Being thrown in with the Sharks



I am an intern for the Behind the
Brands campaign, which is part of the GROW thematic unit. The campaign focuses
on the world’s 10 largest multinationals in the food and beverage sector and
ranks their performances on several themes. I am happy to be part of this this
team because it nicely suits my background in international development studies.
However, when starting this internship, I came across some new experiences.

Surviving the sharks

There is a tendency at Oxfam, called
to ‘throw you in with the sharks’. To me, one of the best examples of this was
the first time I joined a conference call. I was asked to make some notes, which
did not seem too difficult at first. However, when dialling in, I barely had an
idea who was on the line and – to me – random voices just appeared through from
the speaker. Moreover, the amount of abbreviations made it feel like I was
listening to a language I was not yet fully capable of understanding. Minute
taking turned into a quite stressful experience. Another paradox where I feel I
am supposed to know everything while I clearly do not is that I sometimes find
myself with not enough tasks, while everyone on the team is extremely busy.
This means that sometimes they are almost too busy to give or explain new tasks
to me so I could actually help them out with taking some of
the pressure off. It was only then, I realised how much stress all these
campaigns bring with them.

Learning by doing

I entered a new world: days starting
with the search for an available desk. However from then on: you never exactly
know what a day at the office could bring. One of the funniest experiences I
had so far was going around the whole building to present the best practices
gender report and hand everybody some chocolates to celebrate the launch. It
was a nice way to learn about what people at all the different departments are doing.
Just by the questions people asked in the first room, I realised what I should
tell the next room. I realised that that is probably just the way it works when
starting at Oxfam: learning by doing. It feels a little strange at the beginning
but actually I do like working in this practical way. I am curious to what the
rest of the internship will bring.

Lonneke Michiels

“Written by Lonneke Michiels,
who is interning at Oxfam Novib’s Behind the Brands campaign.  She studied
international development studies in Wageningen and is passionate about sustainable
trade and justice. She spend two months doing thesis research in
China and speaks English, Dutch and French. Lonneke has a thirst for practical
knowledge, seeking to experience as much of the world as she can and always
ready for a new challenge. “


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