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Reflections on my experience as a Friendship Bridge intern

by Cole Folwell, Treasury Intern summer 2016 IMG_0481

I grew up in the People’s Republic of Boulder and loved the sheltered, inclusive, and safe environment. When choosing colleges I thought that seeing another part of the country would be enlightening and intellectually riveting. For that reason, I chose Northern Indiana and for those who have not been blessed with the opportunity of laying eyes on this beautiful region, I’ll provide some insight. The regions elevation change is about as consistent as its weather forecast. The gloomy clouds, lack of mountains and the invigorating town of South Bend were all great reasons to hit the books extra hard. In general, Indiana is a most modestly impressive state and if it weren’t for Notre Dame (which is pretty much in Michigan), there’s a good chance Mike Pence could have been out of the job. Despite my opinion of the crossroads of America, I had a fantastic first-year at Notre Dame and learned so much. I am looking forward to going back this fall as a more knowledgeable, curious, giving and driven person thanks to a wonderful experience as a Treasury Intern at Friendship Bridge.

Working alongside Treasury Manager, Rebecca Cueto, my experience at Friendship Bridge was predominantly focused on the financial component to the organization’s operation. Whether that was monthly liquidity reports, monitoring currency risk, or analyzing economic data, it all had an impact on the thousands of clients Friendship Bridge serves.

I’ll admit that sometimes it’s easy to forget the actual impact of my work when focused on a spreadsheet containing masses of data. However, every number has a story behind it, importance to it and a purpose going forward. Capital markets have always fascinated me and I find that versus appreciating their ability to move capital to where it is needed, people simply write it off as a useless mechanism, wrought with peril and moral hazard. I cannot completely remove myself from my Boulder beginnings so here is a quote from Karl Marx about capital’s importance: “Capital is money, capital is commodities. By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs.” Microfinance brings together people and business that are seeking capital with those who have it. After being with Friendship Bridge, I definitely have a greater appreciation for the ability of capital to create positive change in a world that can easily be dismissed as hopeless.

Anyway, I am not usually that deep and down to earth (must be the Boulder in me I tried to kill off) so I’d like to get back to what I did for Friendship Bridge. I worked on several large projects throughout the summer such as a state of Guatemala report, a presentation on Friendship Bridge’s currency exposure and risk management that would be used at a conference in Italy, and an indicators board to help us benchmark our performance against other Microfinance institutions using a platform called ‘Mix Market.’

The state of Guatemala report was a comprehensive summary and analysis of all major political and economic events that had recently transpired in Guatemala. As you have seen already, I have a fairly elaborate and inefficient way of summarizing something that could be said in maybe a sentence or two. This gift of mine helped produce a 23-page report that was downright excessive (I learned a lot though). Fortunately, Rebecca helped me cut down that mountain of information into a very detailed and concise boulder (sincere apologies, I have an endearment for particularly terrible jokes). As my internship progressed I became more efficient in boiling down information into the essentials. An invaluable skill I hope to keep with me well into the future.

Overall, my internship was a positive experience as I learned an extensive amount about the interworking’s of Friendship Bridge’s operation. Some things I did were as simple as updating economic indicators and others as complex as understanding the implications of an increase in remittances on the quetzal and how that might impact Friendship Bridge’s liquidity going forward.

Over the course of my internship I also decided to participate in the weekly Spanish class, which was a humbling experience. However, much of the class was in jest and I managed to pick up some of the language while having fun. I also decided that my self-proclaimed wit was perfect for a morning email updating staff on current U.S., Latin American, and Guatemalan events. Thus, ‘Good Morning Guatemala’ was born and I know for a fact that it made me laugh while providing relevant news (did it make others laugh? Not sure). My experience at Friendship Bridge was rewarding, educational and enjoyable.

Here is a random parting hair-pulling thought from me that Rebecca and I attempted to solve on one of our daily commutes:

“There is a single light-bulb in a windowless room that cannot be observed from the outside. On the outside of the room there are three light switches. You can enter the room only once to observe the light bulb. How do you find out what light switch controls the light-bulb?”

Good Luck. Go Irish. And thank you for the opportunity and experience Friendship Bridge.

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