Dear future intern,
Whether you have made the decision to apply, are going through the interview process, or have been selected for a CAPI placement – whichever point you are at while reading this, congratulations! You’ve taken big steps, you’ve done the work, and you won’t regret it.
For my final blog I’m sharing a few suggestions to make the most of your placement. These 4 things challenged me, deepened my learning, and led to my most rewarding experiences while I was a CAPI intern.
1. Don’t cling to your expectations. Inevitably you will have expectations about living in your host country and working with your host organization. My advice is to remember that these expectations won’t all be met. I had this in my mind before I left for my placement and it made adjusting to change a lot easier. Expectations will be discussed during pre-departure and I recommend you always keep this in mind.
2. Also remember that your experience will be unique to you. What you experience during your placement and what you chose to say about it will be unique to you. When I came to Malaysia I was carrying with me stories from the previous interns. I was told that I would fill shoes that had been left six months ago. But this turned out not to be my reality. In the beginning it was frustrating trying to understand why I couldn’t fit the mold that had been set for me, why I saw things differently than how they had been described. As I spent more time there I began to find a place and find tasks that I was passionate about, but it was challenging in the beginning. To the next MSRI Program Assistant, I would love to share my stories with you. But be careful in letting them shape how you envision your own experience to be.
3. Find community outside of work. When I first arrived in KL I started volunteering at the SPCA. It ended up not being the right fit for me, but it gave me confidence to pursue other opportunities. In July, I began volunteering once a week with the arts and crafts class at Buku Jalanan Chow Kit. I don’t consider myself a very artistic person and I didn’t have any experience working with youth, so I was nervous. These feelings didn’t last because the kids and volunteers are so welcoming and friendly – it was one of the highlights of my time in KL. I also stepped further outside my comfort zone to help coach football to a group of girls from the MSRI School. I learned a lot from this group of girls about confidence, empowerment, and resilience. KL is a really active city that is bursting with options, no matter your interests.
4. Think about your position. It’s a reality that you will be entering this experience with privilege. It may be white privilege, gender privilege, sexuality privilege, class privilege, able-bodied privilege, or any combination. You will face countless opportunities where you can decide to unpack your privilege, or hold onto it. Once you open your eyes to the conscious and unconscious ways we benefit from our privilege, you will find it easier to spot. But don’t pat yourself on the back for all this critical thinking and “enlightenment”. This is not about you. I encourage you to become comfortable in the discomfort that comes from this work. It will lead away from harmful actions to engaging conversations and meaningful relationships.
I leave you with a final piece of poetic advice:
To shape God
With wisdom and foresight
To benefit your world,
– Octavia Butler
All the best,