U.N. intern focuses on rural issues
By Samantha Sisk
John Mazunda is a seasoned world traveler. He grew up in Malawi, a nation in southern Africa, went to high school in Paris and attended a community college in Danville, Ill.
Photo by Julie Preble
John Mazunda, a senior agricultural economics major from Malawi, interned for the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development.
But the senior agricultural economics major came to Purdue because he is interested in rural development. His interest didn’t just bring him to West Lafayette — it also took him to Washington, D.C., last summer for an internship with the United Nations. "The internship allowed me to understand how development can improve the lives of many people in developing nations," said Mazunda.
He worked for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, an organization that combats rural hunger and poverty in developing countries through low-interest loans and direct assistance. The internship brought him to many conferences, events and hearings. He said the internship helped him understand how government policy directly affects agriculture, the environment and rural development - things he said he'll need to know to help him professionally in the future.
"The most important aspect of this internship was that it taught me to be well-rounded and to diversify my knowledge." The internship also confirmed for him the key role agriculture plays in changing nations like his own. "The experience really confirmed that agriculture is the place to be," he said. "It was the main topic of most of the discussions in one way or another, and it was good to know that all my work at school is going to be directly applied in the future."
Although its academic reputation was an important factor in deciding to study at Purdue, it was the university’s community that impressed Mazunda. "I just loved the family atmosphere when I first came to tour campus," he said. "Academically, they offer what I want to do and everyone made me feel so welcome. I met with my academic advisor and the associate dean. They were both great people and they got me really excited about going to school here."
Still, he said there is one word to describe his experience of moving to the United States: crazy. "Everything is different - the culture, the food, driving, dating, technology - just everything!" he said.
Mazunda said he is most thankful for the people who helped him get where he is today. He has interacted with many people and they all have contributed to his success in their own ways, he said. He said those people and their influences motivate him in his studies and encourage him to help others in the same way.
"So many people have helped me get me to where I am. I want to do all that I can to give back to them," said Mazunda. Despite his travels and accomplishments, Mazunda considers himself an ordinary student. "I'm simple, but pretty outgoing. I'll talk to anyone. I just enjoy being happy and really just being me."