Kameice Francis ’20: Phuhlisani NPC

Name: Kameice Francis
Class Year: 2020
Major: International Studies and Growth and Structure of Cities
Hometown: St. Thomas, Jamaica

Internship Organization: Phuhlisani NPC
Job Title: Research Intern
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

What’s happening at your internship?

This week I finished profiling researchers for Phuhlisani’s website, knowledgebase.land. Based on a list of of organizations that I was given on my first day, I profiled research institutes and Non-governmental organizations that specialize in rural and urban land issues in South Africa. This was done via a Google Form. I also provided links to full-text research studies that covered different aspects of the land issues including masters and doctoral theses, research reports and policy briefs that were available from the organizations. I have started transferring data from the spreadsheet that I created with organizational profiles to Trello so that the information is accessible to the public until Phuhlisani is able to add it to their website.

landscape

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship because I am interested in urban and regional planning and this internship has exposed me to a new area of that field. I also had never traveled to South Africa and I was excited to be able to travel to another part of the world. I also got the opportunity to speak to my supervisor before applying and I really enjoyed the conversation and I wanted to learn more about his field of expertise.

Living in a new city? What has that experience been like for you?

I have really been enjoying living in another city. It’s been a little colder than I had expected but I have learned to adjust. I have also been able to try a myriad of new foods and visited many new places. I particularly like walking around Cape Town and trying to discover as many places as possible.

Can you give us three adjectives and three nouns that describe your internship experience?

Nouns: Passion, Adventure, Confusion

Adjectives: Eye-Opening, Frustrating, Heart-Warming

Jia Wei ’21: Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

Name: Jia Wei
Class Year: 2021
Major: Cities and French
Hometown: Beijing, China

Internship Organization: Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games
Job Title: Project Assistant
Location: Beijing, China

What’s happening at your internship?

We are preparing for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics!

I am mostly doing translation of the latest version of the Functional Area Operation Plan and assisting project managers doing work related to City Operations.

Why did you apply for this internship?

Beijing is the only city to hold both Summer and Winter Olympics. It is an occasion to be cherished by every Chinese citizen. As for me, I love the feeling of a team working together for a common goal. On the other hand, the functional area of City Operations is also related to what I study, so there was no reason for me to hesitate.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

Translation is hard. Translating between Chinese and English is even harder. Difference in syntax and cultural background means difference in use of language, so it is necessary to reorganize sentence structures. Sometimes, a word in Chinese has multiple meanings, so I have to think about it and find one that fits the context. It is common that series of verbs are put in a single sentence, so finding ways to express the meaning while maintaining the originality of the text is another hard task.

What is most rewarding about your internship?

The internship itself. The fact that I got the chance to participate in the preparation of a leading international event held in my hometown is so special and still unbelievable.

Alyssa Lopez ’20: Inclusive Action for the City

Name: Alyssa Lopez
Class Year: 2020
Major: Growth & Structure of Cities and Spanish
Hometown: Los Angeles

Internship Organization: Inclusive Action for the City
Job Title: Policy and Economic Development Intern
Location: Los Angeles

What’s happening at your internship?

It varies! I am so grateful to not have jumped into a super structured internship placement because I am learning so much on the go and am constantly stimulated. About a month ago, Inclusive Action for the City underwent a name change (formerly Leadership for Urban Renewal), which was announced at our annual event (incredibly well attended by more than 300 people), while the team graciously answered around 500 of my burning questions and curiosities. I am primarily working on a couple ongoing research projects ranging from the costs of displacement/relocation (inclusive of eviction in some cases) for individuals in Los Angeles to investigating municipal initiatives to repurpose and revitalize urban vacant land across the country. The preliminary research that I am participating in is in collaboration with a couple other team members and will lead to publications on IAC’s Research Blog and other forms of long-term tactical research. The research that IAC conducts then informs their programming strategies and shapes the implementation of policy initiatives across multiple city-relate topic areas.
I am also helping out with some data collection and streamlining for Inclusive Action’s micro-loan program, Semi’a Fund. Semi’a aims to provide short-term healthy loans for individuals that are business owners and are likely to be at risk of predatory lending and are often not able to borrow through traditional means. The streamlining of this data will help better organize and prepare for more clients in the future and provides a structured representation often necessary for funding purposes/opportunities.

