Consulting In Spanish: Rachel George’s Summer Internship

By: Rachel George (Q21)

I think consulting is hard enough without having to do it in Spanish.

This summer I had to do just that while interning with the Social Entrepreneur Corps in Ecuador for two months. The program is an arm of Community Enterprise Solutions (CES), a “social impact innovation incubator and implementation organization” with bases in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Ecuador. The Social Entrepreneur Corps program is CES’s way to bring socially-minded college students into the field to assist them in supporting and growing local businesses, as well as increase access to important items for peoples’ health. While I was there, the twenty-one other interns and I would go out into rural villages for two weeks at a time, where we conducted free eye exams, sold water filters and reading glasses, and worked on deliverables to assist CES’s long-term projects dealing with financial literacy classes and safer, healthier wood stoves. We also met with local businesses and groups to conduct needs analyses and assist them in with various marketing and financial problems.

I struggled a little with my ability to be useful during this trip, as I think almost other interns did. I was especially frustrated with the barrier that often appeared during our needs analyses, when my feeling of “foreignness” and my Spanish level meant that I often missed pieces of information that the client was telling us. How could I possibly understand all the conditions they were dealing with when I was uncomfortable and only understood 75% of their words? If consulting is about finding the solution that nobody’s thought about, I was having trouble grasping the problem in the first place. And I wasn’t the only one. But as the summer went on, living with our host families began to help us get closer to their frame of mind. I began to approach problems not as a student from Maryland, but as an intern living in Ecuador; it was an exercise in connecting, one that I’m always working on.

This summer was a summer of frustrations, of excitement, of good friends and lots of learning. Now that I’m back home, I miss my host mom and sister. I miss saying “que pase bien” as we walk out of a store, and riding in the back of a truck up a freezing mountainside. I miss the juices made of blackberry and guava and strawberry and even cantaloupe. I already want to go back.

My supervisor said something to us on one of our last days in the field. He’s twenty-seven years old and is from Caracas, Venezuela. After we got back that day, I wrote it down as best as I could remember.

 

“If you take nothing else from this trip, if you take nothing from the work or even the program, take the experiences you had here, the people you met and the things they taught you.

This trip is about learning that you have a comfort zone… and there’s a reality outside of it. That there are people struggling to live and support their families and thrive everywhere else in the world.

So do something with these experiences you’ve gained here. Don’t just go back to the US and get an office job and forget about them—or do get an office job, but don’t leave these experiences behind. Do something.”

 

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