Carissa De Young '10
Carissa graduated from Calvin in 2010 with majors in IDS and economics and a minor in Spanish. Now she works with Partners Worldwide in Ecuador.
What sparked your interest in international development?
In high school I had a Spanish teacher who always spoke about social justice and the need to work for change in the world. At the time, I knew I wanted to do something to help end the cycle of poverty in places like those I had visited on mission trips, but I did not know how to get into a career doing such work. On a Fridays at Calvin visit, I learned about international development and was sold on the major and the college. That weekend I decided to attend Calvin and major in International Development Studies.
Describe your path since graduation.
A month after graduating from Calvin, I moved to Quito, Ecuador to work as an intern with Partners Worldwide, assisting their local partner organization to develop their business training, mentoring, and lending services. I had focused on the economic side of development during my time at Calvin, and I was looking to gain a greater understanding of how microfinance, business development and Business as Mission can contribute to holistic business development. I have now been serving as the Ecuador Partnership Manager for Partners Worldwide for 3.5 years. I've also had the opportunity to work on the side as an English teacher, interpreter/translator for an Ecuadorian company, and medical brigade interpreter.
What is your most memorable experience in the field?
The first time I traveled to the rainforest, we got caught in a torrential downpour. After a few hours driving to the lodge where we were going to stay, the trucks stopped and we were told to get out. The Amazon tributary that we needed to cross had literally flooded the road, so they brought motor boats up to the river banks, gave us rubber ponchos, and we crossed the swollen river dodging uprooted trees as they floated downriver on either side of our boats. The next day we visited an indigenous family's house where they offered us chicha, which is a fermented drink made from masticated cassava, and maito de gusano, palm tree grubs and heart of palm cooked in a banana leaf. In an indigenous household, a guest must accept the food that is offered or risk offending one's host, so I literally ate worms that day.
How has your faith influenced your work in development?
My faith was what originally drew me to this line of work, and it is what keeps me going in the hard times. While I work specifically in economic development, faith is what helps me see each individual holistically. I still cry over the situations of people I work with because I know that these are things that break God's heart, but my faith is what gives me hope even when situations seem impossible to a human observer.
What is your favorite aspect of Calvin and what do you wish you would have done differently while attending Calvin?
It is hard to choose one favorite aspect of my time studying at Calvin, but some of the highlights would have to be spending a semester abroad in Honduras, participating in the Faith and International Development Conference, working in a Comenius Internship, and developing lasting friendships with others in a similar career path who are now living around the world.
If I could do things differently while at Calvin, I probably would have taken an intro course in at least one additional language. Even just having the basis for learning French or Portuguese would be helpful now.
What advice or words of hope and wisdom would you give to current IDS students?
Try new things during college, and seek out experiences that will expose you to potential careers in different lines of international development or related work. Also, look for a mentor who can help you evaluate opportunities that will lead you in the direction you want to take.