Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five-Semester Option Experience: China and Latin America Internship

Five-Semester Option student Margaux Fimbres is currently hard at work sharpening her economics skills at Pre-Term, but over the summer she utilized her Chinese and Spanish skills by interning at the Inter-American Dialogue in downtown Washington, DC.  She reports back on her research:

"Over the summer, I worked as an intern at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank in Washington, D.C. committed to policy analysis and communication on issues in Western Hemisphere affairs. As a Five-Semester Option student (HNC Certificate ’11, SAIS M.A. ’14), I really wanted to explore my interest in Sino-Latin American relations and the Inter-American Dialogue’s China and Latin America program was the perfect place to learn more about this evolving relationship.

Margaux, left, with IAD president Michael Shifter and summer interns
Over the course of my internship, I researched the proposed canal project in Nicaragua and the Hong Kong-based company that won the concession to plan and build the canal (which, if completed, will be bigger than the Panama Canal). Interns also had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop to learn the craft of writing summaries and blog posts after an Inter-American Dialogue-sponsored event. All staff and interns speak Spanish and we developed a 'Spanish Tuesday' and 'Spanish Thursday' practice to hone our linguistic skills and to get a sense of what working in a multicultural office is like. I was also able to practice speaking Chinese with my program teammates as well as with the director of the China and Latin America program, who happens to be an HNC alumna!

The crux of my research, however, was a long-term assignment researching 'land grabs' and investments in the agricultural sector in Latin America. Many food-insecure countries, like South Korea, Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, have been securing land in foreign countries for agricultural production or heavily investing in the agricultural sector in other countries to secure food supplies for their domestic populations. Our team focused on Chinese land grabs in Latin America and how China’s involvement mirrored or differed from other land grabbing countries in the region. My Hopkins-Nanjing Center education prepared me to conduct research using Chinese sources and I found that some of the topics covered in the Politics of Rural Development course I took at the Center were applicable to my research project.

Later this fall, the Inter-American Dialogue’s China and Latin America program will present its findings on the land grabs in conjunction with a SAIS professor who has been looking at Chinese land grabs and agriculture investments in Africa.

Moving forward, I’m excited to continue analyzing this topic as well as explore other issues within Sino-Latin America relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS."