2015 Recipients

Learn more about the 2015 recipients:

Lina Alvarez Jaramillo
Thomas Collin-Lefebvre
Nicholas D'Ascanio
Lea Daou
Sara Gold
Emilie Horrocks-Denis
Sarah Jackson
Avrah Levitan-Cooper
Judith Li
Ava Liu
Emilie Lockey-Laplanche
Jeanne Pouliot
Katherine Robert
Gul Saeed
Gerald Sigrist
Shurabi Srikaruna
Ginny Tan
Gail Toca
Carly Walter
Annie Xie


Gul Saeed, BSc Psychology

RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Tokyo, Japan

Gul will be an intern at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo, Japan from May till August 2015. She will be working at the Lab for Affiliative Social Behavior as a summer trainee. This will give her the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of cutting-edge neuroscience research; specifically, the neural mechanism of mammalian parent-infant relationship. Pertaining to this specific topic, Gul will be assisting behavioral and histological experiments using mice; as well as, attending lecture courses throughout her time at RIKEN in order to broaden her understanding of neuropsychology as a whole.

Reach Gul gul.saeed [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).

***

At the start of the 2015 winter semester, finding a summer internship in my ideal city, Tokyo, Japan, seemed almost impossible. As a rising U2 student, I knew I wanted to make the most of my summer vacation by doing an internship that I was genuinely interested in, and for me personally, that interest lies within the discipline of Neuropsychology. Consequently, I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience at McGill. I have always felt a certain affinity to the world of psychology and neuroscience. My classes at McGill, including Abnormal Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Introduction to Neuroscience served to further intensify the passion I felt towards the discipline of neuropsychology. Gaining a sense of what the field of neuropsychology has to offer beyond the education I receive in a classroom setting is the ultimate goal I wanted to accomplish while interning over the summer.

After what felt like the most cumbersome few months of applying to different places, I was fortunate enough to secure a summer internship at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI) in Tokyo, Japan. RIKEN, Japan's largest research institute, aims to fulfill the establishment of ground breaking research and technology in order to maximize the advancement of scientific discoveries of the brain. Additionally, BSI has the goal of developing an extremely diverse ambiance. Currently, RIKEN BSI has over three-hundred scientists which include domestic and international researchers. BSI strives to create a diverse international research environment through the implementation of programs such as the "BSI Summer Program" and "BSI Science Training Program" which encourage international applicants to come to Japan in order to further their education and research skills in a wide variety of disciplines: from microscopic-level focus on entities of neural circuits, to the macroscopic-level phenomena such as behavioral interactions.

While at RIKEN BSI I was working at the Lab for Affiliative Social Behavior as a summer research trainee. This gave me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of cutting-edge neuroscience research; specifically, the neural mechanism of mammalian parent-infant relationship. Pertaining to this specific topic, I assisted behavioral and histological experiments using laboratory mice, specifically the Mus musculus. Additionally, from July 21st till the 24th, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture course offered through the BSI Summer Program. During this week I listened to guest lecturers from all around the world and met several international students and postdoctoral researchers. Overall, this lecture course week truly helped me broaden my understanding of neuropsychology as a whole.

My experience as a summer research trainee at RIKEN BSI was nothing short of amazing as the number of successes outweighed the challenges I encountered. From day 1, everyone at the lab was extremely helpful; from being patient when translating Japanese documents to English to answering all my questions and always guiding me during experiments. Although I was a bit concerned about the language barrier getting in the way of my ability to get along with my coworkers, such a problem never surfaced because every person in the lab tried to communicate in English to the best of their ability, while I tried to do so in Japanese. Adjusting to the working environment through adapting the work ethic and social etiquettes just within a few weeks of interning was a huge personal accomplishment for me. During the course of the internship, I have learned so much more than I thought I would outside the usual classroom setting. From complex procedures of how to perform rodent surgery to points which may appear very simple at the surface, but rather require specific technique, such as how to hold the laboratory animals I performed experiments on.

On the contrary, along with the successes there have been a few challenges. One of the biggest challenges I faced was having enough patience because without that, research cannot be done. During my third week at the lab, two of the mice I had collected data from during behavioral experiments died and just like that my two weeks of work became of no use. Through this I learned that with research, anything can happen so I need to be prepared for that and be resilient. Also, while studying the behavior of mice after they received a central nucleus of the amygdala lesion, I had to do the same experiment on several mice each day of the week for 3 weeks, which became both boring and tiring as I had the same routine every day. However, after collecting a good amount of data, and realizing that the effect of the lesion was significant, it felt great to be able to draw a conclusion regarding parental behavior through the experiment I, myself carried out.

