Interview with an Intern: Macy Alexander

How did you hear about Hope in the Harvest and what attracted you to their mission? After being involved with the World Food Prize Organization, I found that I had a passion for international development but I had no idea where to start. I began to google “international agriculture education internship” and eventually I came...

Macy is a rising Junior at University of Arkansas.

How did you hear about Hope in the Harvest and what attracted you to their mission?

After being involved with the World Food Prize Organization, I found that I had a passion for international development but I had no idea where to start. I began to google “international agriculture education internship” and eventually I came across the Hope in the Harvest website. Just from a first glance, I immediately thought their programs and my intentions matched well. After looking into it further and contacting Anna Glenn, I thought that it was perfect for me.

Before you internship, what were you most excited about? What were you most worried about?                                                  

I was most looking forward to getting to experience agriculture (and especially agriculture education) in a completely different culture. I am a firm believer that seeing different cultures shapes the mind and that was a big part of my decision. I was most worried about traveling there because I had some really long layovers and no where to stay so I knew I would be paranoid to sleep. I was also very worried about the crime in Liberia but after going there I realize I had very little to worry about.

Why did you decide to come to Liberia? What were some of the main reasons you wanted to do this experience?

I decided to come to Liberia because I knew it would benefit my professional and spiritual life. I wanted to do this internship to grow in my faith, learn more about culture, and learn if I enjoy working internationally.

What did you learn as a result of your internship experience?

While working in the laboratory, the field, and the greenhouse, I learned many of the practical aspects of tropical agriculture. The farm employees I worked with were so personable and I got to hear some amazing stories because of it. They also taught me about useful and efficient  agricultural practices like “God’s Blanket” which is a mixture of grass clippings and harvested plants that they place over the soil and around the plants. The purpose is to keep the soil from drying out too much, to help put nutrients back into the soil, and to prevent weeds. “God’s Blanket” was so simple and was very effective in improving soil and plant quality. Something valuable I learned that was not expecting to learn about was how culture can impact classroom learning, discussing, and assessment (positively and negatively). Though I’m still not 100% sure of any of my future, I learned that I do enjoy working internationally and am mostly cut out for it.

What are some skills that you acquired as a result of this experience?

I got better at communicating and rewording things, saying “no” (this one sounds silly but was actually very useful), and differentiating when my help is actually helping versus when it is hurting or enabling.

How will you use what your learned from this experience in your future career or jobs?

Since my degree in agriculture education, I will most certainly be teaching somewhere at some point. This experience will help me better my understanding of how to help taper my lessons to different student audiences.

What are you most proud of from this experience?

I am proud of some of the suggestions and help I provided to the Global Ag Class and the Roots Africa club. Also I’m pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to put together the Foldscopes (small paper microscopes that were donated). It took me pretty much a whole work day to figure it out, but it was really rewarding when it worked. Then some of the students videoed me putting them together for future reference so I was very happy to help with that. Peter, the lab technician, gave me a shout out in front of everyone on the last day for putting them together and it warmed my heart to have been able to help.

What difficulties did you encounter and how did you handle them?

I’m very friendly and optimistic about people so much so that I will trust people that I shouldn’t, so I had to learn to say “no”.  I also encountered some uncomfortable conversations that I had to just push through. The best way to overcome those conversations was to adjust my mindset and remember that the culture is completely different and that one bad conversation should change how I feel about everyone there.

Was there anything that shocked or surprised you about agriculture, culture, school people, etc?

The culture was a shock in almost every way but you just have to go with it and have an open mind to get the best experience. The passion, hardworking, and dedicated college students were shocking to me too. They work so hard to pay their tuition and they spend many hours outside of class working on studying while still working on ways to improve agriculture in their community.

In what ways, if any, has this experience changed you?

I now know I can go out of my comfort zone and work internationally if I feel called to do so. I also view food and money waste differently now. The shortage of food and money make people in Liberia so incredibly thankful when they have some and so I avoid taking food for granted or stressing about money when I know I will be okay.  

What would you say to someone who was considering doing this internship? What advice or recommendations would you give?

I would say “DO IT”. So many things about going to Liberia can be scary, but you will not regret going out of your comfort zone. It is incredibly rewarding. I recommend booking your flight early and having an open mind and

What was your favorite thing about your experience?

I’m not sure I can pick one, but if I had to, it would be learning about and working with the Roots Africa club and building relationships with the passionate students in that club (and learning some about high school agriculture programs and FFA in Liberia while getting to know them).

What is one of your favorite memories that you often share with people back home now that you have returned?

I would say that the weekend trip to Lofa to visit the cocoa farm was very high on my favorites list. The sights on the long drive there were incredible! Seeing a cocoa bean farm was amazing and unique so of course I always tell that story. When someone says “farm” I usually picture rows of plants on a field but this farm was integrated into a couple hundred acres of what appeared to be a forest. I had no idea we would hike in the jungle but it was an amazing surprise. That whole day was full of tellable stories.

How has the transition been back home to the US? easy/hard- why?

Having the a/c and hot water again has been nice. Because it was such a humbling experience, being back in the U.S. has made me somewhat irritated with “first world problems”. After seeing how thankful people can be for $1 or a bowl of rice, being back has made it so difficult for me to listen to people complain about what they are eating or people stressing because they think they don’t have enough money.

How did this experience change the way you look at agriculture? Africa? poverty? the USA?

I used to have a somewhat cynical view about agriculture and how it can help the world but the workers in Liberia taught me just how close agriculture brings us to God and just how involved He is in every little part of it. I have a different view of poverty for sure. In the U.S. even if you are homeless, you can still find a shelter or food bank that will feed you. In Liberia, severe poverty I had never seen is all around and there is little relief for those who find themselves in a cycle of poverty.

How did this experience impact/grow/challenge your faith?

Me deciding to do this internship was a challenge to my faith. Most everyone told me it was a bad idea to go to Liberia but I felt like it was so right for me and so I prayed about it a lot and God kept leading me to Liberia. I eventually decided that I needed to pursue this despite the bad opinions of the people I was so close to. When I arrived, I got to work on things that were amazingly specific to what I want to do and I knew that God pointed me in the right direction. Another way my faith was impacted was by seeing the different perspectives of God. I always felt like God was a part of every thing in my life, but the people in Liberia view God as everything. They cling tighter to faith because they see that God is the reason for all of their few blessings. It’s easy to blame God on everything bad in your life and so many people all around the world don’t follow God because they don’t see how God can exist in a world with cancer and disease. But Liberians have the most simple yet intense love of God.

Do you know someone who might be interested in doing an internship in Liberia with Hope in the Harvest? Have them check out our internship page or send them our way! We’d love to help answer any questions they may have about this unique and exciting opportunity! Please have them reach out to us directly us via contactus@hopeintheharvest.org. Additionally, please share this opportunity with your networks by sharing this article or by sharing the internship page on our website. You never know who the Lord could be leading here next so SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

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