My Capstone Experience at Plan International USA

By Robert Juengling
June 26, 2018

I am a graduating senior at Loudoun Valley High School in Virginia, and I just wrapped up my three-week experience interning with Plan International USA for my Capstone Project.  Recently, I sat down to answer a few questions about my time with Plan. Here is how I responded:

Why did you want to do your Capstone experience with Plan International USA?

I wanted to do my Capstone with Plan because, during my junior year of high school, I had learned more about the world than the average student is typically taught through my internationally-focused classes. I learned more about the various issues that billions of people around the world deal with, from lack of clean water and sanitation, to poverty, to lack of a decent education, to gender inequality. I also briefly learned about the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development, but I didn’t have a full understanding of it and whether or not it is something I would choose to do later in life. Interning with Plan would give me insight into NGOs and international development and help me decide what it is I want to do after college. 

What were your expectations before you began?

I didn’t know what to expect with this Capstone. I knew practically nothing about Plan International, and had only a limited knowledge of what NGOs did.

What were your key projects during your Capstone?

The key project that I worked on during my Capstone was mapping out all current and recent projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). The majority of my time was spent researching each individual project listed on the USAID website and listing when it was being implemented, the lead organization implementing it and any other partner organizations, the Chief of Party (Project Director) for that project, and/or where in the country it was being implemented. I ended up mapping out 72 total projects in the region, with an in-depth review of the USAID Bridges to Employment project in El Salvador. I also attended team meetings with the rest of the Youth and Economic Empowerment (Y&EE) team every week and had meetings with people from other teams to learn about what they did at Plan.  

What did you find most interesting about the work you did? What did you learn?

I was interested to see what projects USAID was funding and what they focused on in the Northern Triangle. I learned how the donor and prime implementers would allocate funds, who they would support in order to achieve their goals, and the lasting impact of these projects. 

Did any development issue or thematic sector particularly interest you?

I was most interested in education, due to the fact that at one point I considered being a teacher before deciding against it. However, I am still interested in how to improve educational experiences around the world, especially in lesser developed countries in South America, Africa, and Asia. I was interested to learn about the issues that children in these countries face when getting a decent education and what international organizations do to improve their opportunities. 

What did you enjoy about working in an office? What was most challenging?

I loved that I was able to focus on my work more efficiently, in contrast to in school where I easily get distracted by my phone, other people, or just not being interested in the work at all. Being in an office was heavy on research and typing, but I could choose to get lunch or fill up a mug with tea whenever I wanted. I was rarely bored with what I was doing. 

What do you think you will take away from this experience? How might it impact what you want to study or what you might consider for a career?

I’ll end up leaving with a passion and interest in looking up future projects and campaigns, and feeling more enlightened and informed on international development. While I’m not confident in what I want to do with an International Studies major, I certainly am considering working with NGOs in the future or at the very least consider joining the Peace Corps after college.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

I think that anyone who is interested in international development or having a unique Capstone experience should definitely consider this internship opportunity. I am really glad that I interned with Plan and would totally do it all over again if I had to choose. 

I also want to thank my teacher sponsor, Mr. Kent Bailey, for informing me about this opportunity; my community sponsor, Katie Appel, for staying in touch with me throughout my internship and setting meetings up for me and discussing a game plan with me each day; the Y&EE team for being supportive; and to Plan for all the work that they do for youth all around the world.