IFP Round-Up

Students from our International Affairs program traveled around the globe to participate in our International Field Program this summer! For more information about their experiences check out this post and its links!

Each summer, students from SGPIA spread out across the world as part of the International Field Program (IFP) and Studio Programs! Students conduct independent research, contribute to the vital work of local non-profits, NGOs, and government agencies, and gain invaluable international experience. The IFP and Studio Correspondents act as our eyes and ears in the field to help us tell the stories of summer. This years IFP’s were located in Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, The Balkans, and South Africa. To read this years IFP correspondence posts for on the ground stories check out this post and visit The New Context here.


IFP Round-Up

Daniela Porcelli, The Balkans 

Daniela Porcelli served as our 2019 Balkans IFP correspondent. For a peek into her posts, check out below.

Where the Sea Reflects the Sky 

“The following two days we met with our second contact, Emmanuel, a lawyer on the island. We listened to him recount refugee stories and cases that were both accepted and denied. Within Emmanuel’s legal NGO, he has two professional partners that are extremely important to his firm. They are two women, his wife Khatiuca, a paralegal, and Eleni, his legal associate. As two influential women, I look forward to learning more about them and their role in aiding refugees in the coming weeks.”  

Space’s Intentionality 

“According to the Hellenic Coast Guard, Frontex ships have been in Mitilini since 2009, but once the migration “crisis” began, multiple Frontex ships have remained in its port. Since we’ve arrived, they’ve been the same: one British and one Italian ship. There are two additional Hellenic Coast Guard ships and they all park in different places around the dock in the city center. These symbols of security are also reminders to refugees that Europe is watching their borders. They are watching refugees. Freedom of movement, and the right to seek asylum out of fear of persecution, are conditional. Obtaining approved asylum status is a lengthy process that depends on evidence and papers you can present (if they were not lost at sea or stolen), luck, and perhaps even a press-worthy story of tragedy or heroism.” 

The Cost of Freedom

“Last week our group visited a playground that was recently created for refugee children living in Moria and Olive Grove (the overflow of Moria camp). Walking between the gated official camp and the unofficial mix of tents and tarps strung together to make haphazard homes was an uncomfortable experience. Being aware of my privilege and status as a visitor, walking into a space where I do not belong, is not something I have noticed many people consider. Earlier that week I met an undergraduate journalism student from Princeton. Her group, in Lesvos for a few days, spent time touring the camps on the island, some intent on “exposing” specific issues. Touring someone’s suffering, the place that has taken every step to remove a person’s dignity, should not be a readily available day trip.” 

Solidarity through Graffiti

“Graffiti expressing disdain for cops also targets Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency responsible for patrolling the waters. Often, migrants are ignored in the open sea, picked up by Turkish coast guards and brought back to Turkey, or mistreated. “Blue stamp for all” is referring to a stamp that migrants can receive on their identification cards. Once they arrive on the island they are given an ID card known by the German word for it, Ausweis. This word reminds many of WWII Nazi Europe’s obsession with identifying those who they believed did not belong.” 


Ana Holschuh, South Africa

Ana Holschuh served as our 2019 South Africa IFP correspondent. For a peek into her posts, check out below.

A Warm Welcome from the Vulsi Community

“After a warm welcome through a lively, communal song, the Vusi community had officially opened its doors to us. Even though we couldn’t understand the language, the claps, chants, cheesing expressions, and rhythmic body movements let us know that we were now welcome to share a space with the Vusi people.”

The Winds of South Africa 

Bo-Kaap: Save Our Heritage

“When The National Party government came to power in 1948, apartheid-era policies started being implemented. The Group Areas Act of 1950 had deep implications relating to where people could live in the city, and it forcibly removed people from their homes on the basis of ‘racial’ categories (African, Coloured, Indian and White). Bo-Kaap was declared a ‘Malay Group Area’, which caused the relocation of a non-Malay to the Cape Flats.”

