Having read Lisa Miatello’s recent piece (“Something’s fishy about IDS internships,” Commentary, October 8), I felt obliged to stick up for those – including myself – who have interned abroad under the McGill banner. It’s clear that Miatello has not interacted on any level with any person who has completed an internship, and that she is unaware of their goals in doing so. Her topic was clearly a springboard to discuss issues other than internships, and was full of assumptions that were so far afield that they were, in fact, falsehoods. This, as I mentioned, was extremely insulting to my colleagues and me.
Let me be blunt. Miatello seems bent on railing against (among other things): entitlement, selfish careerism, neo-colonialism, global inequality, and capitalism in general. I get it. My point is that any passing glance in the direction of McGill’s Arts’ Internship participants would show that she has clearly picked the wrong group to make the target of her agenda.
Now, perhaps I have self-selected out of the heartless-bastard-capitalist sub-group, but all of the interns I have met care deeply about issues of poverty, inequality, and human rights around the world (including, yes, in Canada – I would point out the numerous internships that take place domestically). All of these interns, including myself, went into our summer with one goal: learning. That’s it. No saving the world. No colonialist superiority. No white man’s burden. (Speaking of which, where are all the minority interns in Miatello’s article?)
This mission was – we would freely admit – selfish. But certainly not in the ways she mentioned. We went out into the field to gain a better understanding of our academic pursuits, so that perhaps we could add something to the battle against the very things Miatello herself purports to hate.
My internship in Ghana came at a large expense to myself. Would that money have been better used if I had wrapped it up with a bow and handed it off to Oxfam? If you look at my internship by itself, even I would argue that perhaps it would have.
But that would be missing the point, which is this: the internship program at McGill, and all those like it, seeks to send young people out to these places so that we can better understand the problems that the world faces. We need desperately to close the gap between isolated academia and the real world, to better our understanding in order to make real contributions to the fight against global injustice. I would not be so crass as to say that my internship alone served this purpose, but on the balance, global outreach and real experience by those from the West stands up to the criticism levelled against it.
Miatello’s ill-thought-out words were insulting and harmful to all of those who are a part of this mission. She missed the point completely, and owes an apology to McGill’s interns.
Marc Trussler is a U3 Honours political science student. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.