From the day I started my internship, my supervisor said she wanted to take me along with her on an official mission. From the beginning, it was also relatively clear that it would be tricky to shuffle a mere intern through the process of official travel authorization at UNESCO. The opportunity came, however, to test the system, and – spoiler alert – we beat it (mostly)!
I won’t elaborate on every excruciating detail of the process. Suffice it to say that we tried a lot of ways to get authorization before I finally got the go ahead. At 5:45 pm the day before the trip, I was still running around the office collecting signatures, and at 6:00 pm, I was still missing one. My flight, however, had already been booked. I was going to Rio de Janeiro on a mission! (I even registered my trip with Penn. Don’t forget! Safety first, fellow interns!)
I ran into a little trouble at the airport, but nothing insurmountable. The flight my colleague* and I were supposed to be on had been canceled. We were both put on new flights, albeit separate ones. Mine left 4 hours later, hers a little earlier. The flight from Brasília to Rio was uneventful, all 1.75 hours. I sat next to a mother and her two small children: one on her lap, and one little guy next to me. They were only the tiniest bit fussy, but all in all, we got along fine. I made sure the mom knew she didn’t have to worry about me getting fussy, too.
On Thursday, my supervisor, my colleague* and I took a ferry across Guanabara Bay to Niterói, a neighboring municipality, where we met with the local education secretary. I have never been to a Brazilian school, but it was fascinating to hear about the school system, its challenges and its goals from a local administrator.
On Friday, we went to a private university based in Rio but active all over Brazil as a large and growing provider of distance learning. We spent a good few hours talking about the potential for collaboration, and it really did seem like some sort of partnership would make sense. While the discussions stayed relatively generic, it was very interesting to see how such negotiations begin.
My supervisor and my colleague* left that afternoon. Meanwhile, I had the privilege of staying in Rio till Sunday. You can read about that part of my trip in my forthcoming tell-all memoir (kidding). I was sad to leave, but it’s better to have reasons to go back to a place than reasons to stay away. I’ve only got 4 weeks left in Brazil, and I think I’ll be saying the same thing when I get on my plane to Philly.
*I use the term colleague loosely. Dangling down here from the very bottom of the hierarchy, I have no peers.