Juan Jose Becerra
My experiences in reference to this internship have been on many levels, everything that I had come to expect. As it applies to learning about graduate school and the steps that follow thereafter, I truly learned numerous, insightful things that I would have otherwise, never even considered, or that I might have overlooked in many instances. It could be said that the experiences that were a direct result of this program, in many instances, provided me with an inside look/preview at the life of an applying undergraduate, graduate student, PHD student, and onto the life of a practicing PHD professor.
For me the most helpful, informative, and/or relative aspect of the whole internship experience were the meetings, conferences, etc. to which I was invited by my mentors-PHD student, Paul Conrad, and Professor Erica Bsumek. I must say that I was very lucky to have had the mentors that I did because they facilitated and made the experience worth it all. I definitely think that a successful and fulfilling experience, for this internship, is heavily dependent on the people that one chooses to help and guide them through the experience.
During the semester I got to accompany my mentor to a couple of conferences. First, I assisted the ILASSA XXVII Student Conference on Latin America. I got to meet professors and students that were interested, and that similarly were already researching, on the topics that interest me the most. I was present for the following sections: Forging Identity and Creating Space, Identity and Difference in Mesoamerican History, and Historical Memory and Representations in the Southern Cone and Costa Rica.
The Student Conference was my first opportunity to see and/or here what graduate student work/research is about. I got to listen to graduate students from all around the United States, including Paul, my mentor, present their work/research. This was very interesting to me because a lot of the topic areas that were presented were of great significance and relevance to my subject area of most interest. They brought up historical and contemporary issues of concern and interest like that which related to the social justice movement, issues of race, issues of power, hierarchies, etc.
Furthermore, I also got to meet a lot of interesting people at the conference-build some bridges, it could be said. In fact, a couple of those contacts and I have maintained connection and are currently helping me with a project that I have in the works.
Through the semester I also got to listen to a couple of guest speakers that came to present their work, here, at the university. I attended talks by both Susan Scott and James Brooks. Considered to be leaders and important contributors to history in their particular areas, I got to here and exchange some words with authors of books that are highly regarded in the area of history-I read some excerpts of their books prior to their presentations. And for purposes of this internship, I actually got to see what the area of history is all about-what I could, or might, look forward to doing.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important thing of all, the support and advice that both my mentors provided for me was essential and crucial in determining and grading the success rate of this experience. Along with Dr. Deans-Smith, whom I interviewed, they answered my questions, addressed my concerns, and simply have colored a picture of the things that I should expect for the near future.
Overall, I would say that this experience was a great success, in my case. However, I must say I was very lucky to have the mentors that I did. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they guild the direction and determine the success rate of the student. While I may not have assisted all the meetings, I can assure you that I attained substantial and critical knowledge that will help me prepare myself for my future-graduate school. Nonetheless, the fact that the program was self-paced also gave me many opportunities to attain what I thought was essential in this experience.