Avery Cobb, an undergraduate student majoring in geography, is in Rome, Italy, conducting an internship with the World Food Programme’s Emergency Preparedness and Response, GIS Team. She recently wrote a reflection on her internship, and it is published below:
As one dream has led to another, I somehow find myself here, in Rome, Italy, interning with the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting world hunger. I don’t think I ever actually imagined that any of this would have happened to me, but here I am. “They” always asked me what I would do with a degree in geography, and now I have an answer as to what I am doing.
At the World Food Programme, you will find me at my desk, quaintly located on the fifth floor of the yellow tower, amongst the rest of the Geographic Information System team, part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response unit. The specific focus of this unit is in fact responding to emergencies, and, if possible, even foreseeing them and preparing for them in advance. Knowing that I am working on a bachelor’s degree in geography, you have probably already guessed that I make maps on a daily basis. Yes, it does seem that I am that stereotype, but I’m here to fill you in on the true value of these seemingly mind-numbing projections. It is my job as an intern to produce maps focused on infrastructure, transportation routes, locations of beneficiaries, and sometimes even possible security threats. These maps are necessary to assess every possible method of delivery and every factor that could affect the delivery of life-sustaining food to a community. As much as I am learning from this hands-on experience by manipulating numbers and computer software to depict the situation as accurately as possible, the real significance comes from realizing that every symbol on that map represents a person, or perhaps information that will in some way lead to the delivery of sustenance to an individual. This is indeed a most incredible realization.
In all, I will only be with the World Food Program for three months, having begun at the end of April and therefore finishing at the end of July, but I can only imagine how my perspective will have changed by the end of my time here. Within the first month and a half, it has already been incredible to learn how my skills as a geographer can be put to use in a way that will impact the lives of others. Once again, I must return to dreaming. I can only further imagine that one day, I will get the opportunity to personally enter the mission field to assist in these efforts and touch the lives of others, because after all, “I [truly] believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”
-Avery Cobb, June 6, 2013, Rome, Italy