Thursday, July 28, 2016

Internship in South Africa: Awe and inspiration in the "Rainbow Nation"

It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere and most people are thinking about their holidays. This is not the case for SAIS students who spend their summer working internships around the world.

As we mentioned in previous posts, these internships are a great way for students to learn more about their future careers.

In the last posts, students working internships in Brazil and Peru wrote about their experiences and here is a video of last year's students talking about their summer internship plans.

Today, Chris Jackson, a current student in the MA program focusing on Energy, Resources and Environment, tells us about his experience in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Like half of the students who graduate from SAIS each year, Chris spent his first year at SAIS Europe in Bologna and is going to Washington, DC for his second year.

Cape Town is perhaps the most awe inspiring place one can imagine.

Firstly it is a visual paradise and a feast for the senses. Whether its climbing the world famous table mountain, sipping Merlot in Constantia's vineyards, seeing Zebra, Ostriches, Baboons and Springbok on the side of the road to work or the fantastic food, the place never ceases to awe and inspire.

Writing on the sand in Cape Town
Cities, like all communities, are defined by their people as much as their place and South Africa is no exception. Nelson Mandela once said that South Africa is the "Rainbow Nation", reflecting people from all over the world. His words were not merely hyperbole. The country is a veritable smorgasbord of nationalities, ethnicity, ages and faiths.

This summer I have been working for Clifftop Colony Capital Partners, a South African Corporate Finance firm, which specializes in securing financing for African start-ups, entrepreneurs and African tech funds.

My role involved evaluating business plans and proposals for new prospective clients; constructing corporate marketing material to promote clients to international investors; researching African and global tech industry trends; building profiles on the requirements, preferences and financing available from international investors; and lastly, corporate due diligence on Clifftop’s current and potential clients.

Africa is considered to be the home of the world’s most frontier equity and debt investments and Clifftop position themselves as a bridge between international investors in the US, UK and Europe, and entrepreneurs across the African continent, by offering experience with local challenges and an extensive network of strategic relationships to both parties.

Stunning views

During my time here I had the pleasure of listening to Moeletsi Mbeki, Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and leading economist, who spoke eloquently on South Africa's challenges and I have had the pleasure of meeting over a dozen small businesses, who have helped me understand the opportunities of the South African economy.

South Africa is the finance capital of Africa. It is a bridge to the West, through London, a bridge to the East, through Malaysia and India, and a central force in driving innovation throughout Africa. For anyone trying to understand how business on the African continent works, the importance of good governance on economic growth and poverty alleviation or even for those who simply have a hunger to see untouched beauty in the world, it is hard to beat South Africa.

Chris Jackson
SAIS Europe 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Internship in Peru: Putting my newly acquired economics skills to the test

The majority of students at SAIS work an internship in the summer between their first and second year of study. The internships are an opportunity for students to gain more insight into the careers they'd like to pursue after SAIS. 

The locations of the internships are as diverse as the student body at SAIS Europe, where students come from several dozen countries and represent all continents.

In the last post, students working in Brazil talked about their experiences. This week, Michelle Mora, a student in the MA program focusing on Latin America, tells us about her professional, cultural and personal experience in Lima, Peru.

Pisco sours, fresh ceviche, dune buggying and --the most exciting of all-- international trade in action. That about sums up my summer, although it’s winter here, in Peru.

I'm originally from Illinois and before starting my master's degree at SAIS Europe, I worked in international recruiting in Miami for four years.  After an incredibly challenging, rewarding, and fun year in Bologna, I again hopped continents and quickly settled into Lima, Peru, where I have been working at the U.S. Commercial Service for the past two months.
Michelle (right) with two fellow SAIS classmates in Lima, Peru

The Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Agency tasked with promoting U.S. exports internationally.

My days have been filled with matchmaking meetings between Peruvian and U.S. companies looking to do business; preparing for trade shows; and attending cross-agency meetings with Economic and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Officers at the Embassy.

I have enjoyed putting my newly acquired economics skills to the test by researching and drafting market reports on “SMART city” initiatives, education, healthcare, and intellectual property protections in Peru, among other topics. I had the opportunity to attend a few Embassy events including the Peruvian-American bi-national party; the Ambassador’s Fourth of July party --in which Peruvian President-elect Pablo Pedro Kuczynski  stopped by for a surprise speech; and, arguably my favorite, a USDA “Burgers and Beer” event promoting U.S. beef and craft beer exports to Peru.

Outside of work, I have been enjoying living with two other fellow SAIS Latin American Studies students who are also working in Lima. We have been adventuring and tasting our way around this beautiful country. Consistently rated as one of the top culinary destinations in the world, Peru has some of the freshest, most complex and diverse plates I have ever seen. Every trip to the supermarket includes trying a new fruit or vegetable.  Just considering potatoes, Peru has more than 3,800 varieties!

In Huacachina

On the weekends we have visited the sea lions and penguins at Las Islas Ballestas (coined “the poor man’s Galapagos”), screamed our heads off on a dune buggy ride in the coastal desert town of Huacachina, and watched the condors soar over Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons.

With only one month to go before heading to Washington, DC for my final year, I look forward to continued challenges at work, a trip to the Amazon, Machu Picchu trekking, visiting Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, and maybe a few more pisco sours.

Michelle Mora 
SAIS Europe 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Postcards from Brazil

With the Olympics just a few weeks away in Brazil, our SAIS students wanted to share their experiences of studying the Portuguese language at SAIS Europe, in addition to their reflections of living and working in Brazil during their summer internships. Below are their postcards to us. Enjoy the read.