07 Feb Innovate ME: Lisa’s Internship Experience in Zanzibar

YCI is excited to announce the launch of Innovate ME, a rejuvenated internship program to give Canadian youth international experience with development projects! Perfect timing, new positions have just been posted! Click here to learn more and apply.

Want to know what a YCI international youth internship is all about? Meet Lisa who interned in Zanzibar with YCI in 2011. Last week, we sat down with her to ask how her internship experience helped launch her career and what she’s doing now. Learn more about Lisa’s career journey below!

What is your full name, age, and current occupation?
Lisa D’Alimonte, 33, Project Manager

When and where did your YCI internship experience take place? How long were you overseas? What was your role?
My YCI Internship was for 6 months in 2011 in the beautiful island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. My role was “Governance Officer” for the Zanzibar NGO Cluster for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Control and Sustainable Development (ZANGOC). ZANGOC is an umbrella organization that collaborates with its (then 40) member organizations to effectively combat HIV and AIDS, malaria, TB, drug abuse and environmental conservation in Zanzibar.

Why did you decide to embark on an internship overseas with YCI?
In 2009 to 2010 I was enrolled in the International Development Post Graduate Program at Humber Collage and to finish the program, every student had to embark on an internship placement. In 2010 at the end of my courses, I was fortunate enough to complete this placement in Ghana with YCI. After a very successful, eye opening and overall wonderful experience, I returned from Ghana in early 2011 with a great urge to continue my overseas experience. Since I trusted YCI to provide a safe, organized internship/volunteer placement experience, I applied for the YCI/IYIP internship and was fortunate to be among the few applicants selected for this great opportunity.

 

What is one thing that you gained professionally from your internship experience?
I learned how to listen and communicate and also that I wanted to pursue my career path in project management.

What is one thing that you gained personally from your internship experience?
I learned how to speak some Swahili which both impressed and scared the locals! I traveled to many parts of the island including Pemba, a smaller Zanzibari island to the north. I also met some amazing people, both locals and expats whom I keep in touch with 7 years later.

 

What was it like coming back to Canada?
Every time I came back from Africa, I came back in the dead of winter, a horrible mistake! The 100 degree temperature difference was definitely shocking and left me hibernating indoors and planning my next adventure.

I think the hardest part was trying to explain my experience to friends and family who had no prior knowledge of Africa, except that I lived there for a long time! Of course, they were naturally curious and wanted me to explain “what it was like” and I had so many stories to share but unfortunately interest was lost quickly and I was left with my great memories that no one could understand.

 

How do you think your experience improved your employability in Canada?
My experience allowed me to understand my strengths and weaknesses, something that most people cringe at talking about. Because of this realization, I could pursue a career that was fitting to me and my capabilities.

Can you take us through your career journey post-internship?
After my internship experience, I was interested in developing my career in Monitoring & Evaluation and Project Management. I even stayed longer in East Africa after my internship placement and found my way to Nairobi, Kenya to complete a month long intensive training program in M&E at the AMREF International Training Centre. This short program was a great resume booster for me and during the program, YCI contacted me again to ask if I would be interested in another placement back in Ghana to further develop and establish the pre-existing Mentorship Program in Koforidua. Of course, I accepted and continued my journey back in West Africa.

After this placement, I was adamant about remaining in Ghana to work in development but finding a job in this sector was no easy task. It seemed like a fate that I ran into a young expat girl about my age wanting to leave her job and find a replacement. The role sounded like a good opportunity to further my career in Project Management, the one catch was that the company was an engineering firm and while I had the PM experience, I had NO idea about mechanical and electrical engineering! I worked there for about a year and within that time, I met and married my husband and we decided to try our career luck together in Canada.

Turns out, my leap of faith taking the job at the engineering firm was my destiny, go figure! When I returned to Toronto, I landed a job as an Administrator in the Design and Construction department for Delta Hotels. After the acquisition of Delta by Marriott Hotels, I was promoted to a Project Coordinator and was traveling again, albeit only within North America!

As life goes, my husband was offered a job in Ottawa and I continued with Marriott remotely for about a year until I landed my current role as a Project Manager for the largest commercial property management company in Ottawa (also currently expanding into the GTA). I can now speak about architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering as if I have been doing so for years. It’s kind of scary how my career shifted but without any of these experiences, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.

 

Why do you think other young people should consider an internship with YCI?
YCI is a great organization and if you have any doubts about being overseas for an extended period you can rest assure that the YCI staff in Toronto and in the field office to have your back! As you can see from my experience, an internship with YCI is both professionally and personally satisfying, eye opening, rewarding and a great career stepping stone.