C3 Internship Review – Heather Exley – Philippines 2012
During my three month internship in the Philippines I have experienced so many new things! Not only has this internship given insight into working in conservation, but it has showed me how different life is on the other side of the world. It has challenged in my work and in my interactions with people from different cultures. I will learn from these experiences and take home some happy memories.
Working in a challenging climate was the first hurdle and I found adjusting to the heat and the humidity took some time but it didn’t put me off! Neither did the unreliability of the power supply. I have learnt to adjust my activities to make the most of my day, which has made working in the field and in the office more efficient. The second challenge was the culture. Everything seems so different from western culture but with a little practice I picked up some useful Tagalog words and phrases, and learnt how to present myself in order to show respect, especially within remote and very traditional communities. I have experienced everything the Filipino way! I’ve tried as many new fruits, vegetables and seafood as I could and I have grasped as many opportunities as possible to do new things. I’ve been immersed fully into the culture which I wouldn’t have the chance to do just travelling as a normal tourist. This internship really gets you involved in the community.
What I learnt about the culture, I put into practice in the fieldwork. During key informant interviews, at base camp or walking around the Barangays; we always had to be aware of the culture and try as much as we could to fit it. This has showed me the value of patience tolerance and communication. In addition I have become more flexible and adaptable in different social situations. In other aspects of working as an intern, I have experienced science in the real world and within an organisation. It is very different to science at university but it has been great to be able to use and apply my degree to such an exciting project. I’m glad to have been involved in the initial stage of the project in which we are gathering data which can be used by others to make decisions about dugong conservation in the near future. I have enjoyed the seagrass mapping task which we carried out in each Barangay. This has allowed me to improve my skills in ID, the use of ID keys and the use of a GPS. It has also challenged me to make decisions and to be confident in that decision. I now know about seagrass and dugong ecology and I have been able to use this knowledge to tell others about the importance of the dugong project which has vastly improved my skills in communication.
Working in the office has also been valuable. I have made sure to meet deadlines and make sure that I do my best to produce high quality work. So not only have I experienced living and working in the field but I have also experienced working as part of an office team within a conservation organisation. Part of this experience for me was to test out whether I would enjoy these aspects of working for a conservation organisation and now I know that I do, I can pursue this and use what I have learnt on this internship in whatever career I choose for the future.
All in all I’ve had a great time and I have learnt so much about science, myself and other people. I will miss the Philippines but I hope I can visit again soon.