Europe Travel Plans? Contiki? A ski trip?

5 Reasons why a Social Impact Internship is the ultimate alternative

“So, if you’re planning that next big trip to shred the slopes in Japan, party in Santorini or go see the sights and sounds of America, let me try and change your mind” By Nick Kappos

Last January I had the pleasure of going to Timor-Leste as a trekker on the Everest Recycling Solutions Venture, however, I had also booked a holiday to Japan to go snowboarding over most of February. Initially, the thought was to travel to Timor Leste (somewhere I would have never thought to go before), smash out some of my work experience while hopefully making a positive impact on a community, and then hit the slopes for a couple of weeks before beginning the next year of university. That was the plan, but as life goes, the plan changed.

By the start of week four of project I began to realise that it was all ending, but I had fallen in love with the ERS project, the beautiful country that is Timor Leste, and all the incredible people that had become my family over the month. There was the opportunity to stay on as an experienced trekker, but my flights were already booked to Japan. Don’t get me wrong, Japan was amazing, but there was still an emptiness I felt not taking the opportunity to stay an extra month, and the only way to fill that void was to constantly check WhatsApp for project updates and ask for consistent snapchats of Chachi, our accommodation’s resident doggo.   

So, if you’re planning that next big trip to shred the slopes in Japan, party in Santorini or go see the sights and sounds of America, let me try and change your mind with #5 reasons why PEV is a better way to go.   

1. The People

The connections that I have built with people on project are the strongest that I have ever experienced and something like no other, they say that for someone to become a friend for life, you need to be close with them for seven years; well I say you can throw that out the window. I believe the reason that people on project grow so close is because of the trials they go through on projects: the deep low when a stakeholder meeting doesn’t go to plan, or the ecstatic high when you make your first sale. You’re on this ride as a team and there will be setbacks, but there will also be big wins and either way the team will be stronger because of it.

2. The Projects

Seeing a project develop is one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences. You become attached to them, and they end up becoming your baby. There are many different elements to project, so it’s impossible for it to get repetitive: you could be heading into rural parts of the county to speak to community leaders about soil sensors, or working out the optimum collection route for a recycling pick up, or at a local manufacturer negotiating prices for your stove prototype. Then there are the various workshops that you will do over the month learning more about lean startup methodologies, and the overall impact that the project is having on the community. Learning more about business and enterprise is important and can be applied and utilised in any industry which also increases your value to employers. Then there is the fact that every action that you and your team take is designed to solve an issue in the community, and is intended to be done in the most sustainable way possible

3. Travel

University is a glorious time of our lives, however, sometimes it is hard to manage study and travel. With PEV you can do both at once! While overseas you can explore the beautiful country that you have chosen to trek in, whether this is in Timor-Leste, Fiji, or Malawi you’ll become a local and will be able to learn where all the secret look-outs and food spots are. On the weekend, you can see even more of the country; in Timor Leste, we take the Dragon Boat to Arturo Island, where we explore the island, relax and do some scuba diving and snorkeling – if that’s your thing.

4. The Culture

Learning about the country that you will be working in is essential. Getting a deeper and rawer understanding of the country’s history can not only help move projects forward but can allow students to build more meaningful relationships with the people who live in these communities. PEV tries to accommodate cultural appreciation by hosting several cultural events over the month where trekkers learn about the history of the county and engage with community members over a number of set events. Going to the Resistance Museum in Timor Leste, for example, was a highlight for me and provided a richer insight to Timor Leste’s 25-year struggle against the Indonesian occupation – something that is so core to Timor Leste’s culture and tradition.

5. Personal Development

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s tough, but in the end, will lead to growing as a person much faster than in other environments. With multiple pitch practices, stakeholder meetings and workshops there is every opportunity to grow as a person out of your comfort zone. The SL’s and TL’s also work as hard as they can and put as much effort in as possible with helping to achieve both professional goals and personal goals.

Like I said, it’s extremely hard to describe the feeling once the month is wrapping up; you wish the project could just go for one more week, so your team can hit more goals, because you don’t want to leave the legend interns that you were working with for the month, and then saying bye to the people that were on the amazing journey with you. So, next time you’re tossing up where to go for that big uni break trip, maybe go PEV. You won’t regret it.