Ugandan Coffee Leads to International Internship Opportunities

If you can build professional connections over a single cup of coffee, imagine what you can do with an entire coffee company. Partnering with the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses & Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE), a Ugandan coffee company, has allowed Carly Stingl, advisor and program coordinator for UW–Madison’s International Internship Program (IIP), to forge new connections and offer professional opportunities for undergraduates.

International internships are often developed through UW connections all over the world, and the same is true for this opportunity with NUCAFE. Stingl met Rashida Nakabuga, Membership and Advocacy Coordinator at NUCAFE, in 2016 when Nakabuga was on campus as a Mandela Washington Fellow. Through several meetings, Stingl and Nakabuga developed an internship opportunity for UW–Madison students that offers an overall look at how a coffee company works in Uganda. The intern begins the summer by spending a short amount of time in various departments such as operations, sales, and marketing to understand how the company works followed by engaging in projects based on their own strengths and interests.

Film by: Emily Julka

“Rashida was happy to connect with IIP, because it was one way she could keep her relationship going with UW,” said Stingl. “Having spent time on campus and in Wisconsin, she was eager to welcome UW students to Uganda the way she had been received here. She was excited when we decided to collaborate on this opportunity for UW–Madison students.”

Stingl added that Rashida’s time in Madison also enables her to offer a unique perspective to students as she has seen where students are coming from and is aware of some aspects of the experience that could be most culturally challenging for the intern. This allows her to provide context that helps students understand not only the culture of NUCAFE, but also of Uganda.

Ellie Anderson, an environmental sciences major, was the first student selected for the NUCAFE internship. After learning about the company during the first portion of the internship, she was able to apply her studies to work on sustainability projects, including the development of some environmental guiding principles for the company. Anderson was also a recipient of the Promega International Scientific Internship Scholarship and grants from the African Studies Program and IIP. These funds supported Anderson’s participation in the internship program.

While international internships provide exceptional opportunities for students to gain valuable career experience and build a global mindset, Stingl notes that benefits go beyond student participants.

“When we create new internships, we are creating new relationships with people, organizations, and nations,” Stingl said. “This wasn’t just an opportunity to build a relationship with NUCAFE and to send interns to this specific company, it was also a way to strengthen the relationship between UW and Uganda.”

Stingl also had the opportunity to visit Uganda this past summer through the Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange Award that she and Nakabuga applied for together. The grant allowed Stingl to visit NUCAFE in person to see the internship students take part in up close.

“As an advisor it is important to be able to help students manage expectations for the location and work environment so that the experience goes as smoothly as possible,” Stingl said. “Additionally, meeting a supervisor in person further strengthens the relationship between that organization and UW.”

The grant also provided the opportunity for Stingl to visit additional sites throughout Uganda, including NGOs, universities, research facilities and start-ups. These visits will likely lead to new, diverse internship offerings in fields such as energy, agriculture, and development, in addition to some of the internship opportunities in Africa already available through IIP.

Moving forward, Stingl hopes to leverage her new and existing relationships. She also hopes to connect with faculty and build off of their networks to create more professional opportunities abroad for students.

“Faculty and staff at UW–Madison are engaged in meaningful work around the world,” Stingl said. “Working with faculty, staff, alumni, and other UW connections is the most effective way to create unique global opportunities for students.”