Specializing in international development at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy sparked current student Alyssia Borsella’s interest in working and living in a developing country. And with funding from the Susan C. Schwab Internship Fund, she was able to fulfill that desire through a summer internship this year with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in the South and Southwest Asia sub-regional office located in New Delhi, India.
“Everything about this internship interested me from the very beginning—the organization, the tasks and the location especially,” Borsella says. “The internship sounded like it would afford me the chance to learn about development issues more in-depth while living in a great city in a fantastically unique country.”
She also adds that during her time with the United Nations, she chose to focus on quantitative analyses of development issues such as food insecurity. “I intend to make a career of analyzing international development efforts, and this internship allowed me to hone my quantitative skills while working in a large, multinational organization,” she says.
Borsella says being able to complete work autonomously helped her gain important skills and experiences. “I appreciate that my supervisors let me direct and prioritize my own workload,” she says. “When I began my internship, my supervisors outlined some potential work I could pursue regarding food security and disaster reduction, it was then up to me to decide how to proceed.”
“Each day involved reading the current literature to investigate current models and methods of analysis. I also spent a large portion of time collecting data for my analyses, which taught me about the availability and quality of data in developing countries. Every day I got to be part of the team working to highlight the development efforts and progress in South and Southwest Asia.”
I intend to make a career of analyzing international development efforts, and this internship allowed me to hone my quantitative skills while working in a large, multinational organization.Alyssia Borsella '15
In addition to the knowledge she gained through working for the United Nations, Borsella said she also learned valuable lessons outside of the office. “I learned how to live among people of a completely different culture. I learned how to communicate without words when a language barrier presented itself,” she says. “I learned more about myself professionally and personally than I had expected I would. I learned that the world is a small place, and that geographical distance should not preclude us from helping others when possible.”
The skills Borsella enhanced through her coursework at the UMD School of Public Policy helped her work more effectively. “My quantitative courses have given me the hard skills needed to perform meaningful analyses in my position,” she says. “In general, the curriculum has taught me much about the policy world and how to convey facts into arguments and ideas into action.”
During her internship, she worked on finding data regarding the prevalence of subsistence farming in the sub-region and compiled a profile of the world’s developed regions to compare to South and Southwest Asia using food security and agricultural indicators. “The project required data collection, organization, analysis and the creation of graphs to visually compare with those of our sub-region,” Borsella says. “I enjoyed the project because it allowed me to start something new and complicated, seeing it through to the end, and I feel that the policy story told by such profiles is important in developing initiatives to further food security in the region.”
Beyond the day-to-day work, Borsella says she found the traveling portion of the summer to be equally as rewarding. “I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to travel throughout India. Those experiences afforded me a chance to meet new people and develop my worldview beyond what I have learned in the classroom and experienced in America,” Borsella says. “First-hand experience in a developing country is essential for understanding the development issues facing the region, and my experience working with the United Nations provided me a deeper understanding of the future work to be done.”