Commentary  What’s wrong with learning?

Re: “Something’s fishy about IDS internships” | Commentary | October 8

I think this article is addressing the wrong issue. This summer I went on internship to Bolivia. It was not an IDS internship – it was through Québec sans frontières. I lived and worked in the Bolivian Amazon basin for six weeks where I helped write projects for protected areas and indigenous reserves. I then lived in the city of La Paz where I did similar work for another protected area for four weeks. I went through a hard decision process – the exact argument this article makes was going through my head – “Do I actually think this will help them?” At the time, I had grave problems with the philosophy of the IDS program as well, specifically with the idea of learning about the problems of the developing world from a cozy McGill classroom. However, what is the purpose of an internship? To learn. And, I learned. I think we have to stop saying that we are going to Bolivia, India, Ghana, and a wide variety of other “non-industrialized countries” to help them, and realize that these internships help us. This is not necessarily a bad thing: we are able to learn about another culture, another way of life, and learn in a way that is dynamic and not from a lecture or a textbook. This is a great opportunity to learn and share with other human beings, and more often than not, they help us far more than we could ever hope to help them.

Devon Willis
U2 Political Science