CIES Connections

These past three weeks have been so busy, filled with lots of work before most of my team left on holiday. I am now more than half way through my internship, and I only have a few more weeks in the beautiful city of Geneva. BUT there is still a lot to learn and many fun experiences to be had. Of that I am certain.

A few weeks ago, I had a unique opportunity to help with a manuscript review that is set to be published early next year from a partner office in Ethiopia. Two of my classmates from Penn are currently working at there (shout out to Tyler and Kathleen), so it was fun to see some of the ways in which our institutes support and connect with one another.

The manuscript will be about how the capabilities approach, a term coined by economist Amartya Sen, applies to and can be utilized in the context of inclusive education. When I first heard that I would get to help review the manuscript, I was so excited. And THEN when I realized it would be on this topic I was thrilled.

So, I realize for some of you my excitement on this might seem a little exaggerated. I can guarantee you that this isn’t the case. Let me explain. First, I really love the capabilities approach to international development. Sure, there are definitely some aspects that can not possibly work in all contexts (but what does?!), but overall, I think this framework for developnent is rather solid. You can read about it here.…let me know what you think!

What many people do know, however, is that I am extremely passionate about inclusive education, so anthing that seeks to further the field is something that I will gladly read. The combination of inclusive education and the capabilities approach is something that is just recently starting to garner the attention of some of the world’s top academics and practitioners, which is very encouraging to me since I had previously researched this topic thoroughly for my presentation at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference  earlier this year in Vancouver, Canada. While my aim was to compare best practices in various South Asian contexts over the past few decades in light of Education for All and the new Sustainable Development Goals, this new manuscript applied the approach to specific case studies. It was a fascinating read and I am confident it will make waves in the field of inclusive education and development in the near future.

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With the support of an amazing professor and many of my wonderful classmates, i was able to gain more professional experience as I presented on Increasing Capabilities: Inclusive Education in South Asia.

I’m grateful for that opportunity and this one, serving as yet another reminder how it sometimes pays to leave your comfort zone.

With Love from Geneva,

Caitlin

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A Look Around the City

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention a last week that my posts weren’t made public to everyone, SO after trying to figure out why multiple times, I have now re-uploaded all my posts and restarted the blog. For those who have previously posted comments or liked the posts, thank you. Love you guys. For those that haven’t been able to see these thus far, I hope you enjoy a little snapshot from my first five weeks in Geneva!

Anyway, thanks to my fabulous mother, who has been very vocal about wanting to see more pictures of where I am living, here is a post primarily of pictures. I’ve decided to dedicate this post to her and post some of the sights around this beautiful city.

 

Above: Pictures of the Old City that is about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. The cobble-stoned streets are my favorite!

Below: Pictures at the Palais de Nations, the main UN compound. After I received my badge on the second day of work, I have frequented this place many, many times.

There are also really neat places to visit around the city, and because it is summertime, there is always lots to do. The Euro Cup was hosted in France this month, and although I do not usually watch or follow soccer in the US, the culture around it here is SO different. Everyone was a fan, and so, naturally, I had to be as well. I adopted Switzerland as my home-team and even memorized the Swiss national anthem so I could sing it proudly in the fan-zone.

 

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Speaking of fan-zones, how cool is this place? Four gigantic screens in one of the largest parks in the city. TONS of people, food, and fun.

There are also a lot of Museums around the city that I am slowly, but surely, making my way through. The International Red Cross Museum is my favorite so far, but there are also science museums, the CERN, and one for the Reformation, in which I didn’t realize Geneva had played such a prominent role.

AND, last month some people from work went to Fête de la Musique, a free music festival throughout the city. There were over 50 performances over three days in different parks and public areas around Geneva. Musicians from multiple countries, and multiple genres serenaded the city with their talents, and the weather was beautiful except for a few light showers on Saturday evening.

And like I have been mentioning in previous posts, the lake is by far my favorite part of this city. It is absolutely breathtaking at every minute of the day and there are a variety of activities happening around, for those that love sport or are simply ready to relax and soak in the atmosphere. So in true, withlovefromgeneva.wordpress.com-spirit, here is another picture of my favorite place. 🙂

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Thanks for reading, as always.

