Matthias (’17) is studying mathematics with a double minor in Spanish and Latin American history in Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences. This summer Matthias worked as a marketing intern with AIESEC, an international exchange program, for Fundação Cecosne in Recife, Brazil as part of the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP). Matthias’ career goals are varied, ranging from education to consulting to architecture/design.
I entered my job search this summer with the goal of completing an interesting internship while also exposing myself to new people, situations, and ideas. My experience with AIESEC in Recife has been nothing short of this.
The most unique part of my internship has been the work climate. Although I had a supervisor, the work was incredibly independent. A team of three other interns and I were responsible for designing the projects we wished to accomplish. We got to decide what we could best do to help increase the impact radius of Fundação Cecosne. This work environment fostered many opportunities for leadership, as well as a general entrepreneurial spirit in the office. While it’s certainly not what I expected when I applied for the marketing position, it’s given me new skills and experiences that I would have otherwise not been exposed to.
I want to first introduce Cecosne as an organization and business. The nonprofit is thirty years old and focuses on educating and providing a home to at-risk youth in the Recife area. To cover its costs, the organization owns and operates three businesses on-site: a bakery, a restaurant, and a hostel. Financially, the organization is stable, but has had problems in the past with broken equipment, lack of restaurant patronage, and a lack of web presence.
Knowing this, and to the extent that we chose our own course in the internship, we pursued several goals, namely: (1) A $6000 fundraising campaign to renovate existing facilities; (2) Increased web presence via the creation of an Instagram profile and the updating of a Facebook profile; (3) Increased street presence with an advertising campaign in the neighborhood. Each day we would either divide into groups of two to work on the projects, or collaborate as four to brainstorm and contribute ideas. I worked mostly on fundraising and advertising. In the process, I taught myself how to use Microsoft Publisher to design banners and flyers, as well as practiced grant writing technique.
After several weeks of work, both in and out of the office, I can say that I’m very satisfied with what my team and I have accomplished. We were moderately successful with the fundraising campaign – targeting local businesses, we were able to fund the purchase of two industrial kitchen tables and cabinets, roughly half of our target goal. The most difficult part of the process was communicating in Portuguese. Although I am proficient on a professional level in Spanish, I was only just starting to become conversational in Portuguese when we began making calls. Luckily, I was able to recruit help from the Cecosne administration to set up meetings with local businesses, at which we were able to communicate adequately our message.
The advertising campaign was more successful. To the right is the advertising banner I designed for the restaurant. I also designed a banner for the bakery and quartersheets to advertise the two in the neighborhood. The advertisements ensure that both the bakery and restaurant, invisible from the street, will get the exposure they need to generate revenue for the organization for years to come.
The part I’ve enjoyed most about my time in Brazil, however, has not been the work but rather the people I’ve met and interacted with. Of the four interns, we are from the United States, Mexico, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Beyond this, other interns in the Recife area hail from dozens of countries from around the world. The host with whom I lived is Chilean; his roommates, Venezuelan and Peruvian. Chances stand that I will not see most of them ever again, but the time I’ve had with them has been incredible. I’ve been exposed to a plethora of languages, values, and perspectives, and I’ve adjusted to completely new living conditions in a culture and city so removed from the one I’ve grown up in. There are few words that can truly sum up my time in Brazil and the people I’ve met. I hope these suffice.