In February 2020, I joined the Agriculture Division at the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) as a Winter Intern from GraSPP. Given my formal undergraduate study in microbiology, I was excited to be assigned to the Agriculture Division so I could learn about the multi-country end-to-end process and assist with an APO project titled, ‘Workshop on Shaping the Future of Rice Value Chains and Policies’ held in Tokyo. As an intern working in the Agriculture Division, I was able to combine my background in science, together with my graduate studies in policy and past work experience at a research centre in Australia, to develop my skills across several different projects and initiatives at APO. Having the opportunity to learn from the incredibly experienced staff at APO complemented what I was learning in the classroom at GraSPP and enabled me to apply my theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting.
During my time as an intern at APO, I was able to contribute to internal and external research publications, be involved in project planning activities and contribute to other internal projects. I was also involved in the behind the scenes support before, during and after six APO Productivity Talks. Before each Productivity Talk, I was involved in anything from scriptwriting, editing, or practicing, to checking and providing feedback on PowerPoint slides and attending ‘dry runs’ (practice sessions) as an observer. I even had the opportunity to communicate internally with other divisions at APO, including IPR and IT, and externally with an expert in the field of agricultural productivity in Asia. During the Productivity Talks, I copied questions from the YouTube chatbox, selected, transcribed and submitted the questions to APO staff to then deliver to the expert. Usually, after helping with each Productivity Talk, I assisted with transcribing the Q&A section as a snapshot summary of the things that were discussed during the session. In my final week as an intern at APO, I was honoured to go live to present questions from the viewers to an expert during the Productivity Talk on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. This APO Productivity Talk was advertised throughout the GraSPP community on the GraSPP Bulletin Board. The support I received during this session was reflective of the ongoing help and mentorship I received throughout my time at APO. From day one I felt welcomed by all APO staff members. And, despite COVID-19 influencing many of the activities I was initially meant to be involved in, being an intern at APO exceeded my expectations.
Other than completing my studies at GraSPP, working at APO gave me a purpose to work hard and maintain motivation throughout the semester. The activities I was engaged in had local or international significance, and those activities had short, medium and long-term impacts on the lives of others. During my time at APO, I was also given every opportunity to learn and contribute to many projects. Whenever I asked if I could be involved, there was always someone willing to act as a mentor to teach me within APO. Finally, the work I was involved in every week was exciting, and the nature of the work I was doing was different and often challenging. I was allowed to help with new projects, help solve new challenges, and help with the next five years of project planning at APO. I will always remember this experience as one of the most rewarding components of my time at GraSPP.