As an intern with Challenges Abroad, you have the opportunity to become a global citizen whilst expanding your potential career options. Interns are viewed as part of the in-country team and internship experiences range from 6 to 12 weeks in length. Each internship is unique and customisable to your main degree focus, providing an opportunity to experience what working in your future professional field might look like.
As a health intern in Thailand, I work with the in-country team and other volunteers on current and upcoming projects, as well as participate in delivering health workshops to the local community. Although being only halfway through my 10 week program, I have already worked as part of a multidisciplinary team where our aim was to design a new social enterprise for the FutureSense Foundation. This project focused on ways to introduce sustainable coffee farms in the Hill Tribes, and my role was to identify the health needs and risks of the people and the environment, and assess how the implementation of a coffee farm would impact on community health. In addition to this, part of my role was to develop and run health promotion workshops for both public schools and temple schools in the Mae Hong Son region. It was really interesting to design the programs and learn more about how the Thai education system runs.
Being an intern means staying in-country for an extended amount of time, so it is important to be prepared to face some challenges along the way. The Thai way of life might be different to your own, and it’s completely normal to feel culture shock or homesickness at some point. I experienced a little of this at the beginning of my program, but I found that having regular phone calls to my family and talking about how I felt to the rest of the team definitely helped me feel more settled. To make the intern transition easier I also decorated my room with things from home, brought some Australian snacks with me (Vegemite anyone?) and tried to get into a routine from the very start. This was really important as it made a new environment seem much more familiar.
Another thing to keep in mind is that being an intern in Thailand will be very different to being an intern in your home country. Over here there is a very relaxed attitude to work, and whilst this took some getting used to, I am now embracing the more chill way of life now. I used to think that when there was a job to do it had to be done immediately, but now I’m more comfortable with the idea that it will get done, it might just take a bit longer.
A benefit of being an intern is that your schedule is flexible, meaning that you can work extra hours one week to have a day off the next. This is great, as it allows you the opportunity to have an extended week away in neighbouring towns or in Chiang Mai. In addition to this, the flexible schedule also means that you can have an input into what kind of projects you’d like to work on, and when. This lets you tailor the internship to your professional strengths and allows you the chance to challenge yourself by participating in new and exciting initiatives. I’ve also found that you really get a chance to get an in-depth view of the Thai culture as a result of being here for a longer time. I’ve loved learning about the traditions and beliefs, visiting temples, eating delicious food and becoming more familiar with the little town of Mae Sariang.
An internship with Challenges Abroad is a great way to broaden your perspective on the world. In my short time here I have already learnt so much about how international aid and NGOs run. I’ve seen firsthand how a small group of people can make a big change to the lives of disenfranchised communities and now understand the reason why the Challenges Abroad and FutureSense ethos of "Think Global, Act Local" works so well. I’m really excited to continue my internship and cannot wait to see how my work can make a positive impact to the community here.
Madison O’Connor is a Health Intern in Thailand and is currently completing a double degree in Applied Public Health and Global Studies at Australian Catholic University.