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The unique experience of interning abroad

by Sabrina Ahn March 22, 2016
The unique experience of interning abroad

This Concordia student spent four months working with children in Brazil

Being able to go to another country for an internship is something many students dream of. Antony Maiolla, a third-year psychology student at Concordia was able to experience this first hand last year when he went abroad to São Paulo Brazil from June to September. Waking up by the beach, encountering an entire new culture and learning bits of a new language were only some of the things the young student got to experience.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

It all started at Concordia, where Maiolla signed up with AIESEC, a non-profit organization that helps students find internships abroad. After interviews and information sessions, he got matched with a non-profit organization in Brazil, his country of choice. The process took about two months.

He worked for ProBrasil, an NGO which helps educate children living in favelas, which are slums in the country. With this organization, Maiolla and other interns from around the world got to create a documentary about ProBrasil and a website in three languages. The projects led Maiolla to teach English to the children living there, played with them and witnessed their daily routines.

All interns had to be able to speak English, but Portuguese was not a prerequisite for the internship. Maiolla said knowing French helped him figure out how to break the language barrier between himself and the locals. “I would ask myself what the word for something was in French, and then tell myself to make it sound more Portuguese. About half of the time I got it right,” he said.

Of course spending an entire summer in Brazil did not just mean labouring constantly. Maiolla learned about the culture of Brazil. Something he noticed in Brazil was the overall attitude of people and how it differed from Canada. “I learned that Canadians focus way too much on the economy and the system and don’t realize how much it affects their happiness,” he said.

On his birthday Maiolla went hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I knew it was going to be great, but I still did not expect to feel that kind of an adrenaline rush. I felt like I was five years old again.”

When asked if he had hesitated before going abroad on internship, the 22-year-old said: “It was a dream come true. However, I did have my worries about being robbed and perhaps being targeted for being gay. However, I saw more gay PDA in São Paulo than I’ve ever seen here. But it doesn’t mean that you’re safe while doing it.” Upon his return to Canada he said he felt like a whole new person, as though he had to learn to live in our society all over again.

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