“At Manos del Uruguay, I’m working in corporate social responsibility”

Lina Thach is 24 years old and is working on her master in international studies at Chapman University. She is completing her internship at Manos del Uruguay.

Lina says that the traveling bug has gotten a firm hold of her because she is a globe trotter. Her passion is to explore the many cultures that exist in the world and learn about the norms, the behaviors and the values that every culture possesses. Lina was raised in a multicultural environment: “a diverse world comprised of many cultures: American, Cambodian, Vietnamese and the Latino culture.”

Why are you currently in Uruguay?

I’m in Uruguay completing my internship to fulfill a prerequisite of my masters’ program. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a fellowship from the past US ambassador of Uruguay, Ex-Ambassador Baxter. Due to this, the University of Montevideo has graciously aided in the help of obtaining an internship, housing, and many more things for the smooth transition to Montevideo.

What are you exactly doing in Manos del Uruguay?

At Manos del Uruguay, I’m working on their corporate social responsibility sector. Although Manos del Uruguay has been in establishment for over 40 years, I think consumers have forgotten what Manos del Uruguay was founded on: a nonprofit organization to better the lives of the rural women living in the interior. I was fortunate enough to have converse with the original artisans like Sophia (from Fraile Muerto) who have expressed the sentiment that “la lucha fue dura, pero linda” referring to the hardship of the establishment of its origins. In addition, I’m also aiding Manos in obtaining the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) logo to certify that their products are 100% fair trade and helping to improve their website in English.

What does it mean to be a part of Manos del Uruguay?

Manos del Uruguay is truly a rare finding. It’s difficult to be a nonprofit organization that produces its own materials in a capitalist world. The fact that Manos continues to prosper in spite of these challenges is simply amazing. Manos del Uruguay is able to prosper while maintaining its original goals: established for the artesans and owned by the artisans. Being a part of Manos del Uruguay for the little time that I have been here has enabled for me to glimpse the other side of the curtain; a real organization that truly cares for its people.

How has been the process of adapting to Uruguay?

Adapting to Uruguay has been very easy since I’m accustomed to traveling. I expected the cold winter was going to be harsh, but fortunately, it isn’t that cold. One thing I was not expecting is the warm hospitality that has been bestowed upon me. Everyone here is extremely nice, and I am humbled to be here.

What advice would you give to an exchange student that wants to adapt to a new culture?

The advice I would give to an exchange student to adapt to a new culture is fairly simple: be open-minded. Culture shock is inevitable so he/she needs to be well prepared. Also, having a strong command of Spanish is highly recommended because Uruguay is a great country to immerse oneself in improving one’s Spanish. On another note, if you like spicy food, bring your own spices!