Although I get learn client stories and backgrounds through the Semi’a data, I am glad to say that I also have the opportunity to directly engage with the communities that Inclusive Action does this work for. Through my support of COMPRA (our healthy produce delivery service), I take clients’ orders and am able to hear out their concerns to in an effort to improve our service. I have recently also participated in our work with Best Start, an initiative that focuses on the bettering the lives of children (0-5 years old) in historically disenfranchised communities. I was able to participate a couple weeks ago by facilitating a parent conversation regarding the necessary educational tools/knowledge children need before entering formal education — it was challenging but also a lot of fun to learn so much from complete strangers!

Why did you apply for this internship?

Having previous experience interning within the nonprofit sector in L.A. and during the school year in Philadelphia, I was fairly confident of wanting to get some more hands-on work with a nonprofit this summer before entering my senior year. I had learned of Inclusive Action a couple years ago and was able to attend their annual event plus2, which is a convening of professionals, residents, and educators that work to better urban communities. This experience is one that had informed and guided my academic research and personal interests over the past year — so I thought it would be a great idea to work with the group of people that that pulls this and so much other work together. Inclusive Action, through economic development and community engagement, has actively worked to shape and better low-income communities of color across Los Angeles for the past 10 years. I wanted to support their projects to the best of my ability, but I mainly wanted to learn about what is missing in this field: what is the work that could get done if there were unlimited resources at Inclusive Action? Apart from the collaboration that IAC foments, what avenues of collaborative work should be present in cities? What figures of urban leadership are we missing? What existing work should be elevated?

These questions and many others are ones I get to participate in discussions about on the daily, and there is actual real work that the team at IAC leads to address these cornerstones of urban life, every day! I am incredibly grateful that I am able to marry my academic passions with my experience living in Los Angeles and nerd out about urban planning with my coworkers on the daily!

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

No … it is so much more! I was prepared to learn and be challenged and engage in mindful moments, but the past few months at Inclusive Action have been so stimulating and spurred motivation to think about my future in this sector and the many different paths that have led people to this work. I think because I have had a couple different internship placements in the past — I am in the habit of reflecting on my role within the organization that is guiding me. At Inclusive Action I feel comfortable sharing my concerns and recommendations on how to shape the work I am doing — the welcoming atmosphere and leadership has elevated the confidence I have with the work I produce and contributes to learning experience/process overall. I am extremely grateful to work with people that are very self-aware and that constantly question, in very thoughtful ways, how they are doing the work and how they can further be engaged.

 

Cara Navarro ’20: Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow

Name: Cara Navarro
Class Year: 2020
Major: Growth and Structure of Cities
Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Internship Organization: Bryn Mawr College
Job Title: Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow
Location: Washington, D.C.

What’s happening at your internship?

I’m not exactly doing an internship — I’m a Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow. As part of the fellowship, I’m writing a paper on how Washington, D.C.-area Filipino restaurants relate to urban space and how that reflects Filipino-American identity construction. That involves looking at not only the restaurants themselves, but also their neighborhoods and the geographies of their customers and supply chains. It’s a lot to address, but I’m having fun doing it. I’ve been eating at Filipino restaurants and making field notes about my observations, interviewing restaurant owners, and reading academic literature to contextualize everything I’ve found.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied to the Hanna Holborn Gray program primarily because I’ll be writing my senior thesis this upcoming fall, and I wanted to go the extra mile for that in terms of research. As for why I chose my research topic, I wanted to explore questions of cultural identity and urban space—which I’ve been interested in since my first year—in a city I’d never lived in before. With its growing Filipino food scene, the D.C. area was a very good place to do it.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

I’ve lived in seven different cities so far, and through my research, I’m getting to know Washington, D.C., more quickly than I got to know any of them. I’m not just walking around different neighborhoods with friends in my free time, the way I would if I were interning or taking classes here. I’m spending all day immersing myself in the city and talking to new people. I really enjoy the process of discovering a new place, so I love that I’m doing it for work. Getting paid to eat at restaurants is also a sweet deal.

