Monday, October 22nd, 2018...11:18 am

IEM Practicum Spotlight: Marie MacDonald

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Tell us about yourself and where you are doing your practicum?

Marie sitting at her desk at ICADS

My name is Marie MacDonald, I am a third semester MA International Education Management (IEM) student, and I am doing my practicum at Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) in San Jose, Costa Rica. ICADS is a service learning abroad office that hosts students from undergraduate programs primarily from the US to come and learn about environmental studies, sustainable development and social justice. But students can be from any major. I would say a good half of students are doing biology or environmental studies, and the other half of students are doing education or social work. 

How did you land this practicum position?

I was really lucky with landing this practicum. Professor Paige Butler came here in Fall 2016 and did a Forum on Education Abroad Quality Improvement Program Evaluation. She came down here to do a study abroad check with the organization to make sure that they were following all the rules and regulations, and that the organization was credible for the students to come down from US universities to pursue a study abroad experience. In that process, she found that they could really use an IEM student. So she reached out to one of my classmates, and he had an interview with the director here, and he was thinking in the back of his mind like actually this is really cool, but I think this is a better fit for my friend Marie. And he told me about it, and I made contact with the director. So it was through word of mouth and connections at MIIS. 

Marie delivering a presentation to students on their study abroad experience.

What does your position at ICADS entail?

My title is Program Liaison, and I have been here for about 6 weeks now. Some of my roles were program coordination, orientation week, hopes and expectations, readjustment, and cultural transitions. I also co-led a program to Panama on their third week with a co-worker. We went down to Panama for a week to do excursions and learn about culture, politics and economy of the country. In the office I do administrative work, such as working with the social media platforms – the Facebook page, and we just redid the website for ICADS. I gave my input of the design of the website, content, the spelling and the grammar. I also helped prepare some materials for students who are coming to study with us. Therefore, pre-departure tools like handbooks, guides and manuals they need before they arrive to Costa Rica. All the administrative duties include translation, grammar, editing and writing skills.

What is one specific project you are a part of that you have spent the most time on, and what are your roles in that project?

The one I spent the most time on and the one that I worked the hardest on is the Pre-Departure Guide. There were two guides before I came in. One was for before students got here, and another for when students arrived in the country, and combined the documents were over 70 pages. I did an evaluation survey that asked students “how did you like the handbook?” and “Was it helpful?” Students answered “I honestly didn’t read it because it was too long.” I took a look at it and it was exactly that, and it wasn’t the most visually appealing. I wanted to spearhead this project to look at these two manuals and combine them into one that was coherent, made sense, was appealing, and organized. Alongside my supervisor, the director of ICADS, we did multiple iterations of this pre-departure guide, and on October 12th I submitted the final draft for the final check. 

What did you learn at MIIS and IEM that has been beneficial for your duties at ICADS?

At MIIS and through IEM I learned about working in groups and working with international organizations. One of the courses that comes to mind is the one big core class in IEM, which is called Design and Assessment (DnA). We work with learning partners, and my group worked with an international organization based in Mexico. We were able to work with them, communicate with them, practice speaking Spanish, and practice our ICC skills. Another course was Education Abroad Management because it talked about different ways of working at a study abroad office, ethics working with students, and theories trending in the field. This course was especially helpful for my big deliverable – the pre-departure guide. Also,  Staff Management in Intercultural Contexts. This course trained me to work with different groups in different countries. Especially working with Costa Ricans, learning how to building relationships in the office, the organizational culture, and speaking Spanish everyday.

What has been an unexpected challenge you have faced while at ICADS?

Students during orientation

A challenge for me is that I’m not in the environment or it’s not the right time to exploit all of my skills and everything I have learned. I wanted to  tell them all the things that I was thinking and all the best practices, but I needed to take a step back and hone in on certain skills but not all the skills. A challenge has been to be reserved of what I have learned and only using some of the things I learned at MIIS, instead of everything. I can try to make all the improvements I would like, but I’m only an intern here for 4 months, so I have to take a step back and go with the flow and only use what they need me to use.

What are your plans after your done with your practicum?

I know that I still want to be working in a Latin American country, and ideally to stay in Costa Rica. I am in no rush to go back home to the US. I’m going to try to take advantage of being here already. Either with volunteer organizations or another study abroad office or something similar. I definitely want continue this type of work. Especially getting students involved in working with local communities.


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