Inside USD

WorldLink Internship Paves Students’ Way to USD

Monday, November 25, 2013

On the surface, the paths of sophomore Rayne Ibarra and freshman Catherine Zuñiga-Mata may seem unlikely to cross too much despite both attending school at the University of San Diego.

The direction of their areas of study — Ibarra (pictured, left) plans to triple major in psychology, English and Spanish, while Zuñiga-Mata aspires to be a teacher and, quite possibly do so internationally — maybe be different, but what they do have in common is something that has contributed to what brought them to USD.

They are past members of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s WorldLink internship program while they attended high school. The high school internship program takes place in the IPJ each summer, fall and spring. Debbie Martinez, WorldLink program coordinator, emphasized the global aspects of the internship opportunity.

“WorldLink provides high school youth from San Diego and Baja Mexico a variety of opportunities to strengthen their critical-thinking skills and knowledge on global affairs,” Martinez said.

Ibarra and Zuñiga-Mata (pictured, below right) took their opportunity and it is helping them shape their respective futures.

Ibarra said her internship was a proper way to get ready for her college journey. She was a summer intern between her junior and senior year of high school. She stated that one of the most useful parts of the internship was the research she carried out at the IPJ. Her focus on culture and identity broadened her awareness about the world.

“There’s a component to WorldLink that is personal growth combined with how we are evolving as citizens of the world,” she said.

One of Ibarra’s tasks was to provide research on region-specific culture and identity to her supervisors. Looking back, she now realizes how important those research skills were for her to learn: “[The internship] prepared me for college. It’s a different context, but the same skills.”

Zuñiga-Mata, who took part in the WorldLink internship program in Summer 2012, agreed with Ibarra on the importance of acquiring strong research skills when diving into her college classes. Zuñiga-Mata feels WorldLink helped her understand the importance of reliable sources and thorough research. However, she said, the biggest lesson she took away came from being around other interns.

“The other interns had done so much already,” she recalled. “That was an eye-opening experience that it’s never too early to start doing something you’re passionate about.”

Also, while WorldLink internships are for high school students, current USD students can get involved as volunteers for WorldLink events.

“By volunteering at WorldLink events, including the annual Youth Town Meeting conference (next one is Jan. 22, 2014), USD students can serve as mentors to more than 750 high school students while having the opportunity to meet and network with more than 25 leading experts in international affairs,” Martinez said. “Through this, USD students can help bridge the gaps between prospective and current college students, and leading professionals in the field.”

Something else the WorldLink internship provided for both young women was an early connection to USD. Both native San Diegans expressed how much being interns helped them with their networking skills.

“WorldLink helped me find CASA (Center for Awareness, Service and Action),” Ibarra said. She considers the center, which is connected to USD’s Center for Community-Service Learning, like a campus home for her. She said WorldLink and CASA both give students the chance to develop better social awareness.

Zuniga-Mata said WorldLink helped her with networking skills because it was through her internship that she became familiar with the International Rescue Committee, an NGO focused on global humanitarian aid, relief and development. After her internship with WorldLink concluded, she interned for the IRC.

Both WorldLink intern alums are busy deciding on coursework that will lead them into their preferred fields of study as USD students. Ibarra’s path seems clear. She is set on becoming a therapist focusing on artistry. That is, she wants to combine her passion for dancing along with therapy.

“I want to work with underserved populations and offer an alternative to healing,” said Ibarra, who plans to triple major in psychology, English and Spanish at USD. “I look at healing in the holistic sense. The beauty of psychology is that it heals the mind … and literature illuminates the complexity of the human experience.”

Meanwhile, Zuñiga-Mata, a member of USD’s second-largest freshman class this fall, is officially undeclared, but her desire is to be a teacher. She is currently considering the International Relations major and Ethnic Studies minor, as she is interested in teaching abroad. No matter what field she decides to study, though, she wants to obtain her teaching credential and to see the world as an educator.

“WorldLink showed me how important education is to bridge gaps,” Zuñiga-Mata said. As she conducted her research, she noticed how education factors into building a solid foundation for a marketplace. “Education opens doors for people. WorldLink and USD helped me be exposed to this idea.”

— Rashmi Chugani ‘13

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