Through her MISTI internship in South Africa, Abigail Anderson was able to make a tangible difference in the lives of local teachers
Abigail Anderson, Architecture '18

Abigail’s team had the hands-on experience of introducing more than 100 rural teachers to computer programs that could help them in their work. Even before becoming an architecture student at MIT, Abigail Anderson had decided she wanted to get involved with MISTI. Her first opportunity came when she was a freshman and heard about a program in South Africa developed by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences School Enrichment Centre (AIMSSEC). “The internship was based in math instead of architecture,” she notes, “but it still felt like a good fit for me. It was a project that would help people in an immediate and measurable way – and this was what I wanted to do.” She and the other members of the AIMSSEC team worked with 134 math teachers from rural areas, teaching them new strategies as well as basic computer skills and programs such as Excel and GeoGebra that could help with their teaching.  “I felt that we could have a true impact on specific education problems in South Africa,” Abigail says. “AIMSSEC helps teachers understand and master concepts well enough to go back and teach them effectively to their own students.”

Living like a local

South Africa itself impressed Abigail with its remarkable scenery and the courteous behavior of its citizens – and she was interested in digging more deeply into the culture. “We were treated with such respect,” she says, “but I realized that racial issues were in play. Living there instead of vacationing there was an eye-opening experience. It wasn’t just about getting to know the streets and the shops and the food, it was also about the politics and how it felt to participate in this culture. It’s a culture where a racial minority is actually advantaged rather than disadvantaged.”

Volunteering to bring about change

For Abigail, one of the most important aspects of her MISTI internship is that it was funded – which meant she could work with AIMSSEC as a volunteer. “It’s amazing to have the opportunity to help an organization that’s in place and is already making a difference,” she says. “To me, it’s important that we were volunteering to share our skills and work with the teachers. In the future, I hope to find or create an architecture program that is similar in terms of its ability to provide something tangible – without cost – to people whose resources are more limited than ours.”

  • Africa
  • Internship
  • Math