With love from Geneva,

Caitlin

 

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Eating, Mingling, and Networking

One of my favorite parts of living in Geneva is that almost anywhere you go, if you are willing to engage in conversation with those around you, you meet someone who either works for or knows someone that works for one of the larger INGOs in the city. It makes sense if you think about the diversity and backgrounds of the people who work here and the fact that there are over 30 international headquarters located here, but it still surprises me how many people I meet with careers that are fascinating and closely aligned to my professional goals.

I love food, and so one of the best ways that I’ve found to engage in this type of networking is by having a picnic by the lake. It’s very common, and usually there are at least one or two people from work that are doing the same thing. Bread and cheese and maybe some fruit (so you can pretend you are healthy) is all that is needed. While there, inevitably, another gorup of young professionals will ask to join and that’s usually all it takes to make the initial connection.

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Picnicking by the lake…YUM.

I’ve been able to meet people from the Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, International Organization for Migration, the UNHCR (please please please let me work for youuuuu), Handicap International, among others, and most recently a staff member of the International Network for Education in Emergencies. In true Geneva fashion, as I was talking to one woman the other day, I realized she knew some of the other people I met and actually used to be a roommate of someone in my office. Small world.

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And another picture of the lake, just because I still cannot get over how beautiful it is.

Soon after our conversation began, we noticed that we had a lot in common. We both had backgrounds in education, both studied in North Carolina for our bachelors degrees, and had gotten our advanced degrees in International Development. She thought I would be extremely interested in the work of INEE, so she invited me to a closed meeting with her boss (who was traveling here this week only from NY). A few emails confirming my welcome to attend the lecture the next day followed, and sure enough, I was soon sitting in a room of about 20 people listening to the Director of INEE talk about the organization, how it got started, and his story (which, surprisingly and very excitingly!) was similar to mine. I was even able to meet and talk to him after for a little while. He gave me some advice, and then told me that if I was ever in NY to let him know and we could meet for coffee. He was honestly one of the most down-to-earth, laid back people I have ever met, and his talk was both inspiring and motivating.

Trying to be more bold and talk to more people can lead to some really neat experiences. And living in this city is just so cool.

With love from Geneva,

Caitlin

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Professional (and Personal) Development

This week has been FANTASTIC thus far. I  am now completely moved into my apartment that I am subletting from a student at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. It is in a prime location in the city, providing a fairly quick commute to work on the bus. It also has a BEAUTIFUL view of the lake, and I have finally started running again. Side note: For those of you that really know me, I am quiet when you first meet me, and it is out of my comfort zone to be around many people that I don’t know very well, especially all at once. But, in an effort to make more friends here, I decided to join some of the local (and free!) activities that are offered around Geneva. Which brings me back to the running. I joined a running club that runs on Mondays and Wednesday nights. We meet at one of the main rendezvous points on the lake and run for as long the group feels like it, usually around 45 min to an hour. It is stunning running near the lake and I’ve made some friends as well!

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I mean, who could not run with a view like this?!

Another thing that began this week was French class. Right now it is on Tuesday and Thursday nights for three hours earch. Admittedly, it is a long time to be sitting still after a 10-hour work day, but ultimately I think it will be worth it. Classes for the summer are offered at the University of Geneva at a reduced rate, and there are only four other girls in the class that is taught by a wonderfully bubbly and encouraging woman. Plus, I will be able to practice my French a lot at work (at least I hope!) so this is the best time to learn!

Another thing I really appreciate about my internship is that there are many different professional development opportunities of which to partake. I’m doing my best to take advantage of everything that living and working in Geneva has to offer. There are workshops for interns in the United Nations system that happen around the city, and there are professional development events and talks given at both the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute. This week there was one at the Institute on Privacy, Security, and Technology, given by Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft. It was really interesting, and while I might not have been inclined to attend were it not for my lets-do-everything-in-Geneva-that-I-possibly-can mentality this summer, it was extremely interesting and useful for working with technology systems in large international organizations.

This week at work also provided staff and those serving at permanent missions to the UN, an opportunity for a professional development seminar hosted by the IBE. A very well-known professor from the University of Washington came to speak about IMG_3987nueroscience reserach as it pertains to development of the brain and what that means for development in early childhood. It was very informative and something that will be necessary for the IBE to continue to explore on its work with early childhood development curriculum and programming. It was timely and pertinent and provided people throughout the organization who specialize in different areas of IMG_3988educational development the opportunity to get an insight into the importance of ECD. Hopefully, lectures like this can help to open the lines of communication more in the office.

