2017 Summer Interns

The Schull Yang International Experience Award, supported by Joseph Schull (BA ‘82, MA ’85) and Anna Yang (BCL, LLB ’88), helps undergraduate and graduate students gain first hand international experience related to their fields of study. The award provides full or partial funding to assist students with tuition, travel, and other expenses related to their international experience. The Schull Yang International Experience Award is part of the McGill International Experience Awards. For more information, click here.

The Internship Offices Network is pleased to announce the selected McGill students for the 2017 summer internship at the United Nations World Food Programme in Panama, and the recipients of the Schull Yang International Experience Award, Millaray Freire-Archer and Peter Garber.

Millaray Freire-Archer, BA & Sc Cell/Molecular Biology & International Development Studies

Millaray is a second-year student at McGill currently working on her B.A.Sc. Her major concentrations are international development and cell/molecular biology. Her Chilean heritage has driven an interest and passion for Latin American studies. To that end, she is interning this summer in the Communications and Knowledge Unit at the United Nations World Food Programme’s regional office in Panama. She hopes to be able to compound this work with academic research into food security in a Latin American context upon her return to McGill. She would like to pursue a career in medicine, with a specific focus on development either through international relief work, or local work with marginalized populations.

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I am entering my third year as a Bachelor of Arts student at McGill, majoring in international development with a double minor in pathology and social studies of medicine. I’m interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, with a focus on social medicine. I have a broader interest in relief work and development in areas such as food security and education, and in women and girls’ empowerment. This summer, I had the unique opportunity to further explore my interest in global food security as an intern at the United Nations World Food Programme’s Regional Office in Panama City.

I wanted to do an internship to get a firsthand look at what it means to work in a global field. In an area as hands-on as development, reading about the work of development organizations is not enough to gain an understanding of the challenges of the field. At heart, WFP’s mission is to end world hunger. Since 2015, WFP has been working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically numbers 2 and 17, which have to do with achieving food security, and creating lasting global partnerships. In practice, this means implementing food aid and relief programs, which directly deliver food to areas in emergency situations, and implementing sustainable development programs to help communities achieve food security and resilience to future shocks.

As a Communications and Knowledge intern, my tasks included translating articles, news releases and reports, graphic design, research, and creating content for social media. I was also encouraged to use part of the workday to develop personal projects. I chose to work on drafting a proposal for a local pilot project surrounding food waste, and writing articles promoting WFP’s new development programming for third-party websites. My overarching learning objective was to gain a clearer understanding of how the WFP works. I was especially interested in how WFP navigated between programming providing direct aid, and programming focused on capacity-building to slowly reduce the need for aid, which can sometimes be at odds. A highlight of the internship was being able to explore these questions with WFP employees. I spoke to the communications officers, the logistics officers, the security officers, and even the Regional Director. Everyone was always open to talking about their roles and the projects they were working on, which was an invaluable resource.

I found that at times, the internship required self-direction. The workload was not always steady, so there were times when I had to take initiative, which I initially found challenging. However, I quickly learned techniques to make sure I was still able to contribute as best I could. I spent these periods brainstorming new projects, improving existing ones, and reading up on the WFP and its current programming.

My academic background was helpful to understanding the recent shift the WFP has made from food aid to food assistance (with a focus on sustainability). I had an understanding of the shift in discourse in the field of international development and of development programming, like school meals. I also had some idea of the cultural and political challenges the WFP faces in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This internship has been important in shaping my career because it helped me explore the policy and programming side of development. I also learned a great deal about food security, which, although an integral part of global health, was a topic I had not explored. Now, I’m intrigued by the links the WFP recognizes between nutrition and health care - for example, their HIV programming, where they deliver specialized nutritious foods to reduce the risk of people developing TB secondary to their HIV.

I am receiving credit for this internship, as an international development course (INTD 499). For this class I’ll be writing about the WFP and its role as an international organization, drawing on my experience working at the Regional Office. I am very excited to have Professor Lisa Bornstein, of the School of Urban Planning, as my supervisor. I was also extremely lucky to receive funding for this internship through the Schull Yang International Experience Award. This was invaluable, as it allowed me to get firsthand experience with a development organization in the region they target, and allowed me to explore a vital area of global health that I was not involved with before. For the award and this important experience, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to Ms. Anna Yang and Mr. Joseph Schull.

