Varied internships help senior find her focus.

Zaman got interested in Vietnam’s Hmong families (such as those shown here at a live-animal market) through an MHC anthropology course. This summer, she’s working to help them and other needy Vietnamese. Photo: Reuters/Nguyen-Huy-Kham

Updated on August 14.

By Emily Harrison Weir

For the last three years, Alizeh Zaman has been trying on possible careers for size. The Mount Holyoke College senior from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, now aims for a career in public policy. But she didn’t start out that way.

Zaman came to MHC already interested in her eventual major fields, economics and mathematics. But one book assigned in an introductory anthropology course—The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down—drew her also to anthropology and to an interest in the book’s topic, Vietnam’s ethnic minority Hmong people.

“I could never have imagined then that, through Mount Holyoke, I would have the opportunity to learn more about the Hmong tribe in Vietnam,” she said.

But this summer she is a social policy and governance intern with UNICEF in Vietnam. The organization doesn’t pay its interns, but Zaman is being paid anyway. The Lynk, Mount Holyoke’s comprehensive curriculum-to-career experience, guarantees funding for one internship for each student.

“I wouldn’t have been able to accept this opportunity without Lynk funding,” she said.

Zaman works in UNICEF’s Social Protection Unit, researching and documenting how best to provide cash assistance to Vietnam’s needy children. She also drafts policy briefs for the organization, including one on “Multidimensional Child Poverty of Ethnic Minority Children in Viet Nam.”

Internships such as Zaman’s are typically available only to graduate students. However, this internship was developed through Mount Holyoke’s special contacts with UNICEF, and is open to MHC undergraduates every year through the McCulloch Center's MHC International Internship Program.

Homing in on career possibilities.

Zaman’s initial career try-on, the summer after her first year at Mount Holyoke, was quite different. She was an audit intern for the global firm KPMG, reviewing a client company’s accounting and operating procedures and system of internal control.

The following summer, she took a different tack, landing a research internship at Developments in Literacy, in Islamabad, Pakistan. She collected and analyzed data, but also reviewed relevant literature and drafted reports.

These summer experiences made Zaman realize that she enjoys using her economics and math skills in public policy work more than in accounting.

“Internships are a great way to gain practical experience and at the same time find out whether a field is a good fit without working there as a full-time employee,” she said.

Zaman also took international development economics courses during her junior year at Hong Kong University. That experience, along with MHC Econometrics and Public Finance courses, inspiration from an MHC student symposium, and guidance from College faculty and staff, all pointed her in the same direction—a Nexus minor in developmental studies and a future in public policy.

Having honed in on a likely career path, Zaman now intends to pursue a master’s degree in public policy or to work at an international NGO after graduation. Her MHC education and varied internship experiences will leave her well equipped for either.

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