By Su-Mae Chua
Hello, Su-Mae here.
I am a Malaysian-born Human Geographer, yoga enthusiast, and an advocate of Environmental and Social Justice. I grew up in Shanghai, London, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong, where I spent more than half of my childhood on a tennis court. I joined the MESPOM programme after completing my BA Geography degree at University College London, to address a personal knowledge gap and to gain exposure in different European university institutions.
A central part of the MESPOM programme includes a mandatory summer internship. Before embarking on an internship, I remember two conversations I had, one with Prof. Guntra Aistara (my supervisor) and another with Prof. Laszlo Pinter. I asked for advice about where to work and what sort of internship roles to look out for. While they provided their advice and even offered some contacts from their individual networks, they each asked me the same question. What do I actually want to achieve after completing an internship? Was it to have worked at a reputable international organisation? A job opportunity? A thesis pre-study? Or simply a new working experience?
The greedy (or ambitious) version of myself wanted all the above, while the less-greedy version was happy with the latter. So, I decided to search for a new working experience online. I started off by Googling research organisations that focused on areas of work that were of interest to me, and then I streamlined my search to look for active projects that those organisations were running or involved in. After a few exchanges and a couple of rejections, the cold emails began to warm up.
In the months of June-September 2021, I interned at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) (in Oxford albeit working remotely), where I worked on the “Knowledge Exchange between Climate Adaptation Platforms” (KE4CAP) project. My main tasks focused on designing and implementing a project-specific assessment for monitoring, evaluation, and learning. This involved ten semi-structured interviews with participants in the KE4CAP network, interviews analysis, and a final impact report. As a pleasant surprise, the impact report was recently published on SEI’s weADAPT platform (published by University of Oxford).
The skills I developed outside of MEL reporting of the KE4CAP project were invaluable. These skills relate to the intangible and interpersonal relations and experiences gained during the internship. For example, co-producing work and being able to effectively collaborate with different people from different backgrounds and disciplines have been significant to my learning. Subsequently, I decided to take my internship further and build this into the development my thesis. As such, I link and investigate issues of power and politics in the practice of knowledge exchange in my thesis. I plan to engender a decolonial approach to knowledge exchange by drawing from the learnings and collective experiences of the KE4CAP project.
Overall, my internship experience provided me the opportunity to have a peak into a future career in the field of research. I am grateful for the experience and the people I met during my internship.