I am one of the newest Sustainable Cities International Interns placed in Guadalajara, Mexico at the planning Institute: IMEPLAN (Instituto Metropolitano de Planeación del AMG). My role, as the Development Research Assistant, was originally assigned to the project: “Risk Map”. However, as an intern, it is important to always acknowledge that tasks, roles and responsibilities are fluid and sometimes even arbitrary. When I began my internship, 3 weeks ago, the project had not yet begun. Based on my skills, previous experience, and interests, I was then asked to join the waste management planning team as well as a variety of other tasks. I’ve been able to join previous interns on site visits to gain a better understanding of their projects as well as become more familiar with the city.
Visiting one of the Urban Gardens started by a seed fund project by Tatiana, intern from previous cohort.
Even though it has only been three weeks, I have already been fully integrated into the office environment. Even though, at times, it can be a stressful and tense work environment, the staff have been welcoming and inviting. On our first week in the office, the other intern, Pascale, and I were invited to a work social and of course it involved football (soccer). I quickly learned that one must always expect to play football to bond with coworkers even if it is immediately following a large meal.
One of the requirements of this internship, for me, was to enroll in Spanish school as I only possessed a basic understanding of the language. I quickly learned that I spoke travel Spanish as opposed to work/professional environment Spanish. It has been a huge learning curve to work in a language other than my native language (English). Coming from a country with high rates of immigration, I have an enlightened level of respect for anyone that has had to learn and work in a non-native language. My level of comprehension is stronger than my verbal abilities and I find it difficult to contribute in meetings and in the office, generally. In turn, I am left out of exciting projects that I found I could contribute to if there wasn’t a language barrier; this is the reality for immigrants. Even though my supervisors are very supportive of my work and contribution to projects, I do find myself limited by the language barrier. Despite the challenges that have truly humbled me, the past three weeks have been enlightening and educational.
While my work and my project are still undefined, I have embraced life in this city. Guadalajara is the biggest city that I have ever lived in; it is full of culture, life and excitement. I have had the opportunity to escape to the beach (Puerto Vallarta) as we are located approximately 300 km from the coast and plan to visit many other corners of this country. Meeting people and making friends has come easily to me, either through roommates or language exchange groups.
On a weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta!
I am excited to see how the next 5 months will enfold in this vivacious, warm, welcoming city and at IMEPLAN.
A set up for Dia de Muertes. An example of some of the arts and culture in Guadalajara.