My internship in Samoa has been an unforgettable experience. Before embarking on this internship I set the following goals for myself:
- Academic goal: To learn from my experience working in Samoa, the core skills and practical knowledge that will help me better understand the relevance of my studies at Brandeis to real-world development challenges.
- Career goal: To conduct primary research in creative and innovative ways that will enhance my understanding of how technology may be used for youth empowerment and sustainable development.
- Personal goal: To learn how to balance working in a professional environment with my spiritual and social life.
I feel that I achieved all of these goals during my intensely busy two-month internship at UNDP. Among my various jobs at UNDP and at the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, I found myself doing administrative work, conducting research and surveys, writing reports and providing technological support to others. These activities reinforced my learning at Brandeis and also highlighted the areas where I will want to do further studies at Brandeis.
A large and very exciting project I worked on this summer has been with the establishment of a Samoan/New Zealand government initiative called the High Tech Youth Network in Samoa. I was given the opportunity to assist with primary research for HTYN by designing and carrying out a survey, which we called a “snapshot” on youth perceptions of technology in Samoa. As the director of the project is an administrator rather than a tech expert, I was also able to provide advice and support of this nature. I am especially proud of my work for HTYN because I felt able to contribute significantly. To date, the project has been implemented primarily by the director and with my support, so I have a great sense of ownership regarding this endeavor.
The personal goal above was the hardest one to achieve. I was pulled in so many directions, both at work and also in the community with my friends. I was called upon to help in many work situations that were not technically my responsibility but I found it impossible to refuse when asked to do something. And many times I jumped in because I really wanted to be involved. An example was working on various projects with the ILO (International Labor Organization), another UN agency, including a video project and several reports.
I officially finished working at UNDP on the 12th of August, however, for about a week after I had been going regularly back in to the Division for Youth office and also meeting with the in-country project manager for the High Tech Youth Network. On my last day in the office, I was surprised when all the staff called me to come sit down for a meeting. It was actually a farewell they had organized, and they gave me gifts! We also had cake together. It was a very heartfelt moment that I will remember, and I will continue to strengthen these friendships I have made this summer.
– Ben Percival