My summer internship has finally come to an end. I have learned so much and worked with so many inspiring people who are friendly, always willing to help, and passionate about their jobs. After the internship, I can confirm my passion for development work and my career path ahead. The following is the farewell card from my SJ team as a good-luck gift for my career path in international development.
Over the summer I have run the first phases of a project called “Raising awareness about climate change for children in remote areas”. My task started with desk research on what has been done and what materials we can provide for the libraries we set up in coastal areas which are heavily affected by rising temperature and immigrating sea water. The children and farmers there still lack basic information about climate change, its effects, and how we can mitigate its destruction.
Along with mapping climate change in Vietnam, I also collected physical documents and soft copies for the information center. This work required lots of traveling, contacting other organizations and also explaining our projects for their support. I learn a lot about the landscape of NGO work in Vietnam. I also learned what skills and experience are needed for a development worker and what I need to do next for my career path. I am thankful because the people I met and worked with are very passionate about their jobs and willing to share with me their experiences.
Another part of my job requires traveling and talking with local people at the sites that we will set up our information center. I have traveled a lot through out the country, but have never been on business trips like these before! We were able to go to very remote places with only limited access for locals. We created a survey about climate change issues and sent out copies to local people to fill out so that we could know about their needs and their background knowledge on the subjects. I was amazed at the low level of information they have about the alarming issue of climate change, and I really hope that our project can bring some positive change to the villages.
After the internship, I am more confirmed about the career route that I want to follow. I will continue my work in international development, improve my language skills, and travel more. The first thing I will do when I get back to Brandeis is to talk with my professor in Development Economics about my career path and ask for her suggestion on graduate schools and work experience. I will take more classes in related fields such as environment studies and sociology to prepare a better background on the subjects that I have been working on. More importantly, I will do more research on climate change issues in South East Asia and the possibilities of micro-finance in a climate change context, two concepts that I have been working on for the last two summers. That idea has been given to me by my supervisor during the time we worked together. I have gained so much advice from him and plan to stay connected after my summer internship.
For other students interested in working in international development in developing countries, the most important thing is reaching out and showing people that you are passionate about what you are doing. Development work, especially NGO work in Vietnam requires multitasking and interpersonal skills because you will have to deal with many unexpected situations and overcome challenging living conditions. But once you get through all the difficulties, the reward is satisfying. I am very glad to see the impact of my project in the local people’s lives and how they are looking forward to more projects like that. A plus of the job is the people in the field. They are very open and want to share their experience. They come from different countries with different backgrounds but all share the same wish for a better community. Once you love your job and are willing to learn and contribute your work to the community, people will welcome and help you. For an internship with SJ Vietnam, I suggest contacting the program officer with the specific projects you are interested in and asking for an informal interview. If you are suitable for the job then SJ will let you join because the organization still needs lots of help!
As a Social Justice recipient, I think my philosophies and ideals have been strengthened as I can see the result of my work and how it can improve a community. The goal of my work is not about learning a new theory or solving a difficult mathematics problem but finding the best solutions for a sustainable community supporting people and making their lives better. Along the way there will be difficulties ranging from financial shortages, support from the government, or coordination of local people. But I am sure that with my social justice philosophies and beliefs, I can work through such challenges. Thanks to my summer internship site and the support from WOW to make this experience a reality. Now it is the end of summer and I am heading back to school. But I am glad that I am much more prepared than before I left, and I believe I will be more prepared for next year when I leave Brandeis and be ready for my real life journey.
– Trang Luu