Student stories

Political science co-op student finds a second home in Nairobi

Carina Mutschele

Aga Khan Development Network

When political science student Carina Mutschele travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for her first co-operative education (co-op) work term to gain valuable intercultural experience, she found her experience so enriching that she decided to stay for two more. “I learned so much about the culture and the language and the people,” she says. “It was definitely one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had in my life so far.”

Carina worked for the Aga Khan Development network, which includes a hospital, a university and the Aga Khan Foundation, and draws in students from all different backgrounds and disciplines.

She spent most of her first work term engaging with both the local and Aga Khan University communities; as the first events coordination intern on the Nairobi campus, she worked with each department to build an inventory of rooms at the university, as well as a library of software and other resources for future use. “I really enjoyed getting to move across campus to connect with so many different people,” she says.

Outside her work at the university, Carina connected with the local community by working with non-profits like the Teryung Foundation, where she helped organize mentoring and counselling sessions for children. “It was really amazing to work with people who grew up in the area,” she says. “It’s really different from working with western organizations that come in with good intentions but don’t really know what’s needed in the community.”

Her experiences abroad have driven Carina to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives; she is currently completing her final work term with the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi. “Working with the UN has really reinforced my passion for working on poverty and environmental issues, and the link between the two,” she says. 

And while Carina is eager to be able to build on her experiences in Nairobi with a master’s in environmental sociology or international development, she isn’t in a hurry to return to her studies at UVic. “I feel like I’ve built a second home here,” she says. “It’s going to be really difficult to leave.”

Intercultural competency training

Carina took part in intercultural competency training prior to working abroad. You can read more about how this curriculum helps students embrace culture and diversity at uvic.ca/news/topics/2017+international-diversity-curriculum+ring

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