JOURNEYING THROUGH AN INTERNSHIP AT SOGH
Meet Zin and Lynnet, our new Mama and Family Project Managers! They share their internship experience with us!
The Mama and family project, SOGH’s first project is based in Southeastern Uganda. The aim of this project is to improve maternal and newborn health by providing support to women and infants during pregnancy and after childbirth. Prior 2020, interns used to visit Uganda for field evaluation of the project. With the emergence of coronavirus, plans to travel to Uganda were halted. Nevertheless, the Mama and family project continued and, still continues. Out of the situation, a new form of internship was born – remote internships. All of SOGH’s projects had interns working on them remotely. The Mama and family project had four interns supporting the team. And we are pleased to announce that two of these interns, Zin and Lynnet, have officially joined the SOGH board as our new Mama and family project managers. Within this blog post, Zin and Lynnet will be introducing themselves and of course, they will be sharing their internship experience!
Zin got his bachelor degree in Medicine in 2012, after which he worked with several non-government organizations mainly for infectious disease control programs for about seven years in Myanmar. Currently, he is studying a master’s program in Health Economics, Policy and Management at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. It is a new chapter in his academic life and he finds studying in Sweden is fun and full of excitement.
Lynnet has a background in Foods, Nutrition & Dietetics and Public Health. She also has a postgraduate diploma in project management. She graduated with a master’s degree in Global health from Uppsala University in 2019. While in Uppsala, she served as a board member and event organizer for Uppsala local Network for Future Global Leaders (NFGL) for SDGs. Prior pursuing her master’s degree, she worked in Kenya for over nine years – at the Ministry of health and three international non-governmental organizations, holding key positions in projects that dealt with maternal, newborn, child health and adolescent nutrition (MNCHAN), water sanitation and hygiene, among others. She currently lives in Lund, Sweden and is originally from Kenya.
SUMMER INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE!
Here is what Zin has to say about his internship experience:
Getting involved with Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH) through my summer internship for the Mama & Family Project during the global pandemic is one of the best experiences I have had as an international student. The Mama and Family Project is targeted at improving maternal and newborn health in southeastern Uganda. Relevance with my previous experience as well as future career prospects was my key motivation to choose the internship program in this specific field.
My journey with SOGH began before last summer when I started to realize that my initial plan of returning home during the study break would not happen due to lockdown caused by COVID-19. So, I started exploring available options, searching for ways I would be able to spend my free time meaningfully, for my sake and the society’s as I felt a call to my professional commitment to public health during this pandemic. Then I discovered this wonderful opportunity to make new friends, learn great things and be exposed to a dynamic working environment of community health workers who are inspired to strive for the health of mothers and newborns with limited resources in their community, and even amid this global pandemic.
So, what I enjoyed the most about this internship? The very first thing I was excited about was the nature of the task itself which involved learning cultural and political context to inform the progress of project activities and exploring different stakeholders’ perspectives on COVID-19 prevention in the community. In pursuit of these goals, I worked with a team of international interns who brought amazing ideas from their variant backgrounds. Likewise, we received valuable input from other team members. I would describe the working environment at SOGH as a fun, friendly and supporting environment. Apart from these things, I enjoyed the flexibility in time management during the internship as I believe it is equally important to have time to hang out with your friends and travel around, especially when you live in Europe in summer.
Then, what about the challenges I embraced? To begin with, as one of the consequences of the global pandemic, we missed the chance to conduct a field visit to the project areas, meet field workers and get exposed to the local culture. Similarly, there was an impact on our study – we were supposed to have personal interviews with stakeholders in the field. The only way we managed to do it was through the support of our local project coordinator, rather than directly observing and clarifying with the participants. Therefore, the process took more time and gave limited comprehension about the situation. The last thing we worked through together was combining our diverse ideas into a set of comprehensive but practical working tasks.
Overall, my internship at SOGH during last summer was a good experience for me. It is definitely something I will recommend to my fellow students and friends as a good investment of time for the summer.
Here is what Lynnet has to say about her internship experience:
Due to COVID-19 which has affected all aspects of life around the world, my internship went remote and it was a good opportunity to work on my career skills. Despite not working in a traditional office environment, I still wanted to make the most of the experience. Since the work required data analysis and report writing, it was well-suited for a remote internship.
In previous years, SOGH interns have had an opportunity to visit the project site in Uganda, collect qualitative data and get first-hand experience in interacting with project beneficiaries. However, in 2020, the case was different.
Since it was the first time I was participating in a remote internship, it meant adjusting to working online and having discussions with colleagues through Zoom. I worked in a group of four and we distributed work among ourselves, which was a useful way to learn the benefits of cooperation. Every week we communicated either via Zoom or WhatsApp, discussing or making enquiries related to the assignment. We also received constant guidance and feedback from our supervisors.
The experience was not only fun for me but I was also able to manage my time better as I juggled taking care of my two boys and being an intern. This remote internship has made me a more patient person and improved my ability to work in a team.
Analyzing the project data as an outsider helped in looking at the project objectively to spot areas that needed improvement and we gave recommendations to aid betterment of the project.
Some of the things I learned along the way were to focus on making the most of the learning experience and communicate clearly with new team members. Even though you aren’t working together face-to-face, interns can prove themselves as valuable team members by thinking proactively about how they can approach tasks and problems and by showing that they are able to take on additional responsibilities and challenges.
Additionally, to make sure nothing fell through the cracks, I made notes for the Zoom meetings we had with our supervisors and among ourselves to prevent omission of any important points. Often, I kept clear lines of communication going with my supervisor and other coworkers through Slack. It took some time getting used to, but I slowly became comfortable relaying ideas and receiving feedback on them digitally.
Overall, I’ve found that a virtual internship can be just as helpful as an onsite experience if you focus on the tasks you’re assigned and communicate openly, rather than perfectly.
My virtual internship experience has made me a stronger communicator, a better problem solver and a more efficient worker. I improved my qualitative data analysis skills and perfected the use of NVivo to organize qualitative data. In addition, as I reflect on my experience of working remotely, I’d say it’s one that I can recommend to any student considering it. The twist on it now is that those hoping to apply for remote internships need to view it from the lens of, ‘How to prove to an employer that you can successfully work remotely, with examples to boot.’
Joining SOGH as the Mama and Family project manager provides an opportunity for me to share, learn and amplify my passion of transforming the lives of mothers and children in Mayuge District, Uganda, through health promotion and advocacy among other strategies. I look forward to contributing to SOGH’s mission and achievement of its goals – Lynnet
Thanks to Lynnet and Zin for sharing their experience with us. Interning at SOGH is an amazing experience as you have rightly read. Internships are currently over but hey, be on the lookout for our next internships and subscribe to our new newsletter to never miss any updates on new internships and other news from SOGH again.
Would you like to know more about an internship at SOGH? Don’t hesitate to email us or comment below!
Authors: Lynnet Mutisya, Zin Min Thet Lwin, Avwerosuoghene Onobrakpeya