Learning by Doing in the Field of Development

  • 2019/06/25     Dresden, Germany

    UNU-FLORES offers a rigorous internship programme giving students and recent graduates the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge in a constructive setting for the practical application of their capacities acquired during their studies. Through hands-on experience, interns work in a variety of areas from academic research, event organisation, communications and advocacy, and institutional development and administration. In this series, we feature the young brilliant minds that have played a big part in many of our activities and events. In this interview, we talked to Macmillan Ahmed Bonomali from Malawi, who worked with the Soil and Land-Use Management unit. Macmillan is a recipient of the DAAD (EPOS programme) scholarship, offered to participants from developing countries so that they may study development-related postgraduate courses at selected universities in Germany.

    Tell us about yourself. What is your motivation to do an internship with UNU-FLORES?

    The internship is part of the requirement for the successful completion of the master’s programme that I am pursuing in Development Management. The idea is for students to gain first-hand experience through learning by doing via working in organisations in Germany whose focus of work is development. My motivation is very much aligned with this idea; to gain experience in how international organisations organise and carry out their work. This will help me appreciate, learn, and perhaps adopt, adapt, and apply particularly such practices and skills necessary for effecting a productive working culture at my workplace in Malawi. Secondly, this internship has provided me with an opportunity to network with fellow interns and staff at UNU-FLORES with diverse and rich professional background. This in effect has helped me to broaden my network which I intend to make use of for future development cooperation.

    What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities? What’s the highlight of your internship?

    My day-to-day activities as a research intern involved text coding, checking the completeness of coded text passages, and data analysis, focusing mainly on the qualitative part of it. The project I was working on adopted a ‘mixed methods’ approach, so we have both quantitative and qualitative components. My highlights during the internship were when I successfully coded, analysed, and presented the results to my supervisor who further gave me the opportunity to present these results at a PhD seminar. Based on the work I did for the project, I also contributed to the development of a policy brief to improve the conditions of smallholder farmers in the study region. Other internship highlights include helping out at UN Day Dresden and attending the Nexus Seminars.

    What kind of skills do you need to be successful at your internship?

    To be successful at a diverse international research institution like UNU-FLORES, in addition to one’s academic qualifications necessary to undertake the internship, one needs to also be open-minded, culturally embracing and sensitive at the same, possess considerable intercultural communication skills, and good at time management.

    What are some words of wisdom you’d give to anyone aspiring to be in your position?

    Be determined, believe, and work towards your goals!