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Friends named finalists for island internship

Courtesy Sandy Florez

For two friends from Miami, this summer could give new meaning to the phrase “adventure island.”

UM senior Sandy Florez and FIU junior Deborah Nuñez are finalists for an internship opportunity many would kill to have.

Florez and Nuñez applied to be the first guests on Isla Palenque, an 400-acre uninhabited island off the coast of Panama, which is being developed by Amble Resorts, a Chicago-based company that specializes in eco-friendly resort developments in culturally sensitive places.

“Not many companies are able to send someone to a tropical island, but a lot people are willing to take on this adventure,” said Emily Kinskey, a marketing associate for Amble Resorts.

If Florez and Nuñez get the internship they’ll live on the island for four to six weeks, room and board included, and receive a $2,500 stipend to explore the surrounding area.

The purpose of the internship is for a pair of adventure-loving travelers to get to know, and promote, the island by documenting their experiences using photos, video and social media.

“We want to give the island a personality; give it a heart,” Nuñez said.

Florez and Nuñez were named finalists for the internship after submitting a stop-action video resume, which chronicled their travels and their friendship.

Florez, a print journalism and English major and Nuñez, a psychology and Italian/European Studies major, have been friends since sixth grade. In 2009 they studied abroad together in Perugia, Italy, and caught the travel bug.

“When we came back we were a little depressed,” Florez said. “Our parents were like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ We were ready to start our next adventure.”

The girls went back to Italy the next summer, and also visited Greece, Spain, France and Morocco.

They discovered CouchSurfing, an international non-profit network that connects people in need of a place to crash with willing hosts. Part of the CouchSurfing mission is to help travelers meet interesting locals around the world.

Florez and Nuñez said that meeting new people has been the most rewarding aspect of their journeys.

“We learned that you shouldn’t be afraid of strangers,” Florez said. “You have to use common sense, but you need to be open and talk to people that are sitting next to you on the train, or whatever, even if they’re a little strange. That’s how we’ve met the best people.”

Florez and Nuñez, who describe their travel philosophy as “no sleeping allowed” hope to expand upon the idea of meeting new people while interning at Isla Palenque.

The pair wants to create a Web site to document the conversations they’ve had with the people they’ve met from around the world through video. The girls hope to use the internship to launch a career in storytelling and travel.

“If we can make a living meeting people and traveling and telling these antidotes and stories, if we can pay the bills doing it, that would be the dream job,” Nuñez said.

On May 2, Florez and Nuñez will find out if they’ll spend the summer learning about indigenous cultures, visiting beaches, coconuts groves, and lagoons, and spotting tropical birds, lizards and maybe even a howler monkey or two.

For now, the friends have their fingers crossed. But even if they don’t get the internship, Florez said their journey together will continue.

“Deb’s my travel buddy,” she said. “If we don’t get this we’re not going to let it get us down. Whatever happens, we’re hoping it’ll be an adventure.”

Laura Edwins may be contacted at ledwins@themiamihurricane.com.


To follow Florez and Nuñez’s story and view their stop-action film, visit islapalenque.com/island-intern-

contest/2011/03/29/sandy-florez-deborah-nunez/.

After the finalists complete a second assignment, the island intern will be announced May 2.

April 25, 2011

Reporters

Laura Edwins

Managing Editor


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