Alumni Spotlight: Sean Grossnickle


Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because it was a high-quality internship related to business, which was my field of study. I had heard of other people using them and I knew that I would be well taken care of in Senegal. The program staff were dedicated to their work and ensuring all the details of my arrival and stay were taken care of for me.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

One of the reasons I chose this program was because it was an all-inclusive program. Meals were provided at the host family where I lived, the transport was covered and reimbursed for work travel. Water was always provided in generous amounts (because you cannot drink the water there) and the staff was always close in you needed them. The only things I had to organize on my own were vacation/fun travel trips, but even then the staff was able to provide suggestions and guides at good prices.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Go into it with an open mind and the desire to bring change to these people. It is a guided internship, meaning you are given daily and weekly tasks, but it is your creativity and ingenuity that will take you far.

People are often attached to what has worked in the past and risk avoidance is high for understandable reasons. Create new ideas with your partners and forge a new path.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was in the microfinance internship, so my activities revolved around that.

I taught basic business, math, and accounting classes to different groups of beneficiaries several days a week. We made site visits to potential locations of businesses. I spent a good amount of time making business plans and doing market research. There is also loan recollection where you travel to pick up repayments. Weekends are free and were spent playing card games with other interns.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I guess my biggest fear was not being able to communicate well with people and have them understand that I was there to help, not use them (due to some issues with Senegal's colonial past). I overcame it simply by communicating, even when the language barrier was tough.

By talking with more people, I was able to understand their point of view and they were able to see how we cared for them and were trying our best to help them help themselves.

How does one haggle prices for different items?

Haggling in Saint Louis was a social interaction, i.e. you would haggle down just a little, even if you were fine with the price to show interest in the other person.

First, ask others at what price they have bought certain items. This will give you a starting point. Then, go big or go home. If your price is too close to the one they suggest, they will just insist you pay the $0.30 more. Be bold but also be willing to accept a good price for a good item.