You’ll find answers to all of these questions and many more by reading comments from Faculty of Social Sciences interns on this blog. Students posted all around the world will share their experience, challenges and success stories with readers. Please visit this blog regularly to find out about their adventures!
Please visit the French version of this web page to read the French postings published by our Students.
Experiencing South East Asian Culture Through Food
Emma Davy, Masters in Globalization and International Development
Internship Country: Field Internship in Thailand (working on Myanmar Issues)
Canadian NGO: Forum of Federations
Did you know that the phrase “have you eaten?” is a common greeting in countries across Asia? This phrase doesn’t belong to one particular culture or nation, instead it is shared between Thailand, Myanmar, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and many others. When I heard this greeting for the first time, I was struck by the warmth and concern it conveyed. It also inspired me to think more deeply about the power of food to connect people across through time and space. So, for my first blog entry, I will attempt to describe my experiences in South East Asia through the delicious dishes I have tasted and the people I have shared them with.
I first learned about this greeting from my Burmese colleague. We work together at the Forum of Foundations in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have only been here for five weeks, but in that short time I have shared many bowls of noodles, pots of tea, and learned about Burmese and Thai culture in the process.
One of the most spectacular things I have experienced so far are the night markets which pop-up across the city every night to feed locals and tourists alike. Here you will find hundreds of food stalls, selling dishes from across the globe. Picture rows upon rows of tents, nestled between sacred Buddhist temples in Old Chiang Mai. The blend of history and religion that define the scenery of the night market are just as striking as the blend of flavours and textures that define the food.
At the night market, you can also see how the legacy of colonization, immigration, and cultural transfers has influenced Thailand. Vendors selling Chinese gyoza sit beside vendors selling French crêpes, sashimi, pork vindaloo, and pad thai. The night market is a melting pot of cultures and flavours.
My colleagues have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome here. On my first day of work, they invited me to go to lunch with them. Now, we swap food and stories every day over lunch. And with every meal that passes, I learn a little bit more about life in South East Asia, their experience of political conflict, and their hopes for the future.
October 10th is Thanksgiving in Canada. It is a day to give thanks to all of the people and things that make one’s life special. In light of the holiday, I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my office. It was an opportunity to share my Canadian culture with colleagues and to show my appreciation. It was also everyone’s first time celebrating the Holiday and they really enjoyed trying the new foods like garlic mashed potatoes, apple pie, and green beans. We connected over our holiday traditions, over food, family and friends. This year, I am thankful for this opportunity to study and work and Thailand. I am thankful for the delicious meals I have eaten, but most of all I am thankful for the people I have shared them with.
Unexpected Opportunities in Uncertain Times
Danika, Masters Program Criminology, United Nations Association of Canada, UNESCO Thailand
I received an email this summer from the Faculty of Social Sciences detailing an opportunity for an international internship. I had just started my Masters degree the year before in Ottawa. I packed up my car and drove from Alberta to Ontario. I was exhausted after such a long trip, but excited for new opportunities and experiences. In March of 2020, I, like many others, became filled with feelings of fear and uncertainty related to school, work, and even my personal life. In the midst of a global pandemic, I wondered if this email was a mistake. Upon closer reading, I noticed that key word that would clarify things for me: the internship was “remote.” Questions started running through my head. “How can an international internship play out virtually without any in-person interaction? Will this opportunity be as valuable online as it would be normally? Can I handle the new challenges that come with remote work at the international level?” These questions, among others, almost stopped me from following up with the office, but a part of me had to know more. After a lot of meetings, training, and administrative delays, many of which related to the decrease in internship opportunities because of COVID-19, I finally began my work.
Remote work is not entirely new for me. I am a research assistant on a Canadian project based in British Columbia, so I am used to a lot of online communication and interaction. As a teaching assistant, I have also had to adapt to new online formats since March of this year. Working remotely in an international context is not entirely new for me either. A couple of years ago, I taught English virtually to children living in China. I would wake up at 5AM for classes and teach until 7AM, but this was the only experience I had with such work. I have now found myself working with a time difference of over ten hours in this internship position. As I embark on this new ‘adventure’, I find myself dealing with challenges that I never could have imagined. I wanted to use this opportunity to talk briefly about my experience and reflect on the ways in which the internship has taught me a lot about myself, my research work, and others even in the short time that I have been working.
