SCOTSBURN – Just one day before the application was due, Marin MacLeod made the decision to apply for the internship this summer in Botswana.
She wasn’t a member of the group at Queen’s University that was involved with organizing the internship, but that didn’t deter her. She applied and within a few weeks she was accepted.
The international development internships available were Ghana, Nunavut and Botswana. MacLeod said she just wanted to take part in one of them, but specifically was hoping to travel to Africa for the three-month internship (May to July). In the past she had travelled to Mexico, Guatemala and Cambodia, but was looking to travel away from the Americas.
“I’m extremely excited to have the chance to travel to Botswana and see the continent of Africa,” said MacLeod. “Since going to Mexico in Grade 10 through Northumberland High School it’s been my dream to visit the continent. There’s so much going on in Botswana so I’m excited about that. It’s one of the most democratic countries in Africa, but is one of the most filled with AIDS.”
The fourth year Queen’s University student wrapped up her final year of varsity rugby with the Gaels in November and plans to graduate with her heath studies major and global development studies minor this April. MacLeod wants to eventually continue her education abroad by taking a masters in public health in developing countries, but most programs look for at least two years of experience to be accepted.
Knowing she will be graduating and that she needs the practical time to be accepted into a masters program, she said even though she loves the experiences she knew she needed more of it for the program applications.
When she travels to Botswana she will be working in Francistown with an NGO, True Men Trust. The NGO educates men on issues related to HIV/AIDS, focusing on peer counseling and psychological services.
“I think it’s a great organization to be involved with while I’m there,” she said. “They mostly target truck drivers because they travel throughout the country. We will work at giving them the facts about HIV and AIDS and try to dispel many of the myths surrounding it.”
While travelling in Mexico and Cambodia MacLeod stayed with a host family. She said she believes this allows her, and other volunteers, to learn more about the culture of the country they’re visiting. She said she’ll find out soon who her host family is so they can correspond in the months leading up to her internship.
“Staying with a host family is what happened in the past and I find you get the best experience and knowledge of how they live and what their country is like by doing so,” she said. “When I was in Cambodia last summer it would have been extremely easy to stay in my comfort zone if I was in a hostel or hotel, rather than with my host family. They showed me so much and with 95 per cent of Cambodia being Buddhist I also learned a lot about their religion and how that affects their culture.”
MacLeod said she wouldn’t continue to apply for these opportunities if it wasn’t for Northumberland Regional High School. That was how she travelled to Mexico and it allowed her to expand her education outside of the classroom.
“We had a great relationship with the teachers when I went to school,” she said. “I got treated like an adult, which gave me the confidence to come up with ideas for new things we could be doing within the school or stuff that could be done outside of it. The staff members helped with those ideas and it helped me get to where I am now as a person.”