Who? Michelle Westdijk (20), Bachelor’s student of International Land and Water Management
What? Internship at the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute
Where? St Kitts and Nevis (a Caribbean island state east of Puerto Rico)
‘Actually I had plans to go to China but sadly I was turned down because there wasn’t a place at the company. The chair group had a list of internships and there was one about erosion in farming areas on St Kitts and Nevis, two small Caribbean islands.
In the first and last weeks I mainly worked in the office. Usually I worked from eight to four, making GIS (geographical information system, ed.) maps. I also had to consult other people a lot and visit other agricultural organizations. In the middle period I travelled around both islands for field work. I took samples, measured slopes and interviewed farmers. It was an extraordinary experience, but I found interviewing difficult. I was fine at having a chat, even about erosion. But as soon as I started asking questions as a scientist, I found it hard to get answers out of people.
I lived in an apartment just outside the capital. I was alone there, but it was part of the landlady’s house. On my first day in the office my colleagues asked me straightaway if I would go to church with them on Sunday. So the first Sunday I went along with someone and it was so friendly I ended up going almost every Sunday. After the service we socialized, had a barbecue and played games. I also played with the church football team.
There is not much to do on the island, so in my spare time I often went for a walk. I usually went alone but on one of my walks I met a group of people who invited me to go walking again the next weekend. You get to know people that way. I also went snorkelling, kayaking and I even learned to drive. So I can drive now, sort of.
Everyone on the island is very nice and they help you with everything. It’s easy to get a lift. The guidebook advises against that, but I did it several times. Taxis are just too expensive. Together the islands are about one and a half times the size of Texel, so you can go all around one island in two hours. Over the months I saw everything.
Shopping is very expensive, as nearly everything is imported. The islands are dependent on what comes in from the US and Jamaica. At the end of the week, the freezers in the shops are really empty. Once I inadvertently paid nine euros for six bananas. I paid in local money and only realized afterwards how much it actually was.’