Meet Nonthombi Letticia Marsh 

“‘This is why I pray, because in 4 or 5 years to come I am going to have nothing,’ says Nonthombi Letticia Marsh, as she welcomes me into her home in Khayelitsha, and points out the water flooding her home. Nonthombi has been a resident of Khayelitsha, a large informal township in the Western Cape, located on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town, for four years now. She says that the situation is getting worse, and the water is now coming into her house unexpectedly.” 

The Second Life of Flip Flops 

“Your flip flop, little does it know, could have a second life as an animal sculpture, after it’s discarded and deemed to be trash. That is Davis Ndungu’s calling. Ndungu is the founder of Recycled Flip Flops Studio (RFFS), a small Cape Town based studio that exhibits their work in the Watershed, a market with various shops for locally designed crafts.”


La Rainne Pasion, Cuba

La Rainne Pasion served as our 2019 Cuba IFP correspondent. For a peek into her posts, check out below.

Sister Cities

“I lived in Rizal until I was 12, before I left the Philippines entirely and before my pre-teen mind could grasp the intricacies of our colonial history. Now at 25, I roam the streets of La Habana with a Spanish last name that, regardless of how different from Habaneros I may look, I realize somehow ties me to this city’s people. As I learn more about Cuba, I feel like I am gaining better understanding of my own country’s history, and by extension, myself.”

Where are the eggs? 

“In her paper about Cuban mothers making ends meet, Rebecca Burwell (2004) recalls how an oft-asked question at the start of the century was “Dónde están los huevos?” I find myself asking the same thing in the summer of 2019: Where are the eggs? One afternoon, I decided to try and uncover the answer. After seeing Isis’ son carry 3 cartons of eggs into the apartment building (undoubtedly for our breakfasts), I inquired where I could buy some of my own. He seemed hesitant to spill the beans at first–merely saying he found them “on the street” —but then he whispered something about trying “17 and K” before disappearing out the front door. Armed with this tidbit of knowledge, I grabbed my friend Keri to help me investigate. She, too, had been searching for eggs for weeks and was thrilled to finally have a lead.” 

When Cat Callers Can’t Clam Up

“Since arriving in Havana in late May, our group of twelve–11 women and one man–have had many candid conversations about the ups and downs of the IFP experience. An issue that periodically arose was the frequency or intensity of cat-calling, experienced not just by us foreigners but also the local women we’ve spoken to or even the ones we witness strolling the streets. It seemed that every day, on the way to class at Casa de las Americas just two blocks up and one avenue over from our apartment, someone would inevitably be the victim of unwanted male attention. Sometimes this came in the form of literal ‘cat calls,’ i.e. the sound one makes when pursing their lips and making a kissing noise or tsk-ing to get a feline’s attention. Other times, my yellow-ish skin and almond eyes would prompt men to yell “ni hao” at me (as in “hello” in Mandarin, a language I do not know, spoken in a country I am very much not from–though admittedly I tend to get this greeting almost everywhere I go).” 

Signs and the City


Anastasia Standrik, Ethiopia

Anastasia Standrik served as our 2019 Ethiopia IFP correspondent. For a peek into her posts, check out below.

Ethiopia’s Dark Communist Past

” But outside of my own feelings, Russia and Ethiopia share a very dark set of historical events that happened in both countries at different times. I did not intend to have my first blogpost from this exciting journey be grim, but our group visit to the Museum of Red Terror left me deeply shaken. In Russia, Red Terror was a period of political oppression carried out by the Bolsheviks during the 1917-22 Civil War, though political repression persisted late into the 20th century, culminating with Stalin’s murderous rule. In Ethiopia, Red Terror took place in the 1970s, triggered by a sudden switch from centuries of monarchy to communist rule.”