UNWFP interns (left to right): Olivier Li, Hunter Trowbridge, Milly Freire-Archer, and Peter Garber.


Peter Garber, BA Environment

Peter is a third year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in environment and development with a minor concentration in geography. From an early age, issues surrounding the environment and the life it encompasses have interested Peter. After enrolling at McGill, he was able to contextualize this interest into new concepts: sustainable development, conservation, ecology, and sound economics. Peter is looking forward to interning with the United Nations World Food Programme, with hopes to contribute to the UN's efforts as well as to better understand the interaction between food, people, and the environment.

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I am entering my fourth year of study, majoring in environment and development with a minor concentration in geography. Before McGill, I spent most of my time in Rhode Island, dividing my time between various activities including music, sports, and work, among others. While much of my everyday focus responded to these tasks, there seemed to be a latent consideration of the environment surfacing beside the regular attention given to these activities. Overtime, this environmental recognition grew stronger and broader, encompassing both the human-inhabited and remote areas of the Earth, as well as the numerous forms of life within their limits. I enjoy learning about the environment, and I have been recently searching for ways to incorporate its well-being and consideration into my everyday focus. The Internship Office Network’s bulletin promoting an internship with the United Nations World Food Programme Regional Bureau in Panama, Communications and Knowledge Management Unit seemed to present a way to actuate this goal.

Food and the environment are inextricably linked, and in order to ensure the continued security of both, it appears that they must be studied together. This internship offered the opportunity to study these connections through the lens of a large, intergovernmental organization in a rapidly changing region: Latin America. Primarily, the World Food Programme (WFP) is a humanitarian branch of the United Nations, and it is the largest of its kind fighting hunger worldwide. Specifically, the WFP supports emergency responses, relief and rehabilitation efforts, development initiatives, and other special programs. Through these activities, the WFP helps about 80 million people in about 80 countries every year.

With the organization’s mission in mind, my learning objectives were broad and mainly open-ended. Principally, I intended to explore the food-environment connection; however, beyond this objective, I hoped to learn about the numerous aspects related to the internship: the United Nations, Central America and Panama, the Spanish language, and office work in general. Accordingly, my duties as an intern helped to pursue these objectives. These responsibilities included media monitoring, drafting summaries for the internal “WFP in the News” briefing, translating articles and news releases, editing articles, as well as transferring the organization’s media to a new, more accessible networking platform.

The work was surely intriguing, and many highlights followed during the months spent at the office. Notably, our colleagues stood out as the most meaningful facet of the internship. As interns, our views were asked for and valued by our co-workers; moreover, their welcoming demeanor created a familiar, warm atmosphere that lasted throughout the day. The cubicles did not keep people from sharing, connecting, and laughing with one another, and the office was rarely silent. Beyond friendly relations, I learned about their histories and perspectives, which were often complex, varied, and uniquely personal; our co-workers were remarkably open and eager to talk and teach about mostly any topic. Altogether, our colleagues established a balance where we simultaneously existed as students, appreciated co-workers, and close friends.

A garden I helped plant by the office serves as another highlight of the internship. Here, I learned much about different varieties of plants and their characteristics. Moreover, the most significant feature of the garden was the office’s participation. Many people brought in tools, tips, and seeds to tend and enlarge the garden. Whether or not it continues, it was an enjoyable experience that had a lot to share.

In all, the highlights outweighed the challenges; notwithstanding, there were a few. Firstly, while I have studied Spanish, communication proved to be a bit of an obstacle outside of the office. On another note, inside of the office, I was not familiar with some of the software programs we used. Time and effort helped to overcome these issues, and both helped me learn.

While I have taken classes related to the WFP’s work in international development and aid, this internship has helped nurture both my interest in the subject as well as my curiosity towards seeking routes to global well-being. This strengthened appreciation of my academic field, gained through this internship, will surely shape my educational/career path.

In particular, I would like to thank Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang for their generous contribution to the Schull Yang International Experience Award. These funds helped cover transportation and living expenses, and their support was indispensible. Gaston Bachelard said, “when the image is new, the world is new”. This grant has helped many to start illustrating.

