Looking back at the last eight and a half months I have spent as a Students of the World intern and Social Media Coordinator for the UT team, one theme sticks out—progress.
After finding out we had been accepted as interns (which for me, was followed by literal screaming and bouncing around the house), the UT team started out our spring semester working with Kids in a New Groove, an Austin-based nonprofit organization that provides free music lessons to foster youth. We met and heard the stories of some of the children involved in the program and then created short films, photo stories, articles, graphics, and social media strategies to highlight and promote the progress being made by KING in Central Texas. Through this project we also made progress getting to know each other and working as a team.
Then we found out that we would be working with Livestrong’s Anti-Stigma Campaign for our big summer project. After months of preparation and fundraising, we traveled to four cities in Mexico to document the progress this campaign is making to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors by raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with cancer.
Then we flew to Shanghai, China to get a feel for the current cancer climate and to document the space where progress is going to take place, as Livestrong prepares to bring the Anti-Stigma campaign to the East.
In the midst of working to document all of this progress, I began to see progress within myself.
I saw professional progress as I learned to hold a reflector, set up studio lighting, and keep up with social media in a country that doesn’t allow Facebook. I learned how to work professionally with a group of young people who all sleep on bunk beds in one room. I saw educational progress as I learned how prevalent cervical cancer is in Yucatan and stomach cancer is in China and how disease is perceived around the world. I realized how much of a luxury potable tap water still is around the world.
Then we came back to Austin, Texas for postproduction. We spent 9-5 together in the office every day and then went back to the housing co-op we lived in at night. I watched as the rest of the team made progress on their creative deliverables and documented the progressing friendships within the office. (The 24 interns I have shared office and living spaces with over the last six weeks are a group of amazing individuals. Even once everyone goes home, I am confident the friendships created in post production will continue to progress.)
I also continued to progress professionally and educationally. I learned how to edit audio and video with Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro. I learned to choose a typeface and what it means to adjust the tracking when designing a layout. I learned how to plan a large-scale fundraising event and how to network at one. I learned how to arrange for guest speakers to come by the office and how much fun it is to collaborate with Ora, the UNC social media coordinator.
Out of this experience, the most important progress I have seen has been a reflection of the progress we documented.
My father and grandmother lost their battles with cancer and another grandmother and grandfather survived theirs. Watching the struggles of these family members placed a dark spot over the concept of cancer in my mind. I preferred not to think about or discuss it, because that meant remembering the pain I watched and experienced. I had a personal stigma against cancer that kept me from sharing my experiences or joining the important fight against it.
This project went miles in erasing that stigma from my mind. I spent a month in developing countries, talking to people who had overcome being ostracized by stigma and realizing how important it is to share our experiences, even when they are difficult ones. After experiencing the humility and hospitality of these people, the topic of cancer is lighter in my mind now and, fourteen years after my first brush with cancer, my grandmother’s diagnosis, I feel ready and willing to talk about my experiences and fight to prevent them from happening to others.
I am so grateful to have found an internship and opportunity such as this one, which produced so much progress for everyone involved. Thank you again to Students of the World, Comparte Tu Historia, Livestrong, and the UT 2012 Team. Every moment of this experience has been a valuable piece of progress.