A day in the life of an IEDP Intern in Bolivia

I’ve now been in La Paz for one whole month (!!), which also means that I’ve gotten into more of a routine (which I crave), and the weeks are starting to pass by more quickly. As such, and after being inspired by fellow IEDPers’ blog posts (looking at you, Vasiliki and Morgan!), I decided to share what a “day in the life” of an IEDP intern at UNICEF Bolivia looks like…

7:00: My official alarm goes off, though I’ve been stirring for about a half hour, as the morning sun begins to fill the bedroom at my AirBnB. I don’t consider myself to be a morning person, so I take my time getting up! I get ready for the day with the company of my two American-centric news podcasts (NPR’s Up First and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah), to make sure I don’t get out of the loop with things going on at home.

8:15: From my apartment, I have some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, which I wave to as I walk down the street to catch the bus—El Puma-Katari—to the Calacoto neighborhood, where the UNICEF office is located. I’m exceedingly grateful for El Puma, as there’s bus stops within a couple of blocks of both my apartment and my office, and with its clearly defined routes and time-tables, it makes navigating a new city much easier.

8:30 (okay, usually a little bit after 8:30): After the 3-minute walk from the bus stop, I brave the 4 flights of stairs to my office. This leaves me out of breath, but I recover within a minute, so I guess I’ve acclimated to the altitude!

If it’s a Friday, I join the Operations and/or Programming teams for their weekly team breakfast. Friday team breakfasts are a lovely tradition at UNICEF Bolivia, and since I work on the same floor as Operations, but my job scope is with Programming, sometimes I get double breakfast!

One Friday breakfast included plantains, fried eggs, grilled veggies, and steak (and bread and coffee). Bolivians don’t joke around when it comes to breakfast!

9:00: I typically spend the morning oscillating between two main tasks: my meta-analysis project (described in my first post here—scroll down to the last paragraph) and my newer project, which consists of writing research briefs. I have to admit that it’s been nerdily fun to find connections between my UNICEF assignments and my IEDP assignments from the last three semesters. For example, for the meta-analysis project, I was excited that I even knew what a meta-analysis is, thanks to my Risk, Resilience, & Prevention Science and Poverty & Child Development classes with Dr. Wolf, where we read a handful of meta-analysis papers. Also, aside from reading studies, the bulk of this project is coding, which I learned about in more depth in my Qualitative Modes of Inquiry (QMI) class with Dr. Strong. While the meta-analysis calls for a more quantitative approach to coding, since the basic process feels similar, I feel well-prepared for this part of the project.

For my research brief writing, I look no further than second semester of IEDP Prosem with Dr. Gershberg. While I’m not writing any policy briefs from scratch, I am taking 20-100 pages of UNICEF research studies and condensing them into 2-3 page briefs, to be more digestible for the entire UNICEF staff. I even downloaded a couple of resources from our Prosem Canvas site to help orient myself for this project, which was such a great resource to have.

My desk space, in the office I share with other short-term consultants.

13:00: It’s time for lunch! The entire UNICEF office technically closes for lunch between 12:45-14:30 (except on Fridays, when we close at 14:00), but I think a lot of people stay at their desks busily working on tasks through the lunch hour. As an intern with two big projects that are meant to be spread out over the course of 3 months, I take the chance to leave the office and practice an introvert’s version of self-care. Most days, this means first going for a walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise. Then I head over to a (fairly westernized) café for lunch, where I have some sort of sandwich/salad and coffee/juice combo. I bring either my Sudoku book or a regular book and just spend the hour relaxing in a warmly heated café (our office doesn’t have central heating). I wasn’t expecting to eat out nearly every day of the work week (that’s definitely different from my normal!), but so far it’s been both cost-effective and a good way to practice self-care.

14:30: By this time, I’m usually back at the office for the rest of the afternoon, continuing whatever tasks I was working on in the morning. However, last week, one of my Child Protection colleagues was conducting monitoring site visits with several programs that UNICEF funds, so I tagged along with her for four different program visits. After reading about these initiatives for three weeks, it was great to see these programs in action!

All four programs that we visited work with kids and their families who are either at risk for, or are currently, experiencing homelessness. For example, one organization focuses on reintegration (as families are getting out of homelessness) by offering job skills, family therapy, and a safe space for families to spend their afternoons and evenings. Another organization focuses on folks currently experiencing homelessness (and its related issues like being out of school, drug/alcohol addictions, and familial and community violence). We joined them for one of their weekly soccer matches, which doubles as outreach and a safe space for families and kids living on their own.

One program that we visited in both La Paz and neighboring El Alto is the Escuela Móvil (Mobile School) project, which serves a dual purpose of being an informal education space for children, and an opportunity to build relationships with the young women that may otherwise benefit from the organization’s support.

The Escuela Móvil uses a play-based pedagogy, which means all of the learning happens while having fun! While kids are busy playing and learning with program staff, their moms chat with the available social workers and psychologists, while getting free manicures (a brilliant, low-stakes way to start building relationships). For both kids and parents, the Escuela Móvil tends to focus on social-emotional growth and how to cultivate healthy relationships with one another (and thus avoiding harmful practices like corporal punishment). At the intersection of education and child protection, the Escuela Móvil is just one example of how UNICEF Bolivia works with local organizations to support healthy child development.

Translation: “Love your children every day, get to know their worries, be a part of their anecdotes, listen to them, get to know their friends, promote family time and a healthy lifestyle.

18:00-18:30: Since the UNICEF office officially closes at 18:15, I usually start wrapping things up now. Depending on where I’m at in the city, I’ll hop on the nearest teleférico (my favorite public transportation system–stay tuned for a post with more info!) and then make my way back to Calacoto to catch my regular bus home.

19:30: Once I’m home, I either catch-up on IEDP assignments, browse various job postings, or dive right into Netflix. If I’m lucky, I’ll also get to chat with my loved ones at home, as we’re all getting home from work around the same time (major pro of interning somewhere in the same time zone as home).

By 22:30-23:00, I’m usually asleep. Thanks for following along my day. As they say in La Paz, ¡Chaucito!

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