Comparative and international work forces us to be reflexive, by nature. We come to know our positionality in relation to those we work with and for in new ways. We come to understand the struggles of others in ways that we would not have been able to without such opportunities. Although the frustrations of limited communication, again thanks to a significant time difference, can seem like the worst thing in the world, I am humbled when I work in areas that aim to address challenges for those who struggle in ways I could never imagine. Understanding the pandemic and the immense difficulties it has created for others from different points of view makes it easier for me to reframe my own challenges in order to support organizations that are trying to positively impact communities. With these adversities, I am learning in ways that I never would have if I was travelling to my host country. Although I sometimes feel like I am missing out on certain aspects of this work, I also see the new ways in which I am learning to balance, adapt, and create boundaries between work and personal life in a home office (i.e. the corner of my bachelor apartment). I am learning about important work in a different region and getting the chance to contribute significantly, despite being so far away.
If you are reading this, I hope you take a chance on a new opportunity that might present itself to you. If it sounds crazy, it might just be one of the most important things that you do, not only for your work, but also for yourself. As a final note, I hope that people can find some sense of comfort in knowing that we are not alone in many of these challenges. Even as I write this from my quiet apartment, I try to find small moments of gratitude and connection, reminding myself that I am doing my best to adapt in uncertain times, just like everyone else.
Diplomacy During COVID-19
Bibi, Joint Honours Political Science and Public Administration
United Nations Association of Canada (UNAC), Thailand
United Nations Population Fund for the Asian Pacific Region (UNFPA), Intern (Monitoring and Evaluation)
My name is Bibi and I will be sharing my experience working internationally during Covid-19. Currently, I am working with UNAC where I am aiding with Monitoring and Evaluating practices and reports, Later, I will be working with UNFPA Thailand concentrating on gender equality and women’s health. Due to Covid-19, I was not about to travel to Thailand to begin my position, instead I am and will be working from home.
Currently, with the United Nations Association in Canada, I have had the opportunity to work with a dynamic team of individuals from different walks of life and expertise. My responsibilities as an intern is to assist the Program Manager of international programs with reviewing the Monitoring and Evaluations operating manuals for the international programs that the UNAC offers such as: IDDIP – the International Development and Diplomatic internship program, IYIP – the International Youth Internship Program, FLIP- the Financial Literacy Program, CSC- the Canada Service Corps and last the Canada Green Corps program. It gives me the opportunity to use a combination of past experiences and skills providing meaningful recommendations to strengthen reporting periods for M&E – Monitoring and Evolution. Aside from research and program review, I have also had the opportunity to participate in other events and panels that UNAC hosted. On July 9th, there was a discussion concerning youth and future employment in the times of covid-19, on July 16th there were two panel sessions on sustainability: one on the environment and one health. With these panels and public zoom discussions my team ensured that I had the opportunity to be included and participate.
Prior to working with UNAC, my interests for international affairs developed while traveling with my family and my experience with consult affairs. My passion for politics comes from serving my community and representing students in student politics. I knew that one day I really wanted a career in politics and international affairs. As an intern on Parliament, I was able to gain experience with international affairs. working with Standing committee on International trade, on agreements such as NAFTA, CUSMA, CETA, CIFTA, Multicultural and Diversification in Trade in Canada. I had the opportunity to attend conferences and panels concerning Canada’s role on the international level such as Women Deliver, and with UNAC prior to the bid for the UN Security Council. I am also an advocate for gender equality, mental health and women’s rights.
My experience with UNAC has been very rewarding even though there have been some challenges due to covid-19. Working remotely has been a personal learning curb as it has had impacts on my schedules and routine and especially how I tackle simple things day to day. I found that it’s really important to establish a schedule and take wellness breaks when needed, in addition to making clear working boundaries. Covid-19 has allowed us to work from home, use and discover new technology to stay working and connected with loved ones, however, this has also increased our screen time. I consider myself exceptionally lucky that I work with a team that is flexible and that emphasizes mental health and wellness.
With this experience, even though my travel has been very limited I still feel as though that there is an international aspect. With each report that I review, I have learned interesting facts about the impacts that Canadian policies and program has had on the international stage. For instance, the Financial Literacy Internship Program is in collaboration with the Cambodian government that focuses on targeting the Sustainable Development Goal for Quality Education. The Canadian Service Corps gives Canadians the opportunity to take part in High level meetings, and the Canadian Green Corps specifically focuses on the Paris Agreement in addition to the sustainable development goals on the environment. Through meetings and panels, I have the opportunity to meet and learn from experts and politicians from around the world experience very much reminds me of consult affairs and consult duties – working for a foreign office from home or working from a foreign place for home.
As someone who aspires to be a diplomat and a future leader to this country, I definitely found this experience to be useful. I am looking forward to what else this placement has in store for me as well as my career in politics and international affairs.