Summer Internship Spotlight: Annika Paulsen

August 01, 2012

Annika Paulsen '12 has used her internship at As Green As It Gets to step out of her comfort zone and expand her study abroad experiences. With fellow recent Knox graduate Bobbi Stuebi '12, she has helped the non-profit in Guatemala support small local farmers in the area.

Briefly explain your summer internship.
I am working for a non-profit business incubator called As Green As It Gets (AGAIG) located in San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala. The purpose of the organization is to lend support (both financial and business knowledge) to local entrepreneurs so that they can successfully market finished products in domestic and international markets. We believe that environmental sustainability is a key part of successful business (not just an after-thought when possible), and we work outside of business to promote healthy environments such as our reforesting initiatives. The most basic goal of the organization is to empower Guatemalans to create their own success. (Photo right: Interns go kayaking during some down time at their internship in Guatemala.)

My title is development intern so I will be working to obtain grants and manage microloans through the organization. A few of the projects I am trying to get funded include a small clinic that will allow locals to get basic procedures and provide women's healthcare, and a secondary school for rural children grades 7-9 (education beyond 6th grade is not currently available).

Describe your day-to-day experiences so far.
Everyday is different with AGAIG. I spend a significant amount of time researching grant opportunities and writing grants. I also update the social media sites for AGAIG such as Facebook and Twitter. Our organization really emphasizes hands-on experience so I also have the chance to visit coffee farmers in the field, learn about clay filter water purifiers, and other exciting projects!

How did you learn about this opportunity?
Bobby Stuebi '12 is the one that found the opportunity. We both wanted to go somewhere to improve our Spanish and do meaningful work. (Photo right: Bobby Stuebi '12 and Annika Paulsen '12 in Guatemala during their internship.)

Can you cite an example of how your experiences at Knox have benefited you in the internship?
My study abroad experience in Thailand has been really helpful during the adjustment phase. I feel pretty comfortable walking around this foreign area, trying new things, taking risks. My environmental studies classes have allowed me to have insightful conversations with my fellow interns, supervisors, and farmers because I have a very solid foundation for a diverse set of environmental knowledge. I am so happy that I took urban agriculture with Chair of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman this spring because I've used that hands-on experience almost daily here!

How do you think this internship experience will benefit you in the future?
The benefits of this experience seem endless. Obviously my Spanish will be much better, and I will be more comfortable speaking to native Spanish speakers. It is so important to me that I am able to communicate in Spanish because I am really interested in pursuing a career in sustainable development, and I will very likely be in a Spanish-speaking country. It has been really interesting to see how a small non-profit, run by foreigners, interacts in the community. I do think this experience will better prepare me for graduate school, but I don't plan on applying for a few years.

What has been the best part of your internship so far?
The best part of my internship is interacting with people who live here. I love trying to communicate with them, and it is really rewarding when I find myself having conversations with people in Spanish. I still have a lot to learn, but it's a lot of fun.

What inspired you to pursue the internship?
I just graduated in June, and I knew that if I didn't take this opportunity to live abroad I might never do it. I think it's really healthy to get out of one's comfort zone and for me, that meant moving to Guatemala.