FAO in North America

FAO Field Internship Series – Casie Leavell, from Mississippi State University to FAO Chile

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 7, 2014

Casie Leavell, a student from Mississippi State University, provided support to the resource mobilization efforts for the International Year of Quinoa activities of FAO’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile.

I originally applied through Mississippi State University for the internship with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) because I knew that it would be an invaluable opportunity to gain experience with a United Nations agency and to learn about a new culture. I studied Spanish throughout my educational experience at Mississippi State, so the fact that I would be working for the Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean was just an added bonus. I became even more interested in the program when I learned about the particular initiative, the International Year of Quinoa 2013 (IYQ), in which I would be working. I was really excited because I learned that quinoa is an extremely nutritious, hardy, and climatically adaptable crop with the potential to make a significant impact in the fight against global food insecurity. I was very honored and surprised when I received the offer.

As a business major, Mr. Salomón Salcedo, Technical Secretariat for IYQ and my boss, felt that I would be of most help in the area of Resource Mobilization. I was assigned to work with Mr. Bernhard Reufels, resource mobilization focal point, in order to help identify and reach out to potential partners that may be willing to work with FAO in support of the International Year of Quinoa. This ended up being the perfect place for me because, as it turns out, these types of communications required marketing of cause, something with which I’ve had a significant amount of experience. I was continuously surprised as to how much my opinion, even as an intern, was valued, and it was clear that the work I did actually had the potential to impact the success of our communications with potential partners. I felt that this accountability helped me to be more interested in my work.

Fortunately, I still had plenty of time to get to know Santiago. One of the many benefits of working at the RLC office is that all employees are allowed to leave work at 1:30 on Fridays and I made the most of that time! It was not unusual for several employees to get together after work and do some sort of activity together. This fellowship outside of work was actually what made my experience with the FAO so enjoyable, as it helped me to make friends and to feel more comfortable around my coworkers during work hours. One particularly enjoyable outing was when a large group of my coworkers and I went to a rural expo after work on a Friday. It was interesting because there were many different types of Chilean music, food, local arts and crafts, and people all in one place. This is a picture of us after the rural expo in front of a mural.

I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity and I would encourage any interested candidates to apply for the internship. The professional experience and personal memories are invaluable.

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