Having just completed a 4-year masters programme in Oceanography, I was ready for a break, but I still wanted to make the most of the unexpected free months that were available to me because of lockdown. I chose to do a 2-month virtual internship, as it seemed like a great way to boost my CV and gain experience in the NGO sector, without the pressure of full-time work.
Think Pacific are a non-governmental organisation who work with the Fijian government to run volunteer projects and aid development. I chose a Think Pacific internship specifically because I was lucky enough to visit Fiji in 2016 for a conservation project, an experience which had a huge impact on me. During my stay there, Fiji was hit by Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. I was lucky to survive this cyclone, but it was devastating to see entire villages flattened across the country as thousands were left homeless. This experience meant that I jumped at the opportunity to contribute to Fiji’s development, even if in a very small way!
The project I chose was to create a ‘Climate Change Policy’ for Think Pacific, with the aim of helping them to reduce their carbon footprint. This project was really interesting to me as, since visiting Fiji, I have often questioned whether there is any benefit to the country from these short-term volunteering projects, when they are offset against the huge carbon footprint of 10,000 mile flights! So I was really interested to research whether these voluntourism projects can become sustainable if policies are implemented.
The internship started with 11 compulsory modules, about everything from Fiji’s ancient history to the UN sustainable development goals. I learnt a huge amount from these and also from the staff, who were all extremely passionate and knowledgeable about Fiji and Fijian culture. The programme was very flexible, with an option to choose a 4 or 8 week project, and could easily be fitted in around other commitments.
The most surprising thing about the internship was how interactive it was – each week started with a briefing of what was on that week, and ended with a ‘culture session’ on Fridays. These ranged from a traditional Fijian dance lesson to a virtual cooking session, and were always a lot of fun! Although projects were individual, I got to meet and collaborate with other interns through zoom sessions, so that we could share ideas and support each other. We were also assigned a mentor, who supported us through the project and gave feedback at each stage. My favourite part of the internship was the speaker webinars, with talks from a huge range of people who were all really inspiring and gave a lot of helpful career advice.
I would really recommend a virtual internship as a fun and rewarding way to gain new skills and experience, and to make a worthwhile contribution without any travel or carbon costs involved!