Looking Back on a Powerful Experience

By Sam Canfield

It’s now been a few days since my six-week internship in Tena, Ecuador with Fundación Aliados ended, and since then, I’ve been reflecting on the best ways to sum up the entire experience for my family members, friends, and this intern blog...

First, however, I’d like to preface this by saying that everyone’s experience is different, and that the only way to truly understand my story and the stories of the other interns is to come and see for yourself. But I digress.

Much cooler than I would have expected. Fun and exciting. Fulfilling. Beautiful. Powerful. These are the words and phrases that come to mind when looking back on my time in Tena. Like, “Holy (enter expletive here)!! I can’t believe this just happened to me!! I learned so, so much, and became friends with such interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life.” 

But enough chatter; let’s get down to business. When it comes to the internship itself, it offered me a fantastic opportunity to experience firsthand what working at a small, overseas, non-governmental organization (NGO) similar to Fundación Aliados is like. I witnessed the holistic, flexible approach the Aliados team utilizes out of necessity in their various ongoing projects involving business development and sustainability. I learned about the challenges of cross-cultural collaboration during my trips to indigenous farming communities a bus-ride outside of Tena to interview our partners, develop and manage the variety of projects we have alongside them, and then relay necessary information between the office and the indigenous communities. Furthermore, I finished the internship with a much greater understanding of: Spanish, the process of cultivation, how to conduct research, the logistical/financial problems that young businesses based in agriculture run into, and my future, just to name a few things. Overall, my internship was positive, very rarely boring, and perfectly customizable, manageable, and self-guided.

Outside of the internship, my life in Tena was just as much of a pleasant surprise. When I arrived in mid-June, the three other interns had already made friends with various people within Tena; locals, our co-workers, other interns and employees of other NGOs, etc. I joined this community of witty, adventurous, kind people in stride, and only made more friends on my own with the owners of food stands I would frequent, and members of the local ultimate frisbee pickup group. Best of all, the setting of this was the awesome, centrally-located intern house that doubled as the NGO office, and a tranquil, happy, perfectly-sized Amazonian town with warm weather and a pretty river. 

Maybe I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, but I’m really going to miss Tena. My six weeks there were some of the most impactful, organic, and enjoyable of my life. Granted, at times I missed home or was a bit tired, but my decision to take on this internship was definitely one of my best. I mean come on, my average weekday looked like this: wake up and eat breakfast out on the patio with the interns, have a meeting with our co-workers, continue working (usually out on the patio) until lunch, take my 1.5 hour lunch break with the interns at one of our favorite restaurants and perhaps stumble upon one or more of our friends, work until 4:30 at the office or at one of the indigenous communities (the workday always went by extremely fast), say goodbye to our co-workers, nap, run down to the beach upriver (5 minutes away) and swim, play sports in the park, make or go out to dinner with the other interns and 1-3 friends, repeat until the weekend (which would bring even more time for socialization, relaxation, and excitement).