One of the things the program will encourage you to do when arriving here aside from extracurriculars (I joined a gym), taking a class at the university (I am taking a class at Alcalá), and joining fun activities to get you to integrate more to Spanish culture (City Life Madrid trips and other reimbursable activities), is doing an internship. I am currently interning with an NGO that promotes people’s development and human rights.
As an environmental studies major what interested me the most about working with them was their emphasis on sustainability and environmental justice. There is also a heavy humanitarian aspect that I think is essential for the three pillars of sustainability: people, profit, planet. They work to help those in need in countries around the world, but also to give them agency through workshops against gender based violence, economic opportunities through selling free and fair trade products and aiding refugees in whatever ways they can.
I work at their store in a very important cultural center. It’s a very cool community space with art galleries, a cafeteria, a media center, a beautiful terrace (and the compost in the summer!) and a bunch of other things. They sell all sorts of cool organic products in addition to free and fair trade stuff from all around the world, they also sell items made from recycled materials, and of course, books from the galleries in the center and work from a handful of local artists and authors. It’s really cool! Although their products are also somewhat on the pricier side – which is to be expected in such a store – they do offer a nice variety of products. I especially love that the store has 100% biodegradable shopping bags instead of traditional plastic ones, even though they look identical.
While I think their work is extremely important and I am glad that there is an avenue for it here, I think a lot about the fact that there seems to be a lack of diversity within the team. That’s not so say that it negates the tremendously important work they’re doing, but that the way they approach some issues might come through a limited lens, and that there is an unspoken privilege in being white individuals helping minority groups and that can be reflected in how those individuals are portrayed and described. Overall though I’ve really enjoyed the small role I’ve had working for this NGO; translating and helping run their store. I wish my role could have been a bit more substantial and sometimes I just feel like I’m helping people feel good about themselves when all they’re doing is patting themselves on the back for their choice consumerism, but we all grapple with things.