Mertie Buckman International Internships Program Celebrates 25 Years

a group of students stand on steps with an older couple
The 2019 Mertie Buckman interns posed with Bob Buckman and Joyce Mollerup after presenting their experiences overseas during Family Weekend on September 27, 2019.

As Chair of the Department of International Studies, I am delighted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mertie Buckman International Internships Program! The department is one of the oldest and largest undergraduate programs in the United States that trains students in international relations, comparative politics, and area studies in a liberal arts setting. Since the 1950s, our rigorous curriculum has prepared students for success in the finest graduate programs, public service, international affairs, diplomacy, and the business world. Our graduates have been awarded Fulbrights and Watson Fellowships, joined the Peace Corps and the Foreign Service, founded their own companies, and worked in nonprofit, financial,government, legal, and other sectors.

The individuals profiled here are wonderful examples of the global leaders and citizens that we hope to develop at Rhodes. Our alumni and students inspired the International Studies faculty to adopt the motto, “Expand your mind; change the world!” Mertie Buckman interns do precisely that.They are transformed by their experiences overseas. They gain professional skills, foreign language proficiency, and intercultural competency while contributing to global understanding. Our alumni then share these tremendous gifts with communities around the world. They help create international communities that transcend borders.

Everyone in the Department of International Studies is incredibly proud of these accomplishments and grateful to the Robert Buckman family for their generous support of our students. We look forward to celebrating many more years of Mertie Buckman internships!

Warm regards,
Dr. Amy Risley
Professor & Chair, International Studies

a young man bikes on a pier near the ocean

Summer 2017
Current Occupation: Assistant Director of Admission at Rhodes College
Country: Ireland
Organization/Business: Pow-Cow

 

I was much more equipped to live in an unfamiliar area after my experience as a Mertie Buckman International Intern. I believe I gained personal lessons in how to make myself into a local in a new environment and challenge myself in exploring new territories. My experience within the internship itself gave me chances to learn how a for-profit business worked and how to utilize different realms of marketing, which is one thing I hoped to gain before embarking upon my time abroad.

Within three weeks I had become acquainted with a local church; become the steward of a guitar owned by one of the church musicians; become friends with my next-door neighbors by playing the guitar on my front stoop; been prompted by one of those neighbors to visit a pub down the street to see if her husband's friends still played music there; and become a regular member of that musical group at the pub where I was the youngest member by at least 20 years. I still remain in their WhatsApp group chat.

I was trusted and mentored by my supervisor, the owner of the company, and given tasks that I don't believe a typical intern would be allowed and encouraged to do. Additionally, though I stepped into the internship excitedly planning to put my nose to the grindstone and work, work, work for the company without even desiring to make many friends,  I ultimately enjoyed the closest thing to a healthy work-life balance that I have had thus far in my life. It was inspiring and rejuvenating, and full of friends.

a young woman in a head scarf holds the reins to a camel

Summer 2013
Current Occupation: Nashville Market Director at cityCURRENT
Country: Jordan
Organization/Busines: Caritas Jordan

The most important lesson I learned during my time as a Mertie Buckman International Intern was personal resiliency. It was a shock (to say the least) when I landed in Amman with no Jordanian currency, no local phone, and next-to-no Arabic and then had to navigate as a lone female. Yet I had no choice but to make it work and take full advantage of the experience. Now, as director of a city-building organization, I'm prepared for unexpected controversies or uncomfortable conversations that happen when you bring different views to the table.

I tried to visit Israel over the Fourth of July weekend, but getting into the country proved difficult. Most Americans enter the country by plane with luggage, not on a rickety bus through the West Bank. I was pulled off the bus for an hour of questioning by the Israeli border guards. After going through each item of clothing that I packed and cracking my laptop open like a walnut, they were sufficiently convinced I wasn't a threat and let me on my way to Jerusalem.

After my internship, I realized I could handle any difficult or unexpected situation that life throws at me. I also realized that, despite language and cultural differences, at the core of humanity is a willingness to connect and a desire to be understood. It's a helpful reminder when times seem darkest.

a female with long blonde hair sits next to large sculpture

Summer 2011
Current Occupation: Case Manager, Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees
Country:Belarus
Organization/Business: Belarusian Children's Fund-Warm Home Projec
t

My experience as a Mertie Buckman International Intern prepared me for all the steps that came after--volunteering abroad as an English teacher in Georgia, completing an MA degree in Russian and East European studies, and working as a case manager at a refugee resettlement agency that largely serves a Russian-speaking population. Through my internship, I was able to see how I could combine my international studies and language interests with social services.

My strongest memories from my time overseas center around the deep hospitality of friends both old and new as we gathered around to eat and share stories. I could not go anywhere without my hosts preparing a table of garden vegetables, berries from the forest, and other sweet treats. The kindness of both friends and strangers that I experienced while abroad still moves me to this day, and has taught me to give all that I can to others.

My experience as an intern added another lens through which to view the world. Up until that point I had learned so much in the classroom, but getting out in the world helped me to make connections and learn how to solve real world problems.

a young woman with shoulder-length hair sits on a bench with a mountainous background

Summer 2007
Current Occupation: Dean at Relay Graduate School of Education
Country: Madrid, Spain
Organization/Business: Centro Hispano Columbiano

My internship experience truly changed my life personally and professionally. Working in Madrid with Centro Hispano Columbiano confirmed that I wanted my life's work to be supporting community's needs - in my case working in education in Memphis. It also confirmed my belief that across countries, families have similar. I learned immigrant families face similar challenges as they transition into a new country and build a new life in a community. My internship helped create friendships across the globe that I still hold today and helped shape my perspective from the way I vote to how I see current affairs to how I raise my kids.

