Live while you’re young, they said. In the beginning of 2017, I asked myself: Have I fulfilled all my goals, my wants in my college life? Seeing my friends go abroad for international competitions and conferences triggered me to experience it on my own. I’ve always been wanting to have an international experience, joining international conferences, events, or internships, and at a minimal cost. As I was entering my final year in college, I realized I didn’t have much time left. So, I began my search for the international opportunities.
The Beginning of the Unexpected
I am glad that my university has their own International Office, so I could get updated with any information about international opportunities. Some events are fully funded by the university, some are fully funded or partially funded by the promoter. Another source of information that I found useful and informative is a platform called www.youthop.com. I even turned the notification on, so I wouldn’t miss any opportunity that I can apply to. I found out that there were so many internship opportunities abroad, especially in NGOs such as United Nations. But yes, the ultimate barrier was the cost. At first, I thought that there were no such ‘free’ international events. But it turned out that there were quite many of them if you search it thoroughly. I did apply to some, but got rejected eventually.
Thus, never in my wildest dream, that I dreamed about going to America (and even living there for a month). I stumbled upon a broadcast message that my friend forwarded to a group chat about a competition called Indonesian Young-Thought Leaders on Environment (IYTL) 2017 by World Resources Institute Indonesia. The main prize was one-month internship experience in Washington DC, at their global office. I decided to join this competition, not for its prize, but because the topic was about the environment. I’m all about the environment, and this competition caught my attention, ultimately because the competition was organized by the institution that I’d really wanted to intern at for so long. I even turned on the email alert for WRI internship opportunities, but the one that opened was always the internship at its Global Office in Washington DC, so it was impossible. I really didn’t care about its main prize, because I knew I was not going to win anyway. My goal was just to be selected as The Top 20, so I would be invited to IYTL Camp which would enable me to learn more about the environment.
It turned out that the journey was thrilling and far beyond my expectation. I was selected to join the camp, and later I was also selected as one of the three finalists selected to intern at WRI Indonesia for a month. That was the first time in my life when I felt happy every Monday because the work would start, and sad every Friday because the work would end. Just when I thought to be an intern at WRI Indonesia was already my highest achievement possible in this competition, then when the internship has ended, I received an email which announced that I was selected to join a sponsored one-month internship program with WRI Global Office in Washington DC. I was left speechless!
The Unexpected Learning in the Global Office
The whole internship experience was incredible! There was also a summer internship program in WRI Global Office, so I joined the program with around 60 other interns. It was a lot of fun! There were workshops, after-work ‘happy hours’, countless brown bags sessions (yes, even interns were encouraged to do the brown bag session, where you can present your ideas during the lunchtime) and there was also a competition among interns, which was called Intern-a-Palooza. Here, 10 interns were chosen to present their internship work.
Working in WRI, both Indonesia office and Global Office sums up the wonderful work culture that they have. One of the employees there was joking that WRI stands for “We Rely on Interns” (in a good way, though). WRI is very open and appreciative towards our ideas and opinions, and even took them into considerations and further discussions. I always believe it is because ideas are the fuel to this institution. We turn ideas into actions!
I was assigned to the Forest, Food, and Water team, helping then the-soon-to-be-launched application called Forest Watcher (available in App Store and Play Store!). My supervisor, Mikaela, connected me with so many people in the office, enabled me to meet and talk with people from various backgrounds who were working on different projects. The office itself is really beautiful (something that I believe the employees take it for granted) with each department painted in a different interior color. My most favorite part of the office is, of course, the free-flow coffee machine offering coffee, chocolate, and latte drinks up to 54 menus. Gotta stay up all day!
When someone says that America is the melting pot of the world, I never thought America would be this diverse! In the office alone, there were interns from more than 20 nationalities. Despite having different backgrounds, we could still have fun together! I also got the chance to explore the city and meet various people on my way.
These days, I reckon that some people are getting concerned to go to America because some negativity spreading from the media lately. I can assure you it is wrong! People here in the US are really nice and helpful! One of my learning lessons is no matter who you are, your skin color, race, religion, or culture, we are all still the same human. That’s why there should be no reason for us to hate others for something nonsensical.
For those who want to have an international experience but still hesitating about your English fluency, don’t worry! I wasn’t really sure about my English as well. In fact, there are also a lot of international acquaintances whom I met with an imperfect English! If you’re worried about the cost, I recommend you to find an Indonesian who lives there, they might be willing to host you, or even cook you some food while you’re there (this happened to me!)
And for you who seek for an international experience just like me, maybe the best advice that I can give to you is: Don’t give up, and be brave! Good luck!