Virtually in Mexico

by tuftsigl
Jul 10
Annabelle Roberts is an Empower Fellow majoring in psychology and political science.  She is a member of the class of 2016.
For several weeks now I have virtually been in Mexico. By that I do not mean that I am packing, buying plane tickets, or traveling to the border. Instead, through Skype and email, I have been in contact on a weekly basis with team members in Mexico City for my internship with Value for Women this summer. Value for Women is an international organization and much of the work that I do, while based in my off-campus house in Somerville, Massachusetts, focuses on promoting women entrepreneurs in Mexico and Latin America. 

So what is it like interning virtually? There certainly are some benefits. I have a flexible schedule, solid Internet connection, and limited distractions. For much of the work that I am doing, there is no need to be abroad. My tasks range from facilitating weekly Skype meetings, to writing a blog about recent publications, to designing a survey to gathering information about gender metrics in Mexico.
On the other hand, the biggest drawback to interning virtually, besides missing out on the cultural immersion and enjoyment of traveling, is communication. My weekly communications with the other team members spreads across several continents, as frequent travel often leaves them Skyping in to meetings from Guatemala, Mali, and Turkey. Between international travel and an incredible amount of work, team members have busy schedules that make communication a challenge. For example, I had to interview several team members for an article I am writing, but had to cancel due to difficulties with time zones and stomach bugs.

Overall, I am glad to have the opportunity to work on projects I care about and support women entrepreneurs. Last summer, I worked with social entrepreneurs at Ashoka Thailand, but interning with Value for Women is the first time I have focused on the issue of gender. Gender is a particularly important issue because only 35 percent of entrepreneurs in emerging markets are women. Supporting women entrepreneurs helps raise families out of poverty and promotes sustainable development. Value for Women provides research and development initiatives as well as technical support to directly help small and growing women-led enterprises. I am excited to continue working with them throughout the summer, even if I’m not leaving the country.