A crowd of adults and children standing in front of teh UCIWAI District School building holding signs showing the UN Sustainable Goals

Dispatch from UNDP in Fiji: Mackenzie White’s third blog from the virtual field

Photo Credit: UNDP Pacific Office, 2023

By: Mackenzie White, MAGG

Hi everyone/Bula!

It is bittersweet to be writing my final blog post for this internship experience as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, and the IDDIPs programme through UNA-Canada.

While my last two blog posts provided technical insight into the projects that I have been contributing to with the gender department at the Pacific Office, I thought I would take a more analytical approach for this piece about the lessons that I have learned as a JPC. The main takeaways include a significant cultural exchange, upholding personal time management, taking initiative in my work, and utilizing the transferrable technical skills learned and improved from my time in the MAGG program:

Cultural Exchange: Personally, I had limited knowledge of Pacific Islander culture and the current sustainable development challenges that so many Island communities face, particularly regarding gender. This experience provided me with contemporary insight on the ground with locals and advocacy groups from the South Pacific region, and more opportunities to connect with the vulnerable groups who are disproportionately impacted. Additionally, learning the basic phrases of the Fijian language was very helpful in communicating with my in-office team and locals, as well as learning about some Fijian customs (such as public holidays, cultural traditions, etc.) and sharing with them about Canadian winters, snow, and opportunities for women and girls to participate in our communities from my own perspective.

Time Management: Working remotely and navigating multiple time differences with colleagues was a significant aspect of this position, but remaining organized and implementing a sufficient work-life balance that was project-based helped break down my work and attend meetings in the late evenings or early mornings. Taking time for myself outside of work to walk in nature, visit with my family and friends, and exercise, were extremely beneficial with the additional screen time.

Taking Initiative: Working remotely provided me with many opportunities to speak up with adding fresh input into the projects we worked on because of my position as a Canadian not on-site, and taking initiative built trust with my supervisors that I could complete tasks independently wherever necessary. There were times when I had to problem solve on my own, and other times where I reached out to my supervisors for assistance. Our team worked well in this format, and was a strong group of independent and brilliant individuals who I enjoyed working and networking with.

Transferrable Skills: I also enjoyed applying some of the research skills that I developed from completing the major research paper component of the MAGG program, as well as learning new skills such as data entry, scheduling, and follow up with participants. Overall, this internship has been a crucial learning component to my graduate studies experience.

While there are still a couple of weeks left and this is my final blog post, I am happy to provide further insight if interested. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Thank you/Vinaka for reading about my journey!

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