shift my position from an American outsider to that of a cultural ambassador. This opportunity has confirmed I am on the right track in my educational career as well as solidifying the early stages of my capstone research project on food diplomacy.

Andres Velasco
BA International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation) ‘25 
Internship with IMPACT

This past semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Freiburg, Germany, through the CGIS sponsored European Union in Freiburg program. Through this program, I was exposed to an entirely different environment than what I am used to. From the language to the social norms, my transition from going from Chicago to Ann Arbor seemed miniscule compared to going from the Midwest to Southern Germany. Additionally, I was immersed into the world of politics and government, as I was able to dive deeper into the study of government, specifically through the lens of a prevalent and influential intergovernmental system like the European Union. I had the transformative opportunity to be exposed to an environment that I was content and fulfilled with, all while being completely immersed in my majors studies. As a result of interacting with the culture and gaining more insight and familiarity with Germany, I made the decision to seek an opportunity to extend my stay, all while continuing my journey in academic and professional development. Fortunately, I was able to secure an internship opportunity with a nonprofit organization located in Berlin, called IMPACT. Through this opportunity, I was able to have a better understanding of a potential career route within the nonprofit sector. Ultimately, my experience was one that allowed me to have real exposure within my major, all while immersing me in a new environment. However, it is without a doubt that this would not have been possible without the help of PICS, who were generous enough already to support me during my time in Freiburg, as well as the help of Dr. William Siegel and Mrs. Margaret Swaine.

As someone who has had exposure within the inner workings of research, I have been able to have a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses with research. As a result, finding a position in which I could continue having exposure with research, while working on tasks that I was best suited at, was important. Consequently, being able to land a position at IMPACT was rewarding. IMPACT is a civil society organization that deals with conducting and producing research to aid the development of Syria, through working with Syrian civil society organizations. Through IMPACT, I had the opportunity to gain exposure to content that I was unfamiliar with. It was both refreshing and new, as I had spent the previous semester studying the inner workings of the European Union, and had little knowledge on the local and domestic issues within Syria. My work consisted of literature review, from reading over research papers to making suggestions on content to contributing towards the writing of papers. All in all, it was work that I had previous exposure to, however, new in the sense that I had no previous exposure to the content being addressed. This allowed me to broaden my understanding of issues going on in the world, while being able to sharpen my skills. Now, as I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but continue to feel reassurance as an international studies major, due to not only the opportunity of being able to work in a different country, but because the topics within previous international studies lectures was now right in front of me. 

This year has truly been a transformative experience, as I have been able to gain more clarity with what my major can do for me, through embarking on real experiences. I not only feel more confident with the future trajectory of my major, but I have a better understanding of the different possibilities within my career.