University of Wisconsin–Madison

IIP, Mandela Washington Fellowship collaboration provides students professional experiences in Africa

by Meagan Doll

For hopeless romantics on campus, a dinner date for this Wednesday night – Valentine’s Day – is not the only deadline quickly approaching. This Sunday, Feb. 18 is the last day to apply for the International Internship Program’s (IIP) newest summer internship in Africa. The internship, a collaboration between IIP and 2017 UW-Madison Mandela Fellow Rebekah Awuah, will send up to two UW-Madison students to Accra, Ghana this summer to work with Business Day Ghana as international journalism interns.

For IIP, a partnership of this kind was a long time coming.

“Ghana was a location that we had been interested in developing internships for awhile,” IIP Advisor and Program Coordinator Carly Stingl said. “We know that the Mandela Fellows have a strong connection with UW after their summer here as well as great connections in their home countries. When I reached out to Rebekah she was immediately interested in the prospect of helping a UW student have a professional experience in Ghana.”

Rebekah Awuah, of Ghana, first came in Madison in summer 2017 as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The fellowship, a program of the U.S. State Department and the flagship exchange program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), brings young leaders from across sub-Saharan African to U.S. institutions for six weeks of leadership development. UW-Madison has hosted two cohorts of 25 Mandela Fellows, totaling 50 fellows between summer 2016 and 2017 from over 30 countries.

2017 Mandela Fellow at UW-Madison Rebekah Awuah (right) poses with Swazi Fellow Dumsani Mamba after delivering the opening pitch at a summer Mallard’s game in Madison. Since returning home to Ghana, Awuah has helped develop a journalism internship for UW-Madison students at Business Day Ghana. (Photo by Meagan Doll / UW-Madison)

Awuah assisted IIP by connecting Stingl to Business Day Ghana where the partnership was born.

“I see this internship as the first of its kind to be happening in Ghana,” Awuah said. “As an alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Wisconsin, it was exciting to help.”

Important to any collaborative partnership is exchange. Awuah says she sees valuable benefits, both for the UW students and Business Day Ghana.

“The interns will gain valuable insight into the challenges faced by organizations in today’s world. They will make professional contacts and build professional networks,” she said. “Business Day will also benefit from their inputs and suggestions in varied ways, so the collaboration will bring mutual benefits to both institutions.”

UW-Madison internships in Africa have been on the rise in recent years. Between 2010-2017, more than 60 UW-Madison students have completed internships in 10 African countries with a notable 11 interns in Africa in 2016-17. Assisting in this rise has been the impact of the Mandela Washington Fellowship on campus, Stingl said.

“The Mandela Fellows are an impressive group of professionals that bring really important conversations and cross-cultural learning to the UW campus,” she said. “IIP is always looking for connections abroad and the Mandela Fellows offer a unique opportunity to network with someone well-connected in their home country, but who also understands what it will feel like for the student intern when they go to Africa, because they have just experienced the culture shock here in Wisconsin.”

In fact, Awuah’s partnership with IIP is the second of its kind from UW-Madison Mandela Fellows. 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Rashida Nakabuga, of Uganda, helped develop a production and marketing internship with the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses & Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) following her time in Madison. Ellie Anderson, an environmental sciences major at UW-Madison, was the first student selected for the NUCAFE internship and participated as the program intern in summer 2017. Stingl had the opportunity to travel to Uganda as the internship developed, partly funded by a Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange Grant.

Carly Stingl (left) poses with NUCAFE 2017 summer intern and UW-Madison student Ellie Anderson (third from right), Rashida Nakabuga (second from right) and colleagues during a summer 2017 visit to Uganda. (Submitted photo)

“These internships in Africa tend to be transformative experiences for the student,” Stingl said about the collaborations. “They are challenging both professionally and culturally and they help students develop important skills for their future career. It often changes the student’s global perspective and makes them think about things back here in Wisconsin differently.”

IIP currently has eight internships in Africa on offer to UW-Madison students, all with Feb. 18 application deadlines. Highlights for UW-Madison students are included in the list below, all of which receive an automatic $500 grant from IIP and many of which receive an automatic $1,000 grant from the African Studies Program.

Awuah, while supportive of all international internships, is partial to her Ghanaian homeland and the rewarding experience she anticipates the Business Day Ghana internship will be.

“During your internship, you will have the opportunity to gather international work experience, work on your language skills, get to know and understand people of a different cultural background and explore a foreign country,” she said. “The people are friendly and we have a cultural heritages, beautiful landscapes and historic sites all near to the capital Accra. Ghana has so much to offer that you can discover.”

To learn more about the Business Day Ghana internship and others, visit internships.international.wisc.edu or email internships@international.wisc.edu.