We are back on an extremely snowy and cold campus after our seven week Field Work Term internships. This winter I was in Portland, Oregon working with the Nike Foundation. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do for Field Work Term this fall I knew I wanted to get a new angle on the work I’ve already done in Kenya. Most of my experience with NGOs (non-govermental organizations) and CBOs (community-based organizations) has been on the ground work, which I absolutely love, and last year for FWT I worked for an NGO called the Africa Yoga Project, for which I worked remotely from home. I was in contact with National Geographic, USAID, and the Nike Foundation throughout the fall. I wish I could have done all three, but when it came time to decide I chose the Nike Foundation. I think what made the decision for me is that the Foundation solely focuses on adolescent girls and girls and women’s issues are of particular interest to me.
My friend Sam and I had spent the fall “manifesting” Portland as our FWT 2015 destination. It was mostly a joke, but also it worked so now I’m a believer in the power of manifestation. She worked for a local author in Portland and we lived together in an adorable airbnb and were frequently visited by our host’s adorable (but also kind of gross) pug, Stubbs. We quickly fell into the routine of an old married couple and loved it.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into my time at Nike. I had never worked in that type of environment (the foundation in on the Nike World Headquarters campus). All the buildings on the campus are named after famous athletes. The foundation is in the Mike Schmidt building (don’t worry I also had to google him). Every day, as I walked into my office I was greeted by a plaque with a Mike Schmidt quote that read: “Any time you think you have the game conquered, the game will turn around and punch you right in the nose”. It was hard not to laugh/cry at this coming from the nurturing Bennington environment. I expected to do most of my learning by observing while at the Foundation. I knew I was pretty out of my league and didn’t feel super confident in what I had to offer. However, I quickly realized that I would be contributing much more and in much more meaningful ways than I had anticipated.
On my first day my supervisor pulled me into a meeting where our team was discussing potential partners in India. We heard a presentation about several organizations and key issues, then discussed which groups and projects could be potential partners for Nike. I was immediately asked for my opinion and had a vote when it came down to deciding on organizations. This day and meeting really set the tone for the rest of my time at the Foundation. My main project was to do research and write a paper/brief on girls doing domestic work in developing countries. I spent most of my time working on this and also got to sit in on and participate in many meetings. My final product was a 25 page research paper and a presentation on my findings. It was incredible to leave my Field Work Term having completed something significant and tangible for both myself and the organization I was working for. I also made so many connections with people who have lots of experience in the field who will be excellent connections for me in the future as I move forward.