Interning at RIKEN BSI gave me the amazing opportunity to contribute to the field of neuropsychology through assisting in experimentation on mice, which is the foundation of furthering in this field. I am extremely honored to have been a part of Dr. Kuroda’s lab this summer as it has helped me develop my research skills while simultaneously expanding my knowledge in neuropsychology and fostering my interest in becoming a researcher in the future.

On a final note, I would like to show my sincerest gratitude for the Arts Internship Office who awarded me the Faculty of Arts International Internship award which helped pay for my travel expenses from Montreal to Tokyo, Japan. Last, but definitely not least, I truly appreciate the support of  Mr. Joseph Schull (BA ‘82, MA ’85) and Ms. Anna Yang (BCL , LLB ’88) who are the sponsors of the Faculty of Arts International Internship award; it is because of them that students of McGill are able to gain firsthand experience in our fields beyond the Canadian border.

Gul Saeed on her last day at RIKEN BSI with Dr., the principal investigator at her lab.


Gerald Sigrist, BA Political Science

The Embassy of France to Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Gerald will be interning at the Embassy of France in Kyrgyzstan. He is a third year student majoring in political science with a double minor in Russian and German. Over the years, Gerald has developed a curiosity for foreign cultures and languages. He has particular interest in Russia and its near abroad, as well as the country’s relations with the West. With this internship he is looking forward to complementing his theoretical knowledge of international relations with a valuable, practical experience from within the diplomatic apparatus.

Reach Gerald gerald.sigrist [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).

***

Since I graduated from a French international high school in 2011, I have constantly been looking for opportunities to open up new horizons, discover other cultures and learn more foreign languages. The growing interest for English language I developed over the course of a five-month trip to Australia following graduation added to my longstanding interest for German language and put me in a position to apply for a bachelor’s degree at McGill University in 2012.

Choosing Political Science as my major concentration out of interest for the way societies around the world are organized and interact with each other, I naturally specialized in comparative politics and international relations. My emerging curiosity for the Slavic world and Russia’s near abroad strengthened after a summer Russian language program at Saint-Petersburg’s State University, and soon this region became my field of predilection.

The idea of a trip to Central Asia and an internship in Kyrgyzstan, which are the object of this report, arose logically from this interest. Contemplating various possibilities to deepen my knowledge of Russian and of the countries of the former Soviet Union, I was advised to consider Kyrgyzstan, a country of great opportunities, still strongly influenced by its Soviet legacy, whose inhabitants speak clear Russian. While I initially just intended on taking Russian language lessons in Bishkek, the country’s capital, I changed my plans when I received an unhoped for positive answer to my internship request from the Embassy of France in Kyrgyzstan. This exceptional opportunity gave me the chance to combine two of my favourite fields of interest in the span of one summer and supplement my theoretical knowledge of international relations with a practical experience from within the diplomatic apparatus.

Representing the French government and informing it about important political, social, economic and security-related developments, the Embassy of France in Kyrgyzstan also promotes French culture and France’s political and economic interests in the country. Its relatively small size made it a perfect place to intern since, unlike in a big Embassy where I would have been supervised by someone specifically responsible for one particular set of issues, I was assigned there a very wide array of tasks, fulfilled the role of a political attaché that was lacking, and was supervised directly by the Ambassador, Mr. Stephane Catta. Very kind, considerate and approachable, he played a key role in the success of this internship by trusting me, assigning me tasks of responsibility, and taking the time to frequently discuss with me current events and regional geopolitical trends.

My tasks ranged from writing the weekly press review (from Russian-language newspapers) published on the Embassy’s website to attending international conferences on behalf of the Embassy. I particularly appreciated the chance I had to take part in the three-day EU countering violent extremism training program in Bishkek (May 27-29), which not only allowed me to gain a good understanding of Central Asia’s security situation, the drivers of these risks and ways of addressing them, but also to meet high-ranking diplomats, top NGO and UN personnel and experts of security policy – an academic field I am increasingly interested in.

Besides attending these types of conferences, I spent most of my time writing memos, notes and reports about events and conferences I attended and various political, social and economic issues affecting French interests in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. These reports gave me the chance to apply in a professional setting the analytical and concise writing skills I developed at university, and covered issues as varied as the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Modi to Kyrgyzstan, the evolution of “Kumtor” gold mine’s weight in the Kyrgyz economy over the last four years, or emerging Kyrgyz politicians and general party dynamics in the months preceding parliamentary elections.