If you are interested in learning more about the connection between child development and neuroscience, there are a TON of great articles that I’ve been reading lately. Also, check out this lecture I attended at Penn earlier this year by the amazing Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development at UNICEF. Really, it’s great.

Well, that’s all for now! (Still haven’t quite got the hang of ending these posts smoothly, I see…:) )

With Love from Geneva,

Caitlin

 

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Bienvenue en Suisse

I have FINALLY arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, and I could not possibly be more excited. This first week has been nothing short of a whilwind of meeting new people and trying to absorb all the necessary information about my placement. I feel a little overwhelmed (as usual), but it’s the really great, ah-this-is-so-much-fun-and-I’m-going-to-learn-so-much type of feeling, so I’m just going to take that and roll with it.

My internship for the summer started bright and early on Monday morning when I met my supervisor, had a short orientation, received a TON of reading material, was introduced to the rest of the team I will be working with, and immediately started working on my first assignment. Whew! This first task consisted of compiling and editing the comments of 12 professionals in the field of inclusive education into one document that will be published later this year: The New Proposal of UNESCO’s Policy Guidelines on Inclusion and Equity in Education. While

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Editing my first document on inclusion and equity in education!

editing a document might not sound like the most exciting way to begin an internship, I can assure you it was a very valuable start. First of all, I was given the opportunity to read a verrrrrrryyyyyy long, thorough document on inclusion (which is an area of education that I LOVE) and understand the process of what goes into producing a document like this for publication. Needless to say, I learned a lot just from reading comments and case studies around the matter. Second, it provided me with my first opportunity to really offer my insight on inclusion and equity (more on this later….so important!) and add that to the conversations that were happening with my team.

 

 

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My first week’s worth of reading..

Here are a few hilights from the project:

  1. While the office is very diverse, the commentors on the article were mostly from western countries. This is definitely an issue that must be addressed in this type of work, and something that I feel like I will be reflecting upon a lot during my time too, considering I am interning in western Europe and working at an international orgainzation that predominately does work in the global South. BUT (in an effort to find the positives), the commentors themselves were very aware of this. Every.single.one. Whether they were academics or practitioners, consultants or directors of large NGOs, each commentor suggested that there needed to be more case studies featured that were written by researchers from those countries. Each commentor reorganized much of the rhetoric to make sure that the voices of those that are often unheard were brought to the forefront of the piece. And so that happened. Over 25 sources were edited and added to make sure there was more of a voice for those reseachers, practitioners, and academics that were from the countries mentioned in the guidelines. While it is a small step, I was both surprised and pleased.

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….and more reading 🙂

2. Throughout the paper, there were a few sentences that I found problematic, mainly ones talking about how parents of children with disabilities in some countries “wrongly and horribly assume” that their children cannot learn. Yes, it is a wrong assumption and, yes, it is a horrible reality that many children do not get the chance to go to school because of their perceived potential. However, this type of rhetoric is harsh and does nothing to address the fact that in many places, parents, teachers and policy makers have never been able to see what it would be like for these children to go to school or participate in an educational environment. And if the purpose of a document is to guide policy makers and teachers to see that, there should not be discourse that blames and belittles those who take care of these children. So, because my supervisor is very, very kind, I felt like I could go to her and tell her what I thought could be changed a little. She agreed and wrote to the original writer of that portion of the document and he agreed to change it. It’s just one sentence, I know. But, again, baby steps.

3. I had been emailing back and forth with this specialist in the UK who was very, very intelligent. I honestly didn’t know much about him, and because he signed all the emails with his first name, I didn’t think twice about it. At the very end of the edits, before he was tasked with the final review, he wrote a very kind email to me thanking me for all the hard work I put into the edits. This particular email had his signature at the bottom and I realized it was a professor and researcher who I had cited MULTIPLE times for both my capstone policy brief and my poster presentation at CIES earlier this year. **resuming my fan-girling again**

4. This document is essentially a revised and updated edition of the guidelines that were produced in 2009, focusing solely on inclusion. The additon of talking about the importance of equity as well (specifically not equality) really hilighted a lot of the really good work that is being done in this field and the increasing awareness around sensitivity to the topic, specifically in regards to the new SDGs. I was VERY thrilled to learn this and hear a little about the conversations that are happening around this topic in the office.

