University of Calgary

African internship opens political science student’s eyes

UToday HomeJuly 15, 2013

By Ryan Boivin

Tobey Berriault is working in an internship with the Universities of Canada – United Nations Development Program (UCAN-UNDP).Tobey Berriault is working in an internship with the Universities of Canada – United Nations Development Program (UCAN-UNDP). Photo courtesy Tobey BerriaultEating goat for dinner over a burning fire in southern Africa is not how most students will be spending their summer. While unconventional, for Tobey Berriault — a master’s student in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary — this scene has become the norm.

Berriault is applying her political science education and practical background to study international humanitarian relief in Namibia. The experience so far has been one of new discoveries and changing beliefs.

“One of the most interesting experiences so far comes from a trip to the villages in the heart of Ovamboland, located in the Omusati region in northern Namibia,” she says. “Though the towns seem relatively developed, the villages stand in stark contrast, but not in the ways one would expect.”

Berriault’s African placement is supported by a fellowship with the Universities of Canada – United Nations Development Program (UCAN-UNDP), led by the University of Saskatchewan. Berriault is interning for the Governance, Gender, and HIV/AIDS unit at the UNDP Country Office in Windhoek, Namibia.

“It seems as though there will be many interesting upcoming projects in the next few months. In order to meaningfully contribute to these projects, background knowledge is required,” says Berriault.

As well as contributing to several humanitarian aid projects in the region, Berriault is studying how other countries have implemented standards for local services such as water delivery, education and health. This initiative is done in partnership with the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development in Namibia.

“I will be presenting my findings to both the ministry and the UNDP. I have also been asked to help my unit select a consultant to carry out another research project. Four consultants will be interviewed, and I will help the successful applicant carry out some of the fieldwork.”

In addition to her work at the UNDP, Berriault is writing a thesis for her Master of Arts degree on the long-term social, political and economic reintegration of Sierra Leone’s ex-combatants, focusing on the successes of reintegration processes.

Berriault's international experience and dedication to international issues will undoubtedly assist in her future aspirations. “Graduate studies [have] shown me that the world is much more complicated than a few theories in a book, or than the worldviews of our closest communities, provinces, and even country,” she says.

“Understanding that there are usually many opinions, motivations and opportunities has allowed me to approach any future research or careers in a slightly different way.”

For further information about the UCAN-UNDP Fellowship Program, contact

Ryan Boivin is a Graduate Student Fellow in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Saskatchewan.


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