Why did you decide to intern abroad with Balloon Kenya in Kenya?
Dan: In January last year, mid way through a Finance Placement with German giants Bosch, I began to look at ways I could spend my summer. Many of my friends were heading to the Balearic’s for an alcohol fuelled summer, but I wanted to do something different that would help with my final year of University and also with the ever increasing competition in the graduate market. Whilst applying for internships with major banks I stumbled upon Balloon Kenya, a project based in Nakuru, Kenya that works with entrepreneurs in Africa’s fastest growing city.
Balloon Kenya offered a direct link with my course and enabled me to use what I had learnt on my years placement and my first two years at University and the business side attracted me. I could see benefits for both parties with the entrepreneurs and I both gaining something.
Balloon Kenya encouraged you to endulge in the local culture planning a weekend in a rural village and also allowed you to take weekends to travel and explore Kenya.
What made this experience unique and special?
Dan: There were lots of opportunities to volunteer abroad, however few had a unique link to business like Balloon Kenya offered. Balloon Kenya allowed me to see a business world which differed heavily from that of the western world, which I thoroughly enjoyed learning about.
Over the process you build really strong bonds with both the entrepreneurs and the other fellows and the programme definitely has a family feel to it. I still keep in contact with the Kenyans I worked with and also the fellows from across the world that I forged strong friendships with.
Balloon Kenya wanted us to experience as much of Kenya as possible, which was evident through the varying weekend trips they organized for us to see the country and culture. The weekend in a rural village was an eye opener at the beginning of the trip. The visit allowed us to spend a few days experiencing their lifestyles, we helped build mud huts, beat kidney beans, milk cows and then spent the night with a host family. We spent a weekend camping by Lake Naivasha and some of us went on safari whilst others climbed Mount Kenya.
The mix of helping locals and also experiencing their culture and country made the experience special.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Dan: I returned to University with more confidence in presenting, having spent my summer teaching groups it helped my presentation skills. I’ve shared my experience with up to audiences of 200 since coming back and it hasn’t phased me.
Despite the Kenyans I met being happy and willing to share everything they had it made me realise how fortunate we are in the UK. I had the chance to see different struggles that I cannot witness on my door step and made me appreciate what I have a lot more.
I’m currently in the process of applying for graduate jobs and hope my experience in Kenya will help me stand out in the highly competitive graduate market. I’ll be able to share my experience in interviews which will hopefully give me the edge.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Kenya?
Dan: Go for it, step out of your comfort zone and experience something different! There were a lot of fellows who weren’t from a business back ground, yet they all thoroughly enjoyed it! The structure of the course allows somebody to come with little business knowledge and learn and feel confident to deliver it to the Kenyan entrepreneurs, due to the support from the Balloon Kenya team.