I remember being incredibly nervous traveling alone to Madrid and wondering how I would make friends and venture out alone. But! It didn't take long. The first weekend I was in Madrid I made friends from Australia and Serbia and we planned an impromptu trip to Toledo, about one hour outside of the city. Toledo is a beautiful, ancient city full of Moorish architecture and will always be a special place I remember visiting and beginning my internship experience that summer.

I chose the word empowering to describe my internship experience, because before that point, I never would have imagined that I could live and work alone in another country. As a first-generation college graduate, opportunities like the Mertie Buckman Internship seemed out of reach. Over the course of my internship, I interacted with people from countries and communities all over the world, visited four different countries, deepened my language skills, my confidence, and perspective.

a young man with a backpack in front of a Spanish plaza

Summer 2011
Current Occupation: Senior Student Services Associate, GSEHD at The George Washington University
Country: Spain
Organization/Business: CIEE

My internship was so much more than just a time to study and work in a new place. The flexibility of the internship award made it possible for me to craft my own experience--around Spain, Spanish, home stay, international business, and NGOs--and that allowed me to design the experience around my individual goals. During my time in Sevilla, I made personal connections with people I never would have encountered otherwise (my host family, instructors, program staff, and fellow students). I got an incredible opportunity to work for an international non-profit in an international setting, and I got to spend time learning from different people and places in a way that would have been impossible in a U.S. classroom. My professional focus is international and my time as a Mertie Buckman International Intern set me up for success in this field by allowing me an avenue to gain skills that few others are privileged enough to develop.

I was placed with a family made up of two parents, a daughter, and a pet bunny.  Everyone (Paco, Nieves, Alba, and Peluso) made me feel right at home and accepted me in all of my quirky-ness. One moment that sticks out: one day, I was really needing a haircut (really, I was needing a haircut long before) but was nervous about where to go, how to communicate what I wanted. My host dad saw how flustered I was with the thought of having to navigate a barber in Sevilla, so he said, "C'mon, let's go. We're going to my barber." And we did, and I think he really enjoyed introducing me to his barber, and (even though I didn't get much of a word in about my desired style) it turned out great.

Up until my internship experience, I had only known the work culture of the U.S. My time in Spain gave me needed perspective on a different approach to the work day and work/life balance. I went on several years later to pursue an MA in International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations because my desire to continue to grow my understanding of cross-cultural communication and relations has never waned. Today, I'm continuing my career in higher education by advising students and constantly working to improve the experience of visiting international students.

Mertie Buckman International Interns

1994
Catherine Cozart
Mason Denton
Jason Githens
Allison Wannamaker
Todd Zeigler

1995
Allen Freeman
Heather Moore
Jenny Phillips

1996
Yohann Demel
Liz Markovits
Chris Palazzolo
Gina Yannitell

1997
Ginger Laney
Mitchell Klink
R.J. Milnor-Beard
Kristen Rauschkolb
Courtney Spive

1998
Emily Clark
Diane Faires
Katharine Farmer
Alina Raines
Brigitta von Messling

1999
Jim Flowers
Barry Fullerton
Dan London
Emily Parkinson
Mara Zimmerman

2000
Megan Bromert
Amanda Flaim
Amber Johnson
Brent Robson
Tom Rivers

2001
Lauren Blalock
Christine Grimm
Chris Higgins
David LaFevor
Scott Williamson

2002
Whitney Bryant
Lisa Doody
Holly Hickham
Chris Jones

 

2003
Sunita Arora
Marie Brandeweide
Daniel Head
Crystal Roberts

2004
Evan Chase
Allen Hodges
Emily Jones

2005
Sarabeth Menz
Dane Meyr
Samad Samana

2006
Lauren Anderson
Lori Dowell
Lizzie Phillips
Laura Sellers

2007
Aubrey Diaz
Emma O. Hagan
Erin Hebert
Elizabeth Saba
Emily Donelson
Julie Pasch

2008
Heather George
Ryne Marksteiner
Kaitlyn Fleck
Courtney A. Eskew
Heather Houser
Anson Purdy
Valisa Berber-Thayer

2009
Morgan Rote
Colin Johnson
Alexa LeBoeuf
Emma Redden
John McGeoch
Emily Sellers

2010
Grace Weil
Sarah Dockery
Anna Laymon
Rebekah Pykosh
Drew Wagstaff

2011
Emily Bird
Patrick Harris
Mark Kelsey
Jiemin Li
Sheerin Mehdian
Blake Wilkerson
Elizabeth Tomlinson
Andrew McGeoch
 

2012
Erik Klingbeil
Dylan Ledbetter
Laird McIver
Katherine McCoid
Camilla Taufic
Parker Nelson

2013
Chloe Bootstaylor
Joslyn Hebda
Kate Ivey
Georgia Loftis
Sawyer Earwood
Ben Evans
Matthew Washnock

2014
Kathryn Campbell
Xinran (Andy) Chen
Courtney Hornsby
Melissa Paul
Mark Lainoff
Emily Prigmore

2015
Isabelle Bruner
Clayton Getchell
Frances James
Jessica Johnson
Tiana Winstead
Akvile Zakarauskaite

2016
Veronica Francis
Roz KennyBirch
Joseph Ozment
Lucy Right
Maiar Salameh
Ellie Valega

2017
Caleb Fowler
Jordan Giles
Anna Lee Nabors
Claire Rickard
Laurie Williams

2018
Bella Harden
Alex Schramkowski
Austin Schmude
Hamid Shirwany
Zach Thornton
Ben Tracy

2019
Sarah Eiland
Jessica Frankl
Caitlin Gaine
Joon Hwang
Phyu Khine
Kristen Morris