Jazmin Bandera has been a part of the Huskie community since 2013. She came to NIU as an undergraduate and received her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in the summer of 2017. She is currently in graduate school, pursuing her Master’s of Business Administration degree. Bandera says her experience with the NIU community has driven her to be the person she is now.
During her last semester as an undergrad, she journeyed with three other students to spend her summer abroad in Bucerias, Mexico, interning as part of the NIU Human Connections Global Internship and Leadership Development (GILD) Program.
GILD allows students to travel to Bucerias to help bring awareness to responsible tourism. GILD partners with Human Connections, a nonprofit whose mission is to connect people with diverse backgrounds through education programs creating a passion for social change.
“The best part of the program,” says Bandera, “was the staff at Human Connections. Their passion to tell the stories of the artisans and to help them was heartwarming. This experience has only ignited me to not give up on my dreams of starting my nonprofit in the near future.”
During the four-week internship, Bandera traveled the state of Nayarit and met with entrepreneurs of local businesses. After hearing the entrepreneurs’ stories, Bandera and the other interns created a responsible tourism map launched on the Human Connections website, which provides tourists with a helpful resource for finding and patronizing business that may not be well-known outside of the local community.
“I have to admit, when I talked with these local owners, I was humbled to see how excited and open they were about telling their stories.” Bandera shared. “One owner who really touched me, was the owner of Jose’s Agua Fresca (fresh fruit water) stand underneath a bridge. Jose has had his stand for over 20 years and he gladly shared the story of his success. He has over 10 different fruit juice options that he makes daily at home. Jose’s signage at the stand listed each juice name in Spanish and in English and he regularly offered free samples for local people and tourists. When I told Jose that we wanted to add his stand to our map, he was so happy and honored to be on it. I will never forget the smile and hug he gave me after I told him.”
For the final week of the program, Bandera traveled to a town 30 minutes away from Bucerias, called San Pancho, where she stayed in a loft at EntreAmigos, a local community center, and was part of a week-long leadership seminar. During her time there, she learned about public speaking and connected with other Mexican college students through team builders and skits. “Throughout the week-long seminar,” says Jazmin, “I made lifetime friendships.”
“The leadership development seminar was the best part of the program; it was a perfect closing to my internship experience,” she added.
GILD is offering an information session on Friday, Dec. 1, from 12-12:30 p.m. in Altgeld Hall, room 203, where Bandera will be there to share more about her experience and to answer any questions.
“I leave you with one thing; if anyone is interested in the social sector or learning how you can get involved in giving back, this program will do it. You will learn so much about the Mexican culture and above all, you’ll learn about yourself. If I could, I would do it all over again,” Bandera said.