My experience of Think Pacific’s virtual internship

Bula! My name is Helena, and I am going into my fourth year of studying MSci Marine Biology with study abroad. Over the last few months, I’m sure like me, you have spent a considerably larger amount of time at home than planned, leaving you searching for new opportunities to develop your CV and keep busy.

It was during my search that I came across a virtual internship newly created by Think Pacific, who are a not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to contributing towards the UN’s and Fiji’s sustainable development goals. However, it was expensive, and the consequences of the pandemic meant I was unable to work or easily fundraise the participants fee, leaving me as you can probably guess slightly disheartened. Nevertheless, I did not let that stop me from pursuing the internship, and with further research I discovered that The University of Southampton Study Abroad scheme was offering a bursary for the internship, rendering the idea of me participating suddenly far more achievable.

After a short over the phone interview I had secured a place on the internship, and with a few emails to the study abroad team I had obtained the bursary, commencing my 2 month virtual environmental internship journey with Think Pacific.

The first few weeks of the internship involved a ‘Discovery Phase’ where we were provided with the virtual resources to independently complete nine learning modules, covering topics such as Fijian culture and the Fijian environment. One of my favourite facts that I learnt was that Fiji is made up of a network of roughly 333 islands! This phase was essential to ensuring our Action Projects later on were culturally sensitive and aligned with the Fijian national Development Plan and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The next stage of the internship was the ‘Decide Phase’ where we were given the opportunity to focus on one aspect of the Discovery Phase that had sparked our interest – for me it was the Fijian environment. Interns then went on to select an ‘Action Project’ which were created by a variety of Fijian companies, charities, and government organisations. I partnered with The Coral Coast Conservation Centre to design them a ‘Virtual Coral Restoration Internship’ to provide a source of income through the pandemic, as well as, partnering with Think Pacific themselves to design a 3-day environmental workshop program in Fiji aimed at rural youth communities.

Throughout the duration of the internship, we were provided with weekly timetables of live briefing sessions, Q&A’s, guest speaker webinars and cultural awareness sessions. These sessions made the internship far more interactive, helping interns maintain focus and motivation on their action projects. One of my favourite sessions was a webinar by Dr Austin Bowden who discussed his coral restoration efforts through the Teitei’s Corals for Conservation program, I found this particularly interesting as during my degree I have learnt about the molecular biology behind coral reef restoration.

In addition, from the start of the internship, we were allocated a mentor who would be our go-to-person for any issues we had throughout the internship. We lso had regular check-in zoom calls with them to help guide the action projects. The virtual platform offered me so much flexibility as I was able to complete work and mentor calls around my daily routine and responsibilities.

At the end of the internship, interns had to present their action projects to their associated companies/charities/organisations via a pre-recorded zoom recording, lasting no longer than 15 minutes. I know 15 minutes sound like a long time, but time really flies when discussing a project you have spent so much time on and are so passionate about!

Alongside the Action Projects, skills I developed included writing funding and grant applications, marketing knowledge, creating business plans, carrying out competitor analysis, writing reports, carrying out data analysis, creating project proposals and creating educational resources.

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the development of more accessible virtual resources, permanently changing how workplaces function. There are now resources out there that you, as a student, would never previously have had access to, and virtual skills are going to be hugely beneficial to your employability going forward. I would recommend this internship to anyone and I encourage you to push yourself to apply for a virtual internship as it is still possible to make a real-world impact and gain valuable skills from your home.

Vinaka vakalevu to Think Pacific, the Southampton University Study Abroad team, and all the interns I met along the way!

An International Internship During a Global Pandemic

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