Blessed, that is exactly how I describe my internship with UNICEF Laos.
I love to dream. Irritatingly cheesy but I grew up believing that I can do anything as long as I work hard and commit to it. With a little smile from fate and support from my family and friends, someday I will be able to make my dreams–or as I call them plans–happen.
But if there is one thing I learned from planning, that is they do not always work they way we want them to. Something goes awry along the way, no matter how fixated one is in carrying them out. Indeed, lessons are learned the hard way but we are given a choice to wallow or to push forward.
I must admit wallowing was an immediate response to the failure stimulus; however, after falling flat on face several times over, I found out that wallowing is just as equally exhausting as moving on and starting over. After a moment of weakness that comes from every plan gone askew, I pick myself up, ignore the numbing agony of rejection and failure, hold my head up high and…dream again. But dreaming can only do so much and it could be extremely taxing to chase on something that, for lack of a better term, is not meant to be. Sometimes, it is better to let go of old dreams and just face reality as I see it.
So you can just imagine how my heart started beating double-time, alarms ringing in my ears, my head throbbing while reading that one email that changed the course of my professional career. An internship so elusive that filling out application forms is just as futile as looking for a needle in a haystack. But there was it. All the months of hard work, emotional craze, and ripping plans apart felt like a distant memory. Finally, I breathed as I wrote my reply.
Second day into my internship, I was sent out for an assignment in the Southern province of Laos. It was my first time exploring the South; as much as I would want to get my blog-mode on, we were on a tight schedule. The Mother of All Deadlines, as I put it. We roughly had a few hours for interview, write the story and send it to the main office. We were running on adrenaline, and perhaps, there was also that element of commitment that we were able to make the deadline. And it yielded desirable results.
After that eventful week, the days went by like a tremendous blur of tasks, alongside my Master’s classes that were just as astoundingly demanding. But what kept me going is the trust given by my supervisors and staff–so overwhelming, it felt surreal. My supervisors specifically instructed me to prioritize my studies, and never compromise it for the sake of my assigned tasks. I was treated as a colleague, and my opinions mattered. My service was not considered as just an ‘intern’s output’ but rather held with respect and appreciation, and with that, I am deeply honored.
And today, my 16 weeks of service comes to a close. It feels like a surge of emotions, actually. Relief because battling wits in class and helping with documents at work did knock me down, but also separation anxiety because I may never have this kind of experience again. Worried because I have to start regrouping and planning my next steps. Proud because I made it. Immensely grateful, bordering on feeling unworthy, of all these blessings.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to UNICEF Laos for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime and for teaching me in more ways than I have expected. To my supervisors who were patient and kind in guiding me, and for being very supportive; to my colleagues who were accommodating, attentive to my questions and always ready to help out when I am feeling lost or confused. To everyone I have worked with, to all the staff–thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate your warm welcoming smiles.
During the basii ceremony for the new staff in August (it was held two days after my birthday actually), I said that my months with UNICEF Laos will be my best yet. Turns out I was wrong. It is the best because nothing will ever compare.
I do not have to articulate everything the organization has done in serving the vulnerable and marginalized for decades–millions of people reached and lives changed–you are a blessing to the society.
You are a blessing to dreamers like me.