An Internship in India Changed Angela Kohama's Life

Angela Kohama
Major: International studies with a concentration in development in south Asia
Minors: Special education and religious studies

In 2010, on an IE3 Global Internship program in Maharashtra, India, Angela Kohama experienced a pivotal moment that changed the course of her life. Her internship was with an organization that served children affected by HIV-AIDS, but her local mentor suggested she visit the special education school for a day.

“The school was absolute chaos. There were 50 to 60 children, all different ages and ability levels, in one long room divided by a sheet of particleboard. Only one of the teachers had any special education training, and there were only five teachers total,” she says. “I left that first day completely overwhelmed yet wanting to go back for more.”

Kohama spent the rest of her time in India volunteering at the special education school and changed the focus of her studies when she returned to the U.S., adding a minor in special education.

That flexibility in pursuing a passion is what attracted Kohama to international studies in the first place. “I think everyone would agree that studying abroad is one of the best parts of being an international studies major,” she says. “However, another aspect of the course work I loved was the ability to choose classes that really fit my interests.” The international studies department offers a wide variety of classes, but majors can also get credit for courses in political science, anthropology, ethnic studies, religious studies, or dance.

Although these classes provide critical background knowledge, essential experience comes from internships, says Kohama. In addition to her time in India, she has interned under the development director at the local nonprofit HIV Alliance and in the international development department at Mobility International. She donated about 20 hours per week to these organizations and earned classroom credits from the experience.

Currently, Kohama is a finalist for a Fulbright grant to study special education in India, as well as a finalist for a Critical Language Scholarship, which would allow her to return to India to study Hindi. Her goal is to work for a DPO (Disabled People’s Organization) doing grassroots development work while she travels between the United States and India.

Text by Jennifer Snelling MA '01