An excursion to the beach, a ski trip to the mountains, and a stay at the luxurious Grand Hyatt in Santiago. Claire Ransom enjoyed several occasions of fun and relaxation this summer, but mostly she traveled to Chile to work.
And work she did – eight hours a day, five days a week. Ransom was among the inaugural cohort of 13 CU Denver students participating in the Internship Programs Abroad (IPA), a new global education program sponsored by CU Denver. She applied her knowledge of Spanish and sustainability while serving as the first-ever intern for Gecamin, a company that holds multinational conferences and seminars on sustainable mining practices.
‘Dive into sustainability’
At CU Denver, Ransom is a senior majoring in Spanish and International Studies with minors in Leadership Skills and Sustainability. She works as a student internship specialist at the Experiential Learning Center (ELC). Ransom enjoyed a study abroad trip to Spain two years ago, and she was exploring options for another overseas venture this summer. “Chile sort of caught my eye, and I was looking at programs independent of the university,” she says. “One day I noticed this big poster in (the ELC) advertising the Internship Programs Abroad, and Chile was on the list.”
She relished the chance to study two of her passions – Spanish and sustainability – in a Latin American country she hadn’t been to. The other option was Costa Rica – one of seven countries currently on the IPA roster – but South America was an easy choice. “In Chile, where mining exports make up a third of the economy, you get to dive into sustainability and see what it’s like in-process,” she says. “I’ve learned quite a bit about the mistakes the United States has made as it has developed, and I would like to be a part of making sure that countries in Latin America don’t do the same.”
‘Prepare for changing global society’
Providing life-changing experiences such as this was the idea behind the CU Denver IPA program, according to Diego Garcia, director of the Office of Global Education.
“The types of experiences students have in this program equip them with cross-cultural skills that are necessary to succeed in our interconnected world,” Garcia says. “Students also learn and work alongside international colleagues in a variety of cultural settings, and they build a network of friends as well as prepare for today’s rapidly changing global society.”
Garcia says he expects the IPA to increase to 50 to 70 students a year working abroad. The summer internships last for six weeks, with one session running from mid-May to the end of June and another from the end of June until early August.
Work and independent study
For her unpaid internship, Ransom performed language translation for the resources presented during Gecamin conferences, including research abstracts and handouts. The company gathers leaders in the mining industry for in-depth, research-based discussions about sustainability, maintenance and automation, safety, mineral processing and other topics. Ransom worked on two conferences – the first focusing on ways to improve the handling of tailings, followed by a gathering to discuss safety and accountability measures at mining sites.
She received three credits for her company work and another three credits for an independent study project. Ransom studied how Chile’s environmental policy has changed since 1990, the end of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorial rule. She produced a 14-page narrative on the subject, which chronicled, among other advancements, Chile’s establishment of a board of executives that works to improve the mining industry.
‘You’re from Colorado?’
Since it was the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, Ransom enjoyed a weekend outing to a ski resort near Santiago. A seasoned snowboarder here in the Rockies, Ransom tried out skis for the first time. “The people in Chile couldn’t believe it,” she says. “They were saying, ‘Wait, you’re from Colorado, and you came here to ski?’”
As with all IPA participants, Ransom stayed with a host a family – a young couple with a 5-year-old daughter. A CU Denver student doing a different internship in Chile also stayed with the family.
The immersive experience allowed Ransom to learn Chilean Spanish, which is a distinct vernacular unto itself. There’s so much to the skinny country to see and learn about, including Patagonia to the south, that Ransom had a hard time leaving.
“Getting on the plane was very difficult,” she says with a chuckle.