“I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions.”
Recently returned Ambassador Corps Fellow Grecia De La O Abarca checked in to tell us all about her summer experience in Chile. Below she shares insight from her fellowship and updates us about the knowledge and skills she is bringing back with her:
Full Name: Grecia Paola De La O Abarca Citizenship: Mexican
Middlebury College 2017 Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow UWC – USA’13
Dream Occupation or Job Title:
Executive Director at a socially responsible organization/company in Mexico or Latin America.
Why did you decide to join the Ambassador Corps (AC) program? What were you hoping to get out of the experience?
The Ambassador Corps program initially caught my attention because of its “authenticity”. I didn’t want to have a traditional internship experience and I knew that being part of the AC Program would give me a broader set of skills and experiences that would transcend one summer. Indeed, I left Chile with a large community of correspondences and colleagues who have taught me much more than I could have learned on my own. I really liked the global leadership focus that this program pursues; in particular its emphasis on working closely with the host organizations while simultaneously immersing into the local culture.
How would you describe your AC experience to a stranger?
For 10 weeks over the summer, I worked with the UN Global Compact in Chile. Our mission was to design a Social Responsibility course that will be taught as part of the general educational program for students at the Chilean university, Andres Bello. I was working with amazing and very distinguished people, starting with Ms. Margarita Ducci, Executive Director of Global Compact Chile; Maria Isabel Muñoz, graduate professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso; and Mabel Tatiana Cortes, professor and designer of the online course platform. I was amazed at how fast and how much I could learn in one day. Each day I learned something new. It wasn’t easy; it was an accelerated and challenging job. The difference between the AC experience and another undergraduate internship is that I wasn’t just an intern for the organization, I was a part of the Global Compact team and I had important responsibilities. At first I was apprehensive and unsure of whether or not I could handle the responsibility but my goal was to cope as best as possible and learn as much as I could from the experience….and I’m happy to report that in the end, that is just what I did.
What was a typical day like during your AC fellowship?
My days at the office were busy and challenging. Each day was different in terms of activities; some days I had to attend events with my boss and other days I would focus on research in the library. I had weekly meetings with my colleagues where we discussed the material and resources we wanted to include in the program. There were some periods where I worked only with professors for a full day. On these days, our meetings were quite intense, starting at 10am and finishing at 6pm. We reached a point where we knew each other well enough that we could feel when it was time to break until the following day. Once home and after family dinner, I would sometimes explore the city, but usually opted to catch up on much-needed rest.
The biggest surprise was difficulty with the language. Although Spanish is my native language, it still found it very difficult to understand the Chilean accent and some local words. This difficulty was completely unexpected and I hadn’t prepared for the weeks that it took to adjust. My host family and co-workers were very understanding and helped me as much as they could. Oftentimes I had to translate the Chilean expressions to “standard Spanish” in order to better understand the connotation. My host family went as far as to provide Chilean Spanish lessons every night. Not only did I learn more about Chile’s history and culture, but it also allowed me to reconnect with my host family daily and share news from that day. With such inclusion and sensitivity to my needs, my hosts truly made me feel like part of the family.
At work I was basically immersed into a new world. I was learning a lot about Social responsibility: starting at the individual level, passing through its impact in organizations and culminating with State intervention and the International Organizations that promote it. My focus was mainly on the Sustainable Development Goals, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Policy. I gained a deeper understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) even before they have been approved internationally. I was pleasantly surprised that my boss took me to important and transcendental meetings. Two events stand out in particular: one where the Minister of Chancellery spoke about the priorities for Chile in terms of the SDG; and another with a panel discussion about the Papal encyclical that criticizes human effects on the planet and how we are working to address it. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to attend such events not only for my internship purposes but also as an enriching learning experience.
Describe someone you met during the program that had a major impact on your experience.
One of the professors in my team who later became one of my mentors was Professor María Isabel Muñoz. She was undoubtedly the person who had the biggest impact on my experience. I met her the first day I got to Global Compact and to be honest, I was really intimidated by her. I felt inferior to her and nervous to think we were expected to work together for the following 10 weeks. As I asked myself how I would get through, the answer came to me: ask for help. I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions. To my relief, Professor Muñoz showed humility and enthusiasm to work with me from the very first day. She answered every questions with a big smile on her face. She told me once “information has been given to us with the purpose to be shared. You cannot keep information for yourself that would make you feel superior to others. Why would only you have it then?” This sticks with me to this day and I am proud to call her my mentor.
What’s next for you?
I’m going back to Middlebury College for my last 2 years of undergraduate studies. This experience has impacted my vision of what I want to do with in my life, especially why, where and for whom I want to work in the future. This was my first time in South America. From this summer, I kept two distinct memories with me: one of the warm people, and the other of the current issues that still need attention. I know without a doubt now that I want to continue contributing to Latin America in any way possible. I encourage others to focus their skills to help Latin American countries as well. There is still much to be done, and it is never too late to start. No contribution is too small.
Read more about Grecia: Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow Profile
Learn more about her host organization: Global Compact Chile (Red Pacto Global Chile)
Are you the next Ambassador Corps Fellow? Inquire about next year’s Ambassador Corps Program and join the new cohort! Want to partner with Ambassador Corps and source talent for a fellowship in your impact company? Send a partner inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org