Among the highlights of my internship was the visit of Mr. Thierry Mariani, Deputy of the French National Assembly for French residents overseas (11th circumscription), who presided two international conferences taking place in Bishkek. Hearing that there was an intern at the Embassy, he proposed that I accompany him to these conferences, which not only allowed me to have an insider look into the works of the OSCE (June 2nd) and the Council of Europe (June 3rd), but also to have insightful conversations with this former Minister and the French MPs that accompanied him.

Managing one’s working time, whether at university or in a professional context, is often a challenge, and is also one I encountered during my internship. While at first I worked from home late nights and early mornings to hand in my reports as fast as possible, I progressively learned to be more efficient, which notably enabled me to work more on my Russian in tandem with the internship.

Completed outside the university framework, this internship will nevertheless deeply shape my future professional and educational paths. Professionally, it confirmed my intention to specialize in international relations, with a focus on Russia’s near abroad and a particular interest for security policy. I now intend on applying for a masters in Eurasian, Russian and East European studies after graduating from McGill. Academically, my experience in Central Asia and my work at the Embassy will be the starting point of an “Independent Reading and Research” course, which I will be taking this last semester of my bachelor, and will result in a research paper to be written by December.

Lastly, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang who supported my project through the International Experience Award I had the honor to receive, and thus not only made the financial burden of a four-month trip to distant Kyrgyzstan much lighter, but also reinforced my self-confidence by demonstrating moral support in my project and myself.

Gerald Sigrist and the group participating in the EU Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) training programme, aimed at identifying the particular security risks in the region, their drivers, and ways of addressing them.


Shurabi Srikaruna, BA Economics

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong, China

Shurabi will be interning this summer at The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, an organization dedicated to the promotion of trade and investment between Canada and Hong Kong. Shurabi’s previous experience in sponsorship, her international work experience paired with her education will help her in this position.  She hopes that she will gain a better insight of the East Asian Market and business culture.

Reach Shurabi shurabi.srikaruna [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).

***

My name is Shurabi Srikaruna and I am a U3 in the final year of my studies. I am pursuing an Economics degree with minors in Management and International Development. Prior to interning in Hong Kong this summer, I had done another internship in Asia the summer before and was drawn to the culture and atmosphere. After doing a bit of traveling through Singapore and Malaysia I was enticed and wanted to go back to Asia the summer following. Starting my minor in management last year and taking International Business really shed light on the opportunities available in Hong Kong. I learned that Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading financial cities, playing a pivotal role in world trade. The fast paced environment, coupled with increasing migration of business elites, captivated me to pursue an internship there.  

I interned at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (CanCham); a proactive non-government body representing more than 1200 members with business interests in Canada, Hong Kong and Mainland China. Founded in 1977, it is today the biggest Canadian business association outside of Canada and one of the largest and most influential business groupings in Asia-Pacific.

As one of their four summer interns, I was chosen to work in their membership department. The duties associated with this position involved invoice management, processing memberships, updating the internal system, and customer relations’ management. I was specifically in charge of reaching out to current members and providing them with advice and assistance for increasing their business using Chamber services. I was also expected to attend the networking events and the speaker panels to create business by seeking out new clients and encouraging them to join the Chamber. CanCham’s existence heavily relies on membership dues and events, and hence it is very important to increase the membership base. Alongside this role, I was tasked with the role of conducting research for the Chamber in order to increase their value proposition. 

Having previous experience in business development helped me to excel in this position. Most of my previous roles in business development were in Canada and were for student societies. Through my internship at CanCham I was hoping to diversify my experience globally and work with corporate giants rather than students. I was also very interested in learning about the Chinese business culture. This internship involved skills training pertaining to information management and Excel, which will prove to be very useful in many of my future endeavors.  

The Chamber is heavily dependent on their interns to function, which allowed for us interns to be extremely busy over the course of our internship. One personal task I took upon my self was revamping the intern manual that was provided. When I first received it, I found it slightly outdated and hard to follow. I thought it would be in the best interest of my supervisor to cut down the hours she would spend training her interns if I could edit the intern manual to display the changes. This was one of my huge successes as she was very happy with the outcome.

One of the challenges I faced during the course of my internship was getting used to the business culture.  Since I started during the busiest time of the year for CanCham, I found the work hours extremely long and the fast paced environment to be overwhelming. But as the days progressed, and I learned the tricks and trade to the job, I became much more comfortable and really started to enjoy the rush as I found it exhilarating.

This internship has given me insight to a multitude of industries and an array of opportunities that are available in different sectors. Meeting new people and learning about their path to success was interesting and eye opening. After taking minutes for the Chamber’s Sustainable Development Committee, I have decided to write my research paper on the future economic growth of Hong Kong using sustainable resources. I will be receiving credit for my internship through INTD 499 under the supervision of Economics Professor Taweewan Sidthidet.

