Well, it’s been a long week filled with Spanish, data-cleaning, and Guatemalan coffee, but I am happy to say I’ve officially completed my first week at work with PopCouncil Guatemala!
I’ll admit that I was pretty nervous on Sunday before going in for my first day – especially because I had to reserve a taxi over the phone in Spanish and I was worried I did it wrong and might not even make it there. My Spanish is pretty good, but I haven’t used it much at all over the last year or so and I started out pretty rusty. I can already tell I’m a lot more confident speaking it again even after just a week here, but that first weekend involved a lot of uncertainty. Nonetheless, my taxi arrived at my apartment on Monday morning just fine (a few minutes early even, which is NOT common in Latin America) and I was off to work.
When I got there I met my preceptor, the country director for Population Council’s operations in Guatemala, who showed me around the office and introduced me to the rest of my co-workers. The introduction process didn’t take long because our office is one of the smaller PopCouncil country offices, with only 13 employees (plus a couple consultants and 2 interns including myself). I like the small office feel because it will give me a chance to get to know everyone better! Overall, the atmosphere is very relaxed, which I appreciate because Guatemala City itself is pretty hectic. I have been surprised at how sprawling and urban this city is – it reminds me of Los Angeles a lot, actually (right down to the perfect weather, except it actually thunderstorms here thankfully). It’s a bit difficult to get around without a car, so I haven’t done much exploring yet unfortunately. Now that I’m more comfortable with the whole taxi thing that will hopefully change!
The office itself is in a pretty, relatively quiet, residential zona (one of 22 zones – basically mini-cities that make up Guate proper) and is in a beautiful Spanish style house with little courtyards in the front and back (pictures below).
I chose to do my internship with PopCouncil Guatemala specifically because it’s going to be a great blend of all my varied research interests, which are kind of a mix of epidemiology and community health topics/methods. The main program around which operations at this office revolve is called “Abriendo Oportunidades” (“Opening Opportunities”), a community program targeting adolescent indigenous girls that aims to empower them in part by matching them with mentors and teaching them new skills. The Council is currently in the midst of a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the AO program and the impact it has on girls’ school retention rates. I’ll be helping with this data analysis and evaluation process. I’m excited to dive into the project even deeper this upcoming week. I’ll keep you all posted!