Before she began her senior year at Washington and Lee last September, Johanna Cho was searching for an internship to complement her global studies major.
So she became an eIntern. No, that's not a misspelling, no matter how many times spell check tries to correct it.
eInterns (American students working virtually) are an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Virtual Student Foreign Service. The goal, according to the State Department website, is "to harness technology and a commitment to global service among young people to facilitate new forms of diplomatic engagement." The eInterns work from their own campuses in the U.S. and are partnered with our U.S. diplomatic posts and other organizations on "digital diplomacy." The program began in 2011
After discovering the program, Johanna applied for an eInternship with Namibia. "With my experiences in Tanzania for the Shepherd Poverty internship and my Spring Term abroad in Ghana with Professor (Tyler) Dickovick, along with my personal interest in marketing, public relations and communications, I decided that the Namibia internship was the best fit."
Throughout the year, Johanna has been e-mailing with two Namibian businesswomen to assist them with social media to publicize their small businesses.
"I have two clients," Johanna explained. "Anna Mafwila is the owner of Katu Tours, which is a bike-tour business in the capital, Windhoek. Anne Gebhardt is the leader of an organization called House of Women that provides business-training seminars and conferences for Namibian businesswomen. Both are new to the concept of utilizing social media sites as a tool for publicity and community engagement. Windhoek is fairly developed and there are a good deal of social media users. However, most of the social media work is to publicize their businesses to visitors of the country."
Johanna coordinates with the economic and commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in Namibia. She says technological barriers have slowed things down, but "it has been a learning experience, and the challenges go to show that there is more work to be done in promoting local business in Windhoek as well as supporting U.S.-Namibian relations."
Johanna's work, along with that of two other Namibia eInterns, was cited in a recent story in All Africa Global Media.