From February to May of 2014 I decided to pursue two academic interests in my credit internship. At The Solidarity Center’s field office in Lima, Perú, I was able to combine my interests in workers’ rights and labor issues and my interests in speaking Spanish. At first it felt a little overwhelming working in an office where most of my research and communication was in Spanish, but after a few weeks, I had settled into my role at The Solidarity Center and was able to also do an independent study on the textile industry in Perú.
At first I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to sort out housing and adjust to Spanish in a professional workplace setting. As the weeks went on, I was able to do research and report writing about labor issues in the textile, mining, and agricultural sectors of Perú. I gained a lot of background on labor issues from an international perspective in a way that I had not experienced in any of my ILR classes. The credit internship gave me so much independence, and my confidence in myself has increased so much. I remember coming into the office during the first few weeks thinking that I could not make phone calls in Spanish. By the end of my experience, I was making numerous phone calls per day to textile companies, union leaders, and governmental bodies in order to set up interviews for my research.
Being able to read reports and talk directly to workers who felt intimidated and discriminated against for union efforts really made me think about how labor issues need to be a worldwide discussion. My ILR education provided a framework for understanding the economics behind labor and trade and allowed me to ask questions and read through laws, news, and collective bargaining agreements in order to understand the issues facing unions and to craft suggestions.
Lastly, I would say that the credit internship experience was a great experience for me because it permitted me to do exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to gain working experience in labor issues and improve my Spanish. With a little planning and persistence, I was able to find an organization and location that was willing to mentor me and help me make valuable connections. I want to extend a huge thank you to The Solidarity Center and to the ILR Credit Internship Program for making this truly memorable experience a reality.
- Lawrence Goun, BSILR'15