Student - November 21, 2019

Cycling to the embassy

Anne van der Heijden

Who: Calum Segaar (23), MSc student of International Development Studies
What: International internship at the Dutch embassy
Wherer: Maputo, Mozambique

‘Every morning I cycled through the busy streets of Maputo, dressed for the office, to get to the embassy. They are not used to cyclists and it was always a bit of an adventure to manoeuvre my way through the chaos. After a while people started recognizing me, including my favourite street hawker, who I bought my lunch from every day. I had bajita, a bread roll with brown beans, which is a typical student snack there.


I was a Communications and Economic Diplomacy intern at the Dutch embassy. One of my responsibilities was supervising and coordinating Orange Corners, a programme with sponsors such as Heineken and Shell, which supports young entrepreneurs from Mozambique with workshops and personal guidance.

In the spring of 2019, Mozambique was hit by a hurricane. That was horrific of course, but at the same time, it gave me a chance to see from the inside what managing a climate involves. There were crisis consultations at the embassy and collaboration had to be set up at lightning speed with donor organizations like the Red Cross and the UN. I saw how difficult it is to make money and emergency aid available fast enough. It was an extraordinary insight into the higher echelons of development aid.


Normal working days

I chose this internship because I wanted to experience what it’s like to have a ‘real job’, with normal working days. And I certainly did that. But I sometimes missed working on a specific project. I was more of a mediator. I set up projects, for instance, hired an organization and analysed a problem. But it didn’t get beyond figures in a report: I wasn’t at the coalface, as it were. Sometimes I missed contact with the country; I felt as though I was living in a luxurious bubble with the expats.

It may be poor, but Mozambique is also a beautiful country. Maputo is on the Indian Ocean, just two hours’ drive from Kruger Park. The weekends were short vacations. I was amazed, by the way, to see how many Wageningen students are walking around in the country. A lot of people there have heard of Wageningen too, while there are a lot of people in the Netherlands who don’t know about the university. It was funny to see that.

Relatively safe

From the way other students reacted, I gathered that it was difficult to arrange an internship at an embassy, but I found it perfectly possible. African countries aren’t particularly on the radar of Dutch students, but it’s worth plucking up courage because there’s a big chance of success. It was a unique experience for me. The country is relatively safe and it is interesting to work in such a well-oiled organization. If you want to work in a developing country, this is a good first step towards it.’ AdH