Peter Garber and his fellow intern tending to the garden.


Xie Cheng Li, U3, BA Honours Sociology

Xie Cheng will intern at the United Nations World Food Programme in Panama City. The organization seeks to fight hunger worldwide, and deliver assistance along with international communities to improve nutrition. He will be joining the Communications and Knowledge Management Unit, whose responsibilities consist of implementing public advocacy strategy. This internship will help him conduct research on community development programs for NGOs in developing countries, and enrich his experiences in the field of public policy.

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I am a U3 honours Bachelor of Arts student studying sociology and political science. I am always passionate about international affairs and social development along with a regional interest in Latin America. Being a young Canadian, I have navigated my educational journey in French, English, and Mandarin Chinese, and learned Spanish for more than four years. My multicultural background has fueled my academic and career pursuits in public affairs and international development.

While researching about summer internships, the opportunity with UNWFP has drawn my attention. My multilingual proficiency and fields of interests seemed to be a good match, since it would be an unparalleled opportunity for me to experience the work environment within a UN organization and have a better idea of the requirements for working in one of the largest intergovernmental organizations in the world. As for learning objectives, I intended to enrich my knowledge about international development and learn about how the UNWFP utilizes media and communication tools to spread knowledge and raise awareness about food security.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the food-assistance related branch of the UN, and the world’s largest humanitarian organization dedicating to fighting hunger worldwide and delivering assistance along with international communities to improve nutrition. Tackling hunger, promoting food security, and advocating sustainable development for food have been the mission of the organization. I was an intern in the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is in Panama City. The internship lies within the Communication and Knowledge Management Unit. We work alongside with the Regional Communication Director and three other officers.

As an intern, all my responsibilities were within this unit. First, I helped implement WFP’s public information and advocacy strategy including its preparation and dissemination. For instance, I conducted research and created content on social media that facilitates knowledge sharing for end users. I strategized outreach campaigns through WFP’s social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Medium. Second, I translated articles and official reports from Spanish to English, English to Spanish, and Spanish to French that enable knowledge-sharing for internal communication within WFP. Last, I helped categorize and manage WFP’s photo database that allows cross-functional information sources for internal use.

There are many highlights throughout my internship at UNWFP. At the beginning, I was impressed by the scope of WFP’s activities. I did research about the organization before my arrival, however, it is still beyond my expectations that the organization has such a cohesive and inter-agency structure supporting different kinds of operations in the region. Different units work together in order to help implement large-scale programs such as school meals, breastfeeding initiatives, and disaster prevention training. It is very impressive to see the positive impact of these projects and how much work needed to be done with different departments in order to accomplish its initiatives. Also, I have improved my written Spanish since I was dealing with social media posts and reports every day. I had to translate documents and proofread many communication materials. Furthermore, during the lunchtime, I had the chance to talk with other UN staff who work in other departments. Talking with them allowed me to broaden my horizons and get to know more about a career in international organizations.

I have encountered some challenges during my stay in UNWFP. At the beginning, it was difficult for me to provide accurate translation from Spanish. However, my supervisors were very supportive and provided me with useful tools such as terminology reference lists and past works. Also, as per the requirement from the McBurney Fellowship, my mandate had to have direct impact on the local communities. However, as an intern with the Communications and Knowledge Management Unit in the Latin American headquarter, we do not usually have direct contact with the beneficiaries of our programs. I discussed my challenge with my supervisor and he offered me the opportunity to be in charge of a campaign called “feedingdreams”. In that initiative, I was in direct contact with local communities in Venezuela. They will be sending us the videos they took about their experience with WFP programs.

This internship will allow me to complete my course SOCI499, which is dedicated to completing my research project on the effectiveness of community development programs for international organizations in developing countries, under the supervision of Professor Jan Doering.

This internship has definitely shaped my career and education path. I have deepened my understanding about international development in practice and enriched my experiences in the field of international affairs. The opportunity is a valuable asset for me, since I am planning on pursuing my graduate studies in the field of public policy.

I received funding from the McBurney Fellowship, which helped me throughout the completion of my internship including housing, transportation and other general expenses.

Xie Cheng Li during his internship in the office learning about UNWFP's school feeding programs.