Tyler Rockey, a University Honors College senior majoring in geography with a Spanish minor, spent 11 weeks in the city of Ayacucho, Peru, working for the micro-lending institution Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA). Rockey is just one of many Oregon State students who are motivated to find internships that help fuel what they’re passionate about. Not only that, these internships has a positive impact on the communities and environments in which they live, throughout the nation and worldwide, and prepare Oregon State students for jobs when they graduate.
Can you describe the internship experience you had in Peru?
I worked for FINCA through the IE3 Global Internships program at OSU. The bank gives out small, collateral-free loans to poor women living around the city of Ayacucho, a town at 8,000 feet in the Andes Mountains.
The majority of my time was spent teaching a class for children of the bank clientele about saving. Each week the kids brought in a small amount of money, and in the end, for a lot of these kids, it really did add up.
The focus of FINCA’s program was on empowering women, which includes their personal dreams for the future, asking for help around the house and not tolerating domestic violence.
What did the women who received loans do with the money?
They generally started or improved small businesses. These businesses varied, but included small grocery stores, making and selling artisan work, fruit and vegetable sales, dressmaking, butcher shops and internet cafes.
Did you learn anything about these women that surprised you?
For my Honors International degree thesis, I interviewed many of the women in the program. And it’s amazing – some have had incredibly difficult lives, and are pushing through it. There was significant political violence there during the 80’s and 90’s especially, and many lost their husbands and boyfriends or other family members. Through the bank, a lot of them have been able to pull themselves out of poverty.
Where did you learn about the Peru internship?
I learned about it from the people who come into classrooms to talk about internships. My interest in the bank came from a class I took (Geo 330, Globalization and Development) about globalization and different ways to alleviate poverty. It gave me an opportunity to work with that, and to practice my Spanish.
What sort of advice do you have for students on getting internships that set them up for the future?
The opportunities on the IE3 web site are pretty impressive. They’ve got many scholarship opportunities, too. I would encourage people to go outside the U.S., or anywhere you can see faces and get to know people who have had a very different life experience.
Establishing contacts is crucial. To apply for my internship, I had to get letters of recommendation. And I think for new students coming in, it’s so important to get to know your professors. You never know on down the road when you’re going to have to ask them for help getting a job or a letter.
What are your ultimate goals personally?
I care about poverty alleviation, which in a lot of poor places happens with education and basic rights for women. And that’s something I’m really interested in.
I’m also interested in working towards improving the economic well being of people living in developing countries. My experience this summer, as well as everything I’ve read, has me convinced that an important piece of economic development is improving women’s rights and women’s education. I would like to work toward helping women and girls trapped in forced prostitution.
I will likely either apply for the Peace Corps or grad school, maybe both. Eventually, I’d like to find a career where I feel like I’m making things better.