Global Health Engagement from an Intern’s Perspective

Global Health Engagement from an Intern’s Perspective

By: Alexa Brenner

AlexaMy name is Alexa Brenner and I am currently a junior undergraduate Honors student at the University Of Maryland (UMD), College Park. I am majoring in Government and Politics with a concentration in International Relations, and I also have minors in International Development and Conflict Management, as well as Spanish. After taking several courses on international development, with one specifically focused on health outcomes in Africa, I became acquainted with USU’s Center for Global Health Engagement (CGHE) and took an interest in possible internship opportunities at the Center. I soon came to realize that the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Program (APRRP) fit the bill in terms of expanding my knowledge base of what I learned at UMD.

At the beginning of my tenure in September, I started feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to read a million words a minute to be able to fully understand the APRRP project and its history. However, this feeling soon subsided as I began to get acquainted with the program’s vocabulary and jargon. Soon thereafter, I was comfortable enough to even help format course presentations and analyze data from previous courses. By the end of my 4-month of my internship, I realized that I have learned a great deal about terms such as security cooperation and military-to-military health engagements.

One of the major lessons I take with me is that nothing in global health is predictable. Courses can get canceled at the last minute and confusion can arise regarding the safe shipment of training equipment no matter how strong our relationships are with our partner nations. This makes flexibility and adaptability in the field of utmost importance, and I have to commend the APRRP team for maintaining their composure in such stressful times, and the ease with which they continued moving forward with other program-related tasks despite sudden changes. As I leave CGHE, I will take these qualities with me and apply them in my future endeavors.

Another lesson I learned is the realization that global health engagement is constantly changing and evolving. Beyond APRRP, I now have a greater awareness of the progress being made in the world in the field of global health through working for CGHE and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Again, this underscores the need for strict planning combined with composed flexibility. One final lesson I will take away from this internship is that organization is key, especially when handling a wide array of data, whether on paper or electronic.

From the perspective of a student, I really enjoyed my time at USU’s CGHE with the APRRP team. This was my first internship since beginning college, and it was very useful to see how my UMD courses apply to real life programs, and not just in hypothetical situations discussed in classrooms. In my development classes, we were exposed to the train-the-trainer concept and other different pathways to sustainable change, and I could see the applicability of many of these concepts first hand through my internship. It makes me confident in the work that CGHE is doing and excited to see how my classes at school are paying off. As I begin working towards my Master’s in Public Policy with a focus in International Development next fall, I am excited to apply what I have learned at CGHE to my education. There are still countless possibilities and I am excited to make my own impact in the field one day.  

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