All in all, it was a very good first week, and I’m so thankful to have already started working at full speed. This summer is shaping up to be a good one.

With love from Geneva,

Caitlin

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The 20 Day Countdown

So, I’m still really trying to be a big fan of this whole blog thing. I have nothing against people who write them, and I really do enjoy following my fair share of them. And to be fair, I created a blog along with some classmates for a class last semester and really loved it. But I guess there is something about writing about my life for people to read that makes me feel a little strange. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love writing. Absolutely love it. And now that I’m almost finished with graduate school, I am definitely enjoying the extra time I have to journal. But, usually, I write only for me. It helps me reflect and see how things can both stay the same and change over time. It helps me see how much I, too, change and stay the same. But anyway, here it goes…

First up, I am a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying International Educational Development. It was a pretty long process of actually deciding what I wanted to do with my life, but once I found this program at Penn, I was sure that was where I was supposed to be. And it definitely didn’t disappoint! I not only had the most amazing professors, but also met the most incredible people who share the same passion for education as I do and are committed to “moving the needle” of change wherever they end up. In the past nine months I have learned more about this field than I thought possible, but now it’s time to put what I’ve learned in classes into practice. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity I have to work in Geneva, Switzerland, for the next three months. And I leave in just 20 days!

Now, apparently the next part of an initial blog entry is to tell a little about yourself (Thank you, google).  I feel like whoever is reading this probably already knows the basic info, but because I have this apparent need to stick to proper “blog ettiquette,” here are some other tidbits: My family is made up of some of the most wonderful people on the planet (Yes, the whole entire planet). I forget things easily so I write them down on sticky notes that are all around my room. I sometimes start books that I don’t finish, and it really bugs me. I am fascinated with the idea of couches that are specifically made for the outdoors.  I LOVE love. I hate heights, but I really love getting stuck at the top of Ferris Wheels. When I say “How are you?” to someone, I love when they answer me really truthfully. Handwritten birthday cards are the best. I am an awful singer, but that really never stops me. I trip and run into things a lot. I giggle like a little girl when I’m really, really excited about something. I’m currently obsessed with learning Hindi/Urdu, but I can only say two sentences properly. I can eat an entire watermelon in one sitting. AND I have a pretty awesome collection of baseball cards. In case anyone was wondering.

I’m 24 years old and a graduate at the University of Pennsylvania. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, also known as the greatest place on earth. I majored in Special and Elementary Education, and left for a little while after graduation on a Fulbright grant to teach in Nepal. That experience actually helped me realize that I wanted to pursue development work, hence the reason I applied to this program at Penn. I love coffee, odd numbers, weddings, dark chocolate milky ways,  Marlins baseball (really any baseball at all),  Princess Anastasia, running, the Charlotte skyline, pinky promises, sweet texts from good friends, big hugs, country music, making forts, finding the perfect journal (I’m very picky), people watching in airports, when the guys at the end of World Cup games trade jerseys with one another, singing Taylor Swift (very loudly) in the car with the windows down, the number 11, and crossing things off my bucket list. I suppose there are a lot of other things that I really like, but I also suppose that you don’t really need to read about any more of that.

Like I said there are 20 more days until I leave for Geneva, Switzerland from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a trip that will take only about 21 hours of travel time, quite exciting considering my last trip to Nepal took almost 48 hours. Pretty psyched about this new adventure, but also increasingly  anxious as I usually am when beginning a new chapter. I’m thrilled to be working at an organization I have always admired, and  I am very excited to meet the people I will have the privilege of working with and learning from over the next several months.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the Florida sun between short trips to North Carolina. I don’t really know what to put a picture of for this post (and considering that’s a thing you are supposed to do with blogs, I guess I kinda need to)..sooooooooo here are some of the greatest people I have ever met. We crossed the stage after a very tough, yet rewarding, year last week. They will always have such a special place in my heart.

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With Love from North Carolina (but not for long),

Caitlin

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