Initial Thoughts: Getting to Know Glocal Students and its Programs
I understood that my experience in the Hebrew University's Glocal International Development M.A. program would be challenging and interesting from the very first day. I was immediately intrigued by the practice and hands-on experience that the program delivers, but I was also interested in the experience and background of the other students in the program. After arriving at Hebrew U's beautiful campus in Jerusalem and meeting students, I was positive that there was no way I could complete the 18-month program and leave feeling empty- handed.
Preparing for the Journey with Practical Skills
Coming into the program with some relevant experience with NGOs, I wasn't completely lost on the first day of classes, but I soon learned that my previous perspectives on social impact and community development were limiting my ability to create a lasting change for those in need. Through the program and its rigorous academic course, I was exposed to the ins-and-outs of community development and learned best practices to empower communities and design development projects based on a keen understanding of communal power dynamics. One of my new perspectives was that achieving your goal could take time due to various external factors that affect change, which was important preparation for some of the challenges that I faced during my internship. We also had courses on sustainability, which gave us interesting insights on how to engage communities on social and environmental issues. Overall, the courses helped me clarify my desired outcomes in studying international development, and overcome some of the uncertainty of my upcoming intern experience.
Taking Off on My Journey to Become a Change-Maker
My internship was in Buenos Aires, Argentina with a local urban planning organization and the department of urban planning at the local university. During the internship, we worked on participatory approaches for urban planning trying to make ‘informal’ areas more formal in the cities and various urban communities. The goal of our work with the community was to empower local people, develop new community maps and to work with policy makers to create positive social change – in terms of the environment, creating access and improving quality of living. The result was a participatory tool for urban planning that takes into account the social and environmental conditions of specific neighborhoods to generate more specific and relevant urban plans for the community.
Arrival: My Key Takeaways from the Glocal Program
At first, I wasn't sure how significant the internship would be, but after returning I understood its real impact on my professional knowledge and personal experience. In essence, the internship taught me that you should enter into a project with an awareness of its context, knowing that being a "foreigner", or not understanding the language, can present its challenges in getting things done. I encountered a number of hardships while I was abroad, but I felt that those experiences added a new level of realistic knowledge to the courses I studied in the program. More importantly, I understood that social and personal change is not just about feeling good, but also about the quantifiable impact you create for global communities.
After returning, the experience I had during my internship became a central part of my job. I learned how to examine power relations, how to empower local communities towards change and how to create a community around everything that I do. The experience taught me that a community can only become a model for change once it’s formed around a specific, focused objective – a lesson that I have adopted in my life and professional career.