Joëlle Laberge’s internship journal

June 18, 2019

Every year, DID and Desjardins Foundation offer 5 international internships to young graduates from university and professional training programs in a variety of fields. Since 1997, over 90 participants in the DID international internship program have had the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism on DID projects while gaining valuable international work experience.

Who’s our intern?

Joëlle Laberge is a master’s student in International Relations at Université Laval in Quebec City. From May 10 to August 23, she’s on an internship in Benin to help out with the DID-led ADAPAMI support project for developing, professionalizing and revitalizing microfinance there. Joëlle has agreed to share her adventure with us through posts that she’ll write throughout her stay in Benin. Today we’re publishing her first post. Stay tuned for more news form her this summer!

The Benin beat: learning to slow down

It’s been a week since I arrived in Benin, and I feel like I have to relearn almost everything: culture, expressions, the pace of life, exchange rates, etc. The biggest challenge for me in Benin so far has been to… slow down.

Normally, I tend to talk fast, walk fast, try to do everything fast. People point it out to me a lot in Quebec. But here, I need to slow right down if I want anyone to understand me.

Last week, I was walking at a good clip to go buy some fruit. A boy said to me, “It’s obvious you’re not from here… the way you walk, it’s too fast!” It made me laugh because I could see that, compared to everyone else, I looked like I was in a hurry. In hindsight, I realize I must have been stressful to watch!

Watch and learn

The start of my first week was all about watching, asking questions, and getting a feel for things since I wasn’t sure about much. At the end of the week, I had the opportunity to meet the participants of a women in leadership training session with my co-worker Sylvie, a Beninese advisor on gender equality. I introduced myself to the women, we chatted, and I met with the two trainers and two participants for one-on-one interviews. It was great! What a wonderful way to cap off my first week.

Breathe and remember

It can be discouraging to start from scratch and get your bearings again, but a trick that really helps (and that I underestimated) is to remember why you’re there. I’m in Benin to help develop a project that will make a difference for a lot of people. And I was lucky enough to be reminded of that on my first Friday there. I’m very motivated and optimistic about the next 13 weeks!

For more information on the ADAPAMI project.

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