What You Do in a Climate Change Internship in Vietnam?

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Nowadays, graduating from college with good GPA doesn’t really make you the better applicant. Employers are now looking for students who had actual working experience and even better international working experience, since they are better equipped with certain practical skills like inter-cultural communications, teamwork and even language skills. Although having an internship abroad requires considerable efforts and finance, the amount of work and social experience you will get through it is non-comparable. Now, to give you a clearer picture of what you might be doing for different internship positions, we want to share a story of our student who is doing a Climate Change internship in Hoi An.

Say hello to Rebecca Sinclair, a graduate from Dalhousie University in Canada, Rebecca is in Vietnam for a three month internship in Climate Change at Cham Island Biosphere Reserve. Rebecca has had a very unique experience visiting and working in two of Vietnam’s most charming cities: Ha Noi and Hoi An.

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Rebecca, second from right trying out her first bowl of authentic Pho in Vietnam with SE Vietnam coordinator 

If you hadn’t already known, the exquisite old town of Hoi An is among the most popular tourist destination in Asia that was named one of 15 best cities in the world by Travel & Leisure. The city is well-known as an ideal travel destination but less known as a very potential destination for Climate Change internship in Vietnam. Hoi An area has long been facing natural hazards such as floods, typhoons, saline intrusion and coastal erosion which can often lead to power cuts, crop destruction putting the lives of communities at risk. Living and working here allow you the chance to observe and contribute to solving major rising challenges of conservation and development in Hoi An, to help local community in their struggles to deal with climate change, water management, food security and safety.

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Rebecca visiting the first University in Vietnam also known as the Temple of Literature

The organization that hosts Rebecca as an intern is called Cham Island Biosphere Reserve Office.  The Cham Island Biosphere Reserve comprises a group of 8 coastal islands and marine site in the central part of the Vietnam, is now one of the 553 UNESCO Biosphere Reserve sites in 107 countries of the world. The objective of declaring the islands as Biosphere Reserve is to adopt different approaches of integrated management of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine resources and biodiversity. The biodiversity marine species of the reserve are particularly corals, molluscs, crustaceans and seaweed. This ecosystem also includes Hoi An, a UNESCO cultural World Heritage Site, which is well known as an ancient trading port that blends Vietnamese and European cultures; this blend is expected to encourage sustainable ecotourism.

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Rebecca visiting the old town of Hoi An

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Hoi An and the neighboring Cham island are known for their amazing beaches

The first few weeks of the internship has been going very smoothly for Rebecca as she got to know Hoi An, where she will stay for the next three months and was able to be involved in many different activities in support of the host organization. Don’t take our words for it, let’s hear from Rebecca herself about the journey she had so far in Vietnam.

So far my placement is going well. My first week I spent getting to know the different areas/communes in Hoi An by visiting and speaking with the local people. This was to get a sense of the different livelihoods and also identifying some problems related to environmental degradation/sustainability. Last week I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Quang Ngai province with a visiting American journalist and Professor Trinh, he is one of the founders of the Cham Island MPA in Hoi An and a leader at the organization I’m interning at. This tour was to learn about opportunities for enhancing the tourism in certain areas as a tool for improving the livelihoods of local people as well as providing an alternate income source that is not directly dependent on resource exploitation. For example on Tam Hai Island residents’ are highly dependent on fishing, and one of the main industries in central mountainous region is timber which they export to Japan for paper products. This has led to the conversion of most of the old growth rainforest into acacia trees, which are harvested every 7 years and support much less biodiversity as well as a decreased capacity for carbon sequestration and storage for global warming mitigation.

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Real work involves getting out on the field and… ride a real buffalo

Since 2003, Professor Trinh influenced the conversion of Cu Lao Cham from an island heavily dependent on fishing to one that receives most of its income from the tourism industry, triggered in part by its designation as a marine protected area and of Hoi An as a UNESCO heritage site. While this conversion brought some positive effects to the community, it also brought many other environmental challenges that come with increased tourism; however, the peoples committee of Cham Island along with the MPA management group and other supporting scientific groups have helped support sustainable activities through education, training, community engagement, and research. There have been positive results but it continues to be an ongoing effort. The success was well received, generating interest from groups with interest in regions outside the province who want to adopt Professor Trinh’s model, hence one of the purposes of the tour I previously described.

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Rebecca got to spend a lot of time out on the field for her internship in Vietnam

I spent the end of last week on Cham Island learning its transformation over the past 14 years and about challenges still faced. I am currently working on narrowing down a research topic based on all of the information I gained since coming here.


More news of Rebecca Sinclair’s Climate Change internship will be updated in this post. You can also look out for stories of our interns from many other fields in the future here


If you are interested in a semester abroad or an internship in Vietnam, check out our most recent promotion

Or visit our Reviews page for more sharing from alumni about their internship in Vietnam!

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