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U public health grad student Christy Borass conducting HIV/AIDS prevention promotion and research with participants in Ghana, 2003.

Christy Boraas conducted HIV/AIDS prevention promotion and research with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Ghana through the Global Experience Program in its first year, 2003.

Global experience for graduate students

Internship program fills a gap

By Jennifer Schulz

Published on June 29, 2004; updated June 30, 2004

AIDS research in Africa, a medical rotation in a developing country, physical therapy in a nation's only hospital--University of Minnesota graduate students are increasingly looking for international internship opportunities like these.

It's a little easier to do through the Global Experience Program, which began in 2003. This summer, in its second year, five medical students will participate in internships in Ecuador, two physical therapy students in American Samoa, and one public health student in Ghana.

"Many students were organizing internships on their own, so we decided to start the program," says Sheila Collins in the U's Learning Abroad Center.

International programs staff had recognized a gap in global opportunities for graduate and professional students. When they asked college faculty members for advice, the strongest response came from the health sciences.

"We don't have to encourage our students to go abroad--this is the type of experience they want," says Ian Greaves, associate professor in the U's School of Public Health.

"Our students are interested in traditional, serious public health problems, such as sanitation, that can best be experienced in the developing world," Greaves says. "When the students return to campus and tell us about public health around the world, it enhances our own understanding."

The Global Experience Program provides structured support, including in-country contacts, health insurance, and academic assistance, which helps students integrate the internship abroad with their academic programs on campus.

Christy Boraas, a public health graduate student, was one of the first Global Experience Program interns in 2003. She conducted HIV/AIDS prevention promotion and research with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Ghana.

"I could have interned with an HIV NGO in the U.S.," Boraas says. "What I gained from interning in Africa was a first-hand glimpse of the widespread destruction HIV causes and the chance to work and live alongside committed Ghanaians working to stem the tide of this epidemic."

She says was also able to gain a better understanding of how U.S. foreign policy directly affects the HIV epidemic worldwide.

Internships through the Global Experience Program are available in a variety of fields and locations in private-sector companies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions. Most internships take place in the summer. They generally last 8 to 12 weeks, with a minimum of 30 to 40 hours of accountable, on-the-job involvement per week. Students can work with their departments to earn credit.

For further information, application materials and other study abroad options, visit http://www.umabroad.umn.edu/programs/gep, call 612-626-9000, e-mail gradadv@umn.edu, or visit the Learning Abroad Center in 230 Heller Hall.

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