From New Haven to Barbados: Summer 2015 by Trevor Thompson

Aug 30, 2015

Climate change Intern, Trevor Thompson

From late May to early August 2015, I had the great privilege of interning with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Barbados. UNDP Barbados is hosted in a gorgeous facility with other UN branches. UNDP Barbados coordinates and supports initiatives across ten countries, including Barbados and the nine members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Staff members come from a wide array of professional backgrounds and several different countries. They hail from nations such as Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Canada, and others.

As a graduate student studying environmental management, my goal was to work on a project that was directly related to my climate change focus. The UNDP office granted me the opportunity of fulfilling this goal, placing me as an intern in the Climate Change and Disaster Risk Resilience Division. On my first day at the office, my supervisor set me straight to work on research for a project that involved eight Caribbean nations. I spent almost the entire first half of my internship on this deliverable.

During my time at UNDP Barbados, I gained valuable practical and professional understandings that might benefit others who are considering internships. The most readily apparent is that everybody in the office is very dedicated—and incredibly busy. Many of your colleagues will be working on multiple projects across several different countries. Deadlines are always around the corner, so do not be afraid to offer help to people working on projects if you have some spare time. This was especially important this summer, as UNDP Barbados had primary responsibility for coordinating the visit of UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon!

Because time is very limited among the staff members (including interns), any work submitted for review should be as concise and as accessible as possible. For example, my first deliverable included analyses for all eight countries included in the climate change project. I had limited each analysis to no more than a few pages each, but it proved much more convenient for my colleagues to see the findings through a short PowerPoint presentation.

As in any professional experience—internship or otherwise—circumstances can quickly change. For example, my supervisor had been put in charge of another division shortly before my arrival, and hence became extremely busy even by the office’s standards. About halfway through my internship, she also gave birth to a daughter. While on maternity leave, other colleagues stepped in to oversee my work.  

No second deliverable had been determined for me in advance, but I had really enjoyed working on this particular project. I wanted to continue doing useful research to support the project, and ultimately proposed another deliverable myself. My official and standing supervisors approved, and even offered advice on how to best complete that research.

Finally I found that I wanted to keep working on projects even after having officially completed my internship. Although I have returned to school, I am still making some minor revisions to my final documents. I also hope to follow through with several staff members who will become more involved in this particular climate change project. I know that at least one other intern this summer felt a similar way about his own work at UNDP Barbados.

I am grateful for the experience and happy to have met and worked with the UNDP team serving Barbados & the OECS. I could not have asked for a more welcoming and driven group of colleagues, including both permanent and temporary staff. I can only hope that my work environments elsewhere will prove similar to my experience at UNDP Barbados. Finally, I would offer one last piece of advice for interns coming to Barbados for the summer—buy your groceries at Popular, and enjoy Crop Over responsibly.

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