The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

How can an internship and research project in Africa help with career prospects?

Guest Blogger:  Eline Sleurink, MA African Studies

3 months in Accra, Ghana

For the past 3 months I have been based at Impact Hub Accra, Ghana, as part of my combined internship and research requirement for the 1 year African Studies master. While based at Impact Hub Accra I have been assisting the team with business development as part of my internship responsibilities. My research, meanwhile, focuses on the role that the hub plays in facilitating the pathway of local entrepreneurs.

In this series of blog posts I will be sharing some experiences of my time here. What does a day in my life look like, who do I hang out with and what kind of work am I doing? These are just some of the questions I will be answering in order to give you a glimpse into my what it’s really like to conduct your internship and research in Africa.

In today’s post, I realise that my 3 months in Accra are coming to an end. As such, I explore how I feel that doing an internship and research period abroad has made an impact on my career prospects.

Skills I have developed

To start with, as I look back over the past 3 months I am presented with a multitude of skills I have developed.

Through my research, I have been able to acquire such crucial competencies as interviewing and communication skills, time management and critically analysing what type (and how much) relevant data I need in order to amass viable, insightful and representative results.

Through my internship responsibilities, I have been exposed to numerous opportunities for professional growth. My work as a Business Development Assistant has led me to write grant proposals, manage events and develop new programmes for the hub. Together, these tasks have allowed me to improve my writing, planning and creative thinking proficiencies.

 Underlying both my research and internship is the experience of working and living in a different country. Being exposed to a completely different culture than my own for 3 months, adjusting to a new set of working practices and being confronted with new ways of thinking have all opened my eyes to future possibilities, as well as developing core competencies which I believe will be invaluable to my future career trajectory.

‘Networking’ opportunities

The network I have built up during the 3 months is extensive and has proved to be one of the most valuable aspects of my stint abroad. Every meeting, event and invitation I have attended has led to swathes of new introductions and chances to not only meet a huge variety of interesting individuals, but has also led me to consider what I would like to do upon graduation. I have had, for example, the opportunity to write blogs for a Dutch Venture Capital firm whilst based here, as well as writing articles for a company based at Impact Hub Accra.

 

So what will I do upon graduation?

So what do I plan to do when I graduate? The truth is, I don’t know yet. But what I do know is that I feel more confident in my abilities and in my aspirations. The past 3 months have led to countless thoughts of what I might do, but what has been most valuable is realising the areas and industries I am most interested in. Furthermore, realising where my core strengths lie has led me to think about my future with a more focussed and creative approach. Whether I end up working in The Netherlands, Africa or perhaps somewhere else entirely, I am confident that my 3 months here in Accra will have played a huge role in that decision and in accelerating me towards my future achievements.


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