I am very grateful for the funding I received from Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang through the Faculty of Arts International Experience Award. Hong Kong, being one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, would not have been as enjoyable if it wasn’t for their support. I would also like to thank Anne Turner and Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo at the AIO for making every step of my internship this year and last year possible. They truly have changed my time here at McGill.

Shurabi tabling at The China Series: One Belt, One Road Event, hosted by CanChamHK and KPMG.


Carly Walter, BA Political Science

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong, China

Carly will be an intern at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, an organization dedicated to the promotion of trade and investment between Canada, Hong Kong, and Mainland China. Carly has previously interned in Singapore, and firmly believes in the necessity of cross-cultural collaboration that Chambers of Commerce can provide to Canadian businesses. She hopes that this summer will prepare her for a future international career path.

Reach Carly carly.walter [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).

***

I caught “the bug” for international education at a young age as the child of expats, and since that time, have returned to Asia for many short-term trips, as well as two summer-long internships. My interest in this particular region has carried over into my choice of academic program at McGill; I have selected several courses and paper topics because of their connection to Asia. My interest in this particular internship at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong was driven by my longing to better understand how cultural differences are accommodated in highly diverse business settings. I sought an answer to the deeper question of whether our “home country” identities are important when commerce ties us together on an important and frequent basis.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is a non-government body that provides a networking platform for 1,100 individual and corporate members with business interests in Canada, Hong Kong and Mainland China, as well as the broader Asia-Pacific region. CanCham is one of the largest Canadian business organizations outside of Canada, and one of the most active international chambers in Hong Kong.

The Chamber provided an excellent opportunity to see a marriage of cultures in one small office. My experience proved that differences will persist whenever people with diverging pasts are brought together. I had to be willing to reconsider values and norms that I have taken for granted as “universal,” and remember that I am different because of my westernized educational background. While this diversity may seem like a barrier to efficiency for some, my summer at the Chamber, and in Hong Kong in general, confirmed my belief that cross-cultural collaboration is often the best springboard to innovative business practices. Exposure to new practices is a sure-fire way to keep any business or individual questioning the ways things have “always been done”.

The community of Canadian professionals in Hong Kong can be lauded for their holistic and intensive investment into the Canadian Chamber. Their dedication of time, money, and skill is certainly the reason that it is the largest Canadian Chamber in the world. This wide scale investment is both a reason for the Chamber’s success, and the catalyst for a few unique challenges for its employees. When there are so many people invested in its operations on a volunteer basis, it can be a bit difficult at times to satisfy the preferences of everyone involved while abiding by the standardized workplace practices at the Chamber. In my role, I learned that excellent communication skills, a sense of professionalism, and a bit of patience were integral in interacting with individuals with diverse opinions.

In my role as the events management trainee, I was responsible for logistical tasks associated with event planning and management prior to and during the events. In my time at the Chamber, they hosted their two biggest events of the year, the Annual Ball and the Canada Day Celebration, as well as numerous smaller boardroom and external events. My tasks required excellent communication skills, attention to detail, as well as a high degree of professionalism. It was important that I remain proactive to ensure that all of these events ran smoothly. Another barrier was my lack of Cantonese language skills, which proved difficult at times when speaking with vendors and some participants. Luckily, my colleagues were able to assist me with communication when required. Beyond these roles, I was given additional responsibilities including interviewing incumbent candidates for my position for the following work term, and doing analytics reports on past events to understand their attractiveness to different members.

Although I do not envision myself pursuing a long-term career in events management, this internship certainly has given me very interesting insights into the opportunities that exist for Arts Graduates in several multinational companies, and has further ignited my passion for working internationally. Hong Kong’s work atmosphere exudes excitement and energy that is difficult to match for young professionals. I will be reflecting further on my internship as I complete a research paper under the supervision of Professor Krzysztof Pelc. One topic that I would like to focus on is Hong Kong’s diminishing role as the “gateway to China” for the rest of the world.

The funding that I received for this internship allowed me to spend more of my time after work meetings with a diverse range of Hong Kong professionals at various networking events. I thoroughly enjoyed becoming aware of the broad range of career paths that exist beyond the ones that I had considered available to me before the summer. From almost every interaction that I had, I learned something about cultural business practices or market trends, and these conversations have given me a lot to think about as I stand at the precipice of my career.

Carly Walter working at one of the Game booths at the Annual Ball to match “the EX” theme.