News - November 2, 2017

In diplomatic circles in Myanmar

Carina Nieuwenweg

Who? Laura Huisman, MSc student of International Land and Water Management
What? Internship at the Dutch embassy in Myanmar
Where? Yangon, Myanmar

‘Before I started my Master’s in Wageningen, I was at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences. There, I did internships with an NGO, a consultant and a water board. With a view to gaining some insight into policymaking, I wanted to do an internship with a government institution as well. The ministry of Foreign Affairs’ vacancy seemed like an ideal opportunity to me.

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The job was not a perfect fit with my degree: they were looking for someone with a political-economic background. But I applied anyway and during the interview it emerged that they actually wanted an additional intern with a water and agriculture background. So that was a learning moment: people are not always aware that they need you.

Sealed letter
I am working on setting up a water hub and a water academy, in which local students are linked up with professionals. One example of this is the water challenge, in which students and companies do case studies together on things like waste water purification, flooding, and the dredging of ditches and canals. I am also organizing a seminar on delta management for donors, government bodies and companies, I report on meetings, I write a monthly newsletter and I contribute to developing the Netherlands’ water strategy in Myanmar.

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I am really enjoying my internship. Only now do I realize why certain bureaucratic procedures at an embassy take so long. In the Netherlands you can plan a meeting by email, but at an embassy that is done with a sealed letter. I am also getting the opportunity to go to lots of meetings and events, even if they are not directly relevant to my work. I have been to Unicef and UNFPA meetings, for instance, to get an impression of the embassy’s humanitarian work.

One funny fact: Myanmar is an extremely hierarchical country and interns are not taken seriously at all. That’s why my business card says I am a ‘junior policy officer’ at the Dutch embassy.

Life in Myanmar is pleasant. I live with another intern who is working in the same political department. We live within walking distance of the embassy. That is very nice because there are always massive traffic jams here. And it is nice that Myanmar attracts a lot of young expats. I was soon made welcome in Dutch water circles, and invited to parties, yoga classes and lunches.’