Crispy Chicken Adobo Bao from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, MD.

Crispy Chicken Adobo Bao from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, MD.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

As an independent researcher, I’m completely in charge of how I spend my time: I set my own tasks and schedule my own days. While it’s thrilling to be so in control of my day-to-day life, it’s sometimes difficult to stay self-motivated. However, I have structures in place to hold myself accountable. For one thing, there’s a deadline for the final research paper. I also email my advisor once a week, and I stay in contact with other Hanna Holborn Gray fellows.

Zhuoran Hu ’21: Tsinghua Urban Planning Institute

Name: Zhuoran Hu
Class Year: 2021
Major: Mathematics, Growth and Structure of Cities
Hometown: Beijing

Internship Organization: Tsinghua Urban Planning Institute (THTF Co.)
Job Title: Intern
Location: Beijing

What’s happening at your internship?

My internship is related to smart cities, transportation, and big data. The team that I joined is currently working on an artificial intelligent system named Insight (or called Hui Yan Da in Chinese). This product is mainly used to improve or further solve some existing problems in China’s highway network system, such as lack of hardware equipment as well as intelligence. Currently, a large number of monitoring video images can only be observed and identified by human eyes, so some emergencies cannot be timely detected, which leads to under-reporting. At the same time, some traffic information is not interconnected and shared.

A large number of real-time traffic data collected by the system are sealed and idle. The current situation makes it difficult for the government and the police to manage traffic networks effectively. It is hard to make predictions as well as to identify and deal with emergent traffic accidents at first. The team is able to use machine learning techniques to form some models that can automatically analyze traffic problems. The goal of the product is to improve intelligent traffic management and service capabilities. Most of our clients are local government and some police offices or security departments. People in our group have pretty diverse backgrounds and have different responsibilities. There are people in charge of collecting, selecting, and categorizing different types of data (mostly images of roads or highways). There are also people who build models and test those models. My work is more similar to the first type because of my lack of knowledge in computer science, especially in algorithms. My other work includes preparing materials for conferences, taking notes, and organizing some team-building events. I also make phone calls, participate in group discussions, and brainstorm with other team members. We are trying to train and improve the model so that it can detect more kinds of traffic accidents even under a dark environment with a bad network connection.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied because I want to explore what kind of jobs that I can do with my background in both math and cities. I find organizations or occupations related to smart cities will be a good fit because it is interdisciplinary. I am interested in cities and how people circulate around the city. This internship touches many topics that I am interested in, including transportation and data.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

Before I came to this internship, I thought the concept of smart cities is more related to the field of urban planning or urban studies. But actually, the concept of smart cities is based more on computer science instead of urban studies. To succeed in this field, people not only need to have some knowledge about cities, but also need to become an expert in computer science as well as have a deep understanding of algorithms. I believe that if I am good at coding, I will be able to explore more in this internship.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

I am learning the company’s own software that is used for data annotations. I am also learning the company’s own chat tool that people can use to send large documents and images to each other. I think this experience provides me inspirations and gives me a better understanding of software developments.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

I think the biggest challenge is to wake up early. I need to wake up at 7 a.m. and leave my home at 7:30 a.m. in order to arrive at the company before 8:30 a.m. The fast pace of the company is also a challenge, because everyone needs to finish a lot of work in a limited time. I think my experience at Bryn Mawr prepared me for the work. I already learned how to work efficiently and multi-task.