In this post, I would like to share how has been my first and second week at Drift as an international intern.
About the Institution
Founded in 2004, DRIFT – Dutch Research Institute for Transitions is the result and evidence of transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in sustainability transitions. It is a union of researchers and professional advisors supporting the common cause of pro-active research projects aimed to advance the understanding on how sustainability transitions can be initiated, expanded and governed. They started off by proposing a set of reliable, cutting-edge research integrating advancing transition theories and practices with high-level advisory oriented to influence transitions towards more sustainable pathways. Based on realistic assessments and by providing academic and professional training and support to transformative agents. DRIFT aims to engage public and political attention, institutions, intermediary organizations, businesses and civil society to transform and develop new system dynamics in domains such as energy, water, food, and mobility, urban and regional development, climate change and social innovation.
The Way to Go
Diving is an extraordinary and intense experience loaded with adrenaline and mix of emotions, particularly when the surroundings and what you can see beneath your dive is beautifully unexpected. Likewise, diving into a new environment can also be a stimulating experience. The new surroundings and the contribution of uncertainty and anxiety that the new internship experience involves is something unique that keeps you on your toes. However, surprisingly, my first few days at my new internship did not result in any sense of ‘diving in’ emotion. On the contrary, the job got off to a slow start. Or should I say a smooth start?
On my first day of interning at DRIFT, after walking in, I found myself on the sixteenth floor of one of the largest faculty buildings at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Suddenly, I felt my mind turning blank as I approached the offices without a clue of what to expect. Everything was unfamiliar and new to me. Upon arrival, I was introduced to everyone, particularly to Dr. Derk Loorbach, Professor, and Director of Drift. I also met Marijke de Pous, coordinator of the Transition Academic and finally Dr. Niki Frantzeskaki, senior researcher, lecturer and my external supervisor during the time of my internship. I have to say this: they were extremely welcoming, incredibly and pleased to help with anything. Everyone at the office were extremely nice and fun to be around, and the jobs and different projects they work on are fascinating. DRIFT is involved in a broad range of national and international advisory and research projects. The one that I am happily involved is the ARTS project (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability. The ARTS project is a European research consortium led by DRIFT to analyze best practices from innovative initiatives and showcase the best sustainable processes that allow continues experimentation and level playing field at the scale of a city level or region on many different domains such as food, energy, housing and mobility.
After a meeting with Niki and Steffen (another researcher for the ARTS project), the first task that I was given was to read the “Blue Bible,” a three hundred pages’ book of the DRIFT complete analysis on Transitions to Sustainable Development, and to summarize it in a comprehensive document. At first, 300 pages seemed very overwhelming, in fact, the content was very dense, but as soon I started to read the full study of long-term transformative change, I found myself delighted and I became more and more enthusiastic about the content, new concepts, theories, terminology and ideas on sustainable transitions. Understanding transitions and know how to influence them helped me to picture a holistic image of the career path Drift develops. It helped me to understand the specifics and the interdisciplinary approach to sustainable development.
After completing other different task and mini-projects during my first and second week, there were three important things that I experienced and learned. The first lesson was that not knowing and understating everything that I was learning within such a short period (5 – 6 weeks) is completely understandable and normal. Instead of having a pessimistic retroactive mindset, active approaches such as a straightforward and positive attitude would be the key factor to adjust in new environments. In fact, this positive attitude will help you during your internship experience and forward professional career. In case you do not know or do not understand something, never hesitate to ask for help. There will always be someone willing to help you, and the more you ask and look for different sources of information, what it was once topsy-turvy, prompt it becomes clear. In this regard, you will grow and learn so much faster.
The second thing I have learned was that you should NOT be reluctant or afraid to try new experiences. For instance, one of the tasks that I had to complete was to interact with people and become more familiar with the projects. Although this duty seemed like an easy one, for me was very challenging, especially when I am not a very sociable person and when the lack of fluent language is a barrier. The individuals associated with the different projects were researchers, professors, and advisors from a variety of extensive backgrounds such as environmental science, policy studies, political studies, and sociology. It has been the first time that I am involved in such environment. I had never taken part in any academic and research studies before. Therefore, the terminology, the theories, the methodology and the way they work was entirely brand-new to me. Lastly, I learned to take all mistakes as opportunities for improvement and every single task as an opportunity for growth! Even the smallest tasks have the potential to teach you great skills.
By being an active intern is when you should not be scared to try new things, enjoy unique experiences, make mistakes, and learn. This is the moment when you discover what your weaknesses and strengths are, and you develop more enthusiastic approaches to support your professional career. Thus, my advice is to continue to be curious, to give the best of yourself, put honest efforts in everything you do and be aware of the unexpected.