Written by Monica Brown - University of Minnessota.
My name is Monica Brown and I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota participating in the CIEE study abroad program for one year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So far, I have had an amazing experience and felt so supported by my team here in Rio. In addition to my classes and CIEE activities, I have had the privilege to work at a local non-profit organization called Refettorio Gastromotiva.
Gastromotiva is an organization that trains young people in the culinary arts to provide job opportunity, reduces food waste by taking ingredients from local food distributors that would have otherwise been unused, and helps support the local homeless community by hosting dinner for one hundred people every night of the week for free! Since I study Food Systems at home, this could not have been a better place for me to contribute my time and skills to while being abroad. Since starting, I’ve had the opportunity to branch out into media communications by translating, creating content for social media, taking high quality photographs, designing presentations, and marketing events.
I, without a doubt, would not have been able to have this amazing opportunity without the help of CIEE Rio. Their contacts, partnerships, and overall knowledge of local organizations helped place me into a space where I could legitimately consider working in the future! All other non-CIEE international students that I know have had a hard time finding an organization in which they could see themselves working at for a long time. Most students run into barriers even finding organizations at all, preventing them from both making a positive contribution to the community, and learning intercultural skills in a workplace.
This is why I feel so lucky to have had CIEE as a connection to Gastromotiva! Without it, my time studying abroad would have been significantly less fruitful, and honestly less fun. Not only have I learned more about working in a non-profit setting, I’ve also gained new professional design skills, and made strong professional connections to people who want to see me succeed. Gastromotiva has by far been more impactful to me than my Brazilian university classes have been, and, since I am a senior this year, at the end of my time abroad I am considering asking Gastromotiva for a full-time position.Thank you so much for creating a space within CIEE to specifically focus on volunteering and internships for students. I hope that this program continues and expands to make each CIEE student’s time abroad more beneficial.