By Sam Farquhar and Priscilla Rivas
If you had told us ten months ago that we would be writing this from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters, I don’t think we would have believed you. Our first year at SMEA was a whirlwind of homework, research, jobs, and of course, happy hours. But it all culminated in May when we found out we would be interning together at FAO this summer in the Fisheries Policy, Economics and Institutions Branch in Rome, Italy. Sam first had to stop in Quebec to take advantage of her Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship, where she studied French for 6 weeks. Priscilla flew out on the last day of classes, finishing up her final paper on the plane.
In my first month and a half here at FAO, I got to experience some unforgettable opportunities. In my first week, I helped my supervisor, Amber Himes-Cornell (SMEA Affiliate Assistant Professor and FAO Fishery Officer), prepare for a presentation in Peru on quota shares. From then on, I was immersed in research about quota share implementation and the social and economic outcomes. I am planning to use this knowledge to help with my capstone project on the Pacific Groundfish quota share program. In July, I was able to attend the Committee on Fisheries Thirty-third Session (COFI 33), where I learned about the major issues facing fisheries and aquaculture globally. Each day I attended a side event on a different topic, ranging from aquaculture feed to climate change to small-scale fisheries. I was also able to attend part of the plenary session, and prepare a summary report for the Director General. The first month and a half flew by, and before I knew it I was meeting Sam in the lobby for her first day of her internship.
When I met Priscilla in the lobby of the FAO, I was sweaty and jet-lagged, but that did not stop me from immediately being thrown into the international area. I was given security clearance and briefed on my project by our supervisor, Dr. Amber Himes-Cornell. Together we are focusing on a very new development with marine conservation: Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures or OECMs. OECMs may be the key to reaching the UN’s global goal of conserving 10% of the marine and coastal environments by 2020, so they are a high priority. Then, that very evening, we headed off to a diplomatic soiree to celebrate the birthday of another fisheries intern. I had my first aperitivo experience (basically Italian happy hour), practiced speaking French, learned a few Italian phrases, and finally was able to head home and sleep.
Our internship provided us an incredible network to connect with. Whether we need an expert on marine protected areas, small-scale fisheries, tenure rights, or fisheries economics, there is someone available to answer our questions right here in the office. There is so much to learn not just from the experts, but from other interns as well. We have been able to connect with interns from all over the world studying forestry, aquaculture, agriculture, and veterinary science here in Rome. After work we often have aperitivo with other interns, which is a cultural affair in itself. People are probably confused when they walk by and hear five languages being spoken at one table.
Even though our internship is full-time, we have taken advantage of every opportunity to travel whenever possible. We have gone to Florence, Nice, Monaco, and headed to the beach on the weekends to escape the city heat. We are looking forward to using our experiences and knowledge from FAO to help with our thesis and capstone once we get back to SMEA in the fall. Until then, we will be consuming as much pizza, pasta, and gelato as possible.