Getting to Know the Self-Help Group Approach \

” A SHG in Adaamaa (a small city south of Addis) where the women created a beautiful uniform for their group to signify the love they have for each other. Although a traditional Christian Orthodox dress has a cross on the bottom, the women ordered a palm tree embroidered for the Muslim members of the group. Many women shared that one of the most valuable elements of their SHG experience has been gaining sisterhood and the confidence to speak out for themselves. ”

The ‘Farm-to-Table’ Food System

” A few facts on local food production I could gather simply from observation: little produce is imported (currently every street vendor has mangoes, papaya, bananas, tomatoes, onions, and collard greens), so eating ‘locally’ or ‘farm-to-table’ (as select New York restaurants would proudly state) is no luxury here but simply a norm; meat is a staple in an Ethiopian diet (raw meat in particular), so there are little butcheries all around the city. I am a vegetarian but based on the reviews of others in my group, the local meat is much chewer, and the eggs are a lot smaller, which also used to be the norm before the age of factory-grown meat. ”

An Urban Oasis

” The centerpiece of the space is an ensemble of intricately embellished houses designed by Elias Sime, created using a mix of mud and straw, a traditional Ethiopian building technique that is used in settlements and villages around the country to this day. Currently, the houses get covered by plastic tarps to protect them from the rain until they turn a richer dark brown color, after which the mud walls will be coated with cactus juice to make them naturally waterproof.”

No Easy Answers

” When I originally decided to go to this IFP and all throughout the Spring semester, I was really hoping that this experience would provide me with a clear career trajectory. Would I decide that fieldwork is my calling and immediately start applying to jobs abroad upon graduation? Or would I realize that a steady desk job at an NGO headquarters seems like a much better fit? Unsurprisingly, my two months at a brand-new country doing something I have never done before, did not provide a clear answer to either one of these options. The moments visiting and listening to women share their stories, felt the most rewarding. But there were times when I wondered, is it even my place to ask?


Kate Parvenski, Brazil

Kate Parvenski served as our 2019 Brazil IFP correspondent. For a peek into her posts, check out below.

If you could break the rules, what would you do?

” We’re asking this question as a follow up to The Rules, a collaborative documentary film made by the Brazil IFP group in 2017 and produced by our faculty lead, Peter Lucas. The experimental participatory project is meant as a starting point for more discussion about rules and rights, and a chance to listen in on people’s ideas across the city. Post-Bolsonaro, the question itself strikes a particularly interesting chord. Already, we are fielding vastly different political responses depending on the places and times we film.”

Remembering to Not Forget: Art as Resistance in Rio

“Thiago Saraiva is one of the artists who recently took part in ÁREA INTERDITADA: LEMBRAR PARA NÃO ESQUECER, a public art pop-up exhibit held in commemoration of the 201st anniversary of the Museu Nacional, Brazil’s oldest history and science museum. As a part of his performance, Thiago invited people to sit with him on a small blanket for a cup of tea, next to a chalkboard that read “ESCUTO HISTÓRIAS SOBRE ESQUECIMENTO.” I listen to forgotten stories. Sitting directly in front of the entrance to the museum, Thiago listened as people came to share their stories over cups of his orange tea. “

Exploring Women’s Rights in Rio

You’ve been in Rio now for about a month! Can you describe your current research?

Emily and Carmen: We are researching female artists in Rio that create art with a human rights focus as well as learning what it’s like to be a woman in Rio by talking to female college students. Through our research we have participated and attended events advancing women’s stories and experiences about violence and being a refugee. At this point we’ve interviewed two artists and six students, and are planning four more conversations. We’ll be turning this research into various media projects on a website we’re creating called Mulheres (women) in Rio

Pockets of Place

“On Thursday I met with Hanna and Natasha who are both conducting research at the Museu do Indio. The museum features multimedia exhibits highlighting Brazil’s indigenous peoples, and an expansive archive of objects, photographs, and sounds. We filmed interviews in the feather archive and learned more about the history of the museum and its work.”