Fourth-year architecture student Delma Palma has long been interested in social housing issues due to her family roots in Honduras. There, she says, “architecture” is a luxury.
Thanks to the Kellogg Summer Internship Program, she explored social housing further last summer in Santiago, Chile as an intern for TECHO (literally, “roof”), which provides social housing in underserved areas of Latin America. What drew Palma to the program was its “holistic sense” of architecture through its development efforts.
While living and working in Santiago, Palma worked in the International Cooperation sector of TECHO, which required her to communicate with foreign offices to secure funding. She also developed new communication material for TECHO’s marketing team and translated these materials from Spanish to English.
“I was exposed to a lot of business skills that I would not have been exposed to in architecture studies and learned about budget management,” she says. Thus, while her TECHO experience was rooted in her architectural interests, Palma was also able to engage and develop her business acumen.
In addition to working in the office, Palma spent part of her time in Chile conducting TECHO site visits and, at the end of her internship, was even able to spend 10 days in Paraguay working with other college students to build three emergency homes. These field experiences were an opportunity to reconnect in a different way with social housing issues.
“It’s easy to get burnt out and lose touch with what you’re working for with an idea like eradicating poverty but that melts away when you’re face to face with the issue in the field,” she says.
Back at Notre Dame, Palma reflects on her TECHO experience. Working with the NGO taught her a great deal—and led her to refine her future goals to focus on affordable housing, funded by either the government or the private sector.
Based on her work in Santiago, Palma believes social and affordable housing needs can be best served by more stable, private funding. Her TECHO experience has also influenced her course choices upon returning back to campus. Now, Palma uses her electives to take courses on public policy and political theory.
“TECHO has taught me that I can learn something out of every class. There are skills, attitudes, buzzwords—an endless supply of knowledge out there and it is impossible not to learn. When you immerse yourself in learning, it becomes so much more useful and enjoyable,” she says.
Palma’s Kellogg summer internship reshaped both her academic choices on campus and her future career orientation—while she was also afforded the opportunity to learn business and practical skills that she might not have attained otherwise. She recommends that underclassmen take advantage of the many opportunities available to undergraduates on campus, especially through the Kellogg Institute.
“Kellogg internships aren’t traditional internships, but interns learn business skills and life skills in a real-world context while also pursuing their passions,” she says.