Hi future intern!
Welcome! If you’re reading this post, you’re likely preparing for the exciting journey of participating in the CAPI internship program and are curious to know about previous interns’ experiences. After living and working in Malaysia for 4 months, I am now back home and readjusting to life in Canada.
It is difficult to reflect back on my entire internship and express in words the incredible experiences and changes in perception I have encountered throughout this summer. But I will do my best to describe some of the biggest lessons I learned that I think future interns will find helpful in creating the most fulfilling CAPI internship experience:
1. Say YES to everything!
Generic advice? Yes. Helpful? Very (at least I think so). Part of fully immersing yourself in a new culture is saying yes to the unknown. Say yes to trying new and unfamiliar food to you. Say yes to trying new activities. Say yes to hanging out with new people.
Take advantage of all the amazing and unique food options you get to try that are hard to find back home. Try eating durian (or durian ice cream – sooo good!), satay, monkey (yes I did say monkey), try all the different types of roti. Some of the best food you’ll find in Southeast Asia is in Malaysia.
Say yes to exploring all the gems offered in Sabah – there are amazing beaches, islands, and nature reserves that make for great day and overnight trips. Explore all the day and night markets. You get to meet friendly locals, find cool items like artwork and craftwork, and taste delicious food being cooked in front of you. It’ll give you a chance to see all the unique and local fruits, vegetables, fish, and other produce that are common in your new community.
Say yes to plans with new friends and colleagues. You’ll get to connect with people who may lead very different lives than yourselves. You’ll also gain a better understanding of the lives of locals. It will also help you create a more authentic sense of community – something I found to be extremely important throughout the internship experience.
2. Reframe your mindset
This is easier said than done and was one of the most challenging things that I dealt with. Immersing yourself in a new culture sometimes comes with internal conflicts. Re-frame your thinking and mindset to avoid looking at your new community from a paternalistic and patronizing Western stance. Question everything and meaningfully reflect on it. Ask yourself why we are raised with certain dominant values in the Western world. Ask yourself what values your new community holds. Ask yourself if those values, belief systems, and lifestyles have common ground or conflict with each other.
If you end up interning in Sabah, learn to slow down. The concept of time doesn’t hold the same weight as it does in Canada. It can be hard for type-A folks like myself who like to know what is planned for every hour of the day. There is beauty in not checking your phone, your watch, or your schedule frequently. There is beauty in being present, centred, and mindful of where you are and the space that you are in. There is beauty in going with the flow and giving leeway for the unexpected.
Growth comes from leaving your comfort zone and challenging yourself – your beliefs, your values, your limitations. This concept will come through even in the smallest of ways in your new daily life.
3. Create a local support system and lean on it.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain all your experiences and feelings to your friends and family back home and for them to fully understand where you’re coming from. I found that keeping in touch with my fellow CAPI interns was incredibly helpful as their respective and personal journeys were similar to my own. Find people in your community that you can lean on for help, whether that be your new colleagues, neighbours, or new friends. The last thing you want to feel while living on the other side of the world is isolation. Community is incredibly important in Sabah and locals are so friendly – so lean on it.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions or just want to chat about life in Sabah. I wish you all the best, future intern, as you embark on this incredible journey!