DSCF4903Working in an organisation where employees were from a host of different backgrounds was a valuable experience. Photo from Kopernik (Saraswati Ratnanggana and Mitch Ryan)

Following up from an Asia Options article on the NGO, Kopernik, we were fortunate enough to be able to learn about the experience of Mitch Ryan who undertook an internship with Kopernik.

Can you share some advice on finding the right internship in Asia?

For students who are considering undertaking an internship in Asia, I highly recommend that you extensively research a host of different organisations in your area and field of interest. Many students in my program accepted internships at organisations they were unfamiliar with and ended up finding their internship underwhelming.

My advice is don’t settle for mediocrity. If you are willing to travel to another country and in many cases spend a lot of money to undertake an internship overseas, the experience has to be worthwhile. If the position is something you probably wouldn’t apply for if it were located in Australia, then it probably isn’t worth your time.

What kind of past work / study experience helped you secure this opportunity?

I previously completed various internship placements in journalism and public relations that helped me secure this opportunity.  If you are considering applying for an internship placement in Asia, I recommend you have some level of experience in your field before you consider heading abroad in order to maximise your choices.

Tell us about your role and experience with Kopernik and its connection to your study.

I worked full time in a public relations role within the Kopernik’s communication department. I was entrusted with a wide range of responsibilities including submitting a case study about Kopernik’s women’s empowerment initiative for a climate change award; writing various stories about Kopernik’s work for their website, with one article being published externally in a Balinese magazine; successfully pitching stories to media outlets in Australia and Indonesia about Kopernik’s work; being involved in the social media marketing of this non-profit organisation; and also undertaking administrative work such as emailing donor statements and general office management.

I could definitely see many parallels between my internship and study, namely constructing news articles (albeit subjective ones) and doing advocacy work.

Did you have experience working or studying in Indonesia or Asia prior to your internship?

Although, I had previously holidayed in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, I didn’t have any working experience in Asia or proficiency in any Asian language; my study literally comprised of my regular reading of Indonesian news!

From your experience, do you think language proficiency is important to consider when considering internships in Asia?

From a professional standpoint, speaking Bahasa wasn’t needed as the majority of the staff spoke English. However, I think that I missed out on truly being immersed in the workplace and the culture by not knowing the language.  I think it was a missed opportunity in some respects and I believe that the experience would be a lot more fulfilling if I made an effort to learn the language.

DSCF6572 Our weekly meetings were conducted online with employees scattered across the world. Photo from Kopernik (Saraswati Ratnanggana and Mitch Ryan)

What were the unique insights or discoveries you gained from working in Indonesia?

Co-founded by a couple from Japan and Australia, Kopernik is registered in New York and has offices in Indonesia and Japan. Kopernik was run efficiently, with a host of tasks assigned to people in different places around the globe. Our weekly meetings were conducted online with employees and different partners scattered across the world. Working in an organisation where employees were from a host of different backgrounds was a valuable experience; I became educated about a host of different cultures because I was immersed in such diversity on a daily basis. It also really highlighted to me how interconnected and globalised the world has become and – although undoubtedly Kopernik’s work has a global focus – I think this working environment is going to increasingly become the norm in the future.

How has the internship experience helped you in your personal and professional development?

Not to sound overly dramatic, but seeing first-hand the difference that Kopernik had on people’s lives made me re-evaluate the work I want to do in the future. Before I started my internship at university, I had my sights set on securing a journalist position when I completed my studies.

I now work in a public relations position at a global charity and I know for a fact that had I not undertaken this position I would not have secured the job. The skills I obtained from this experience have been incredibly beneficial for not just obtaining employment but also making the transition to my new role a whole lot easier.

I guess from a personal standpoint this internship has taught me that sometimes an experience that might initially appear to be a footnote in your life can actually result in something that is transformative, which can alter the trajectory you initially had planned for yourself. This is why I encourage anyone who is considering applying for an internship abroad to do so because you never know where the experience will take you.

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Nick Metherall

Indonesia Country Coordinator
Nick is a student at La Trobe University. He is currently conducting field work in rural and remote parts of Eastern Indonesia.

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