Who: Sarah Smits (2nd year MSc Environmental Sciences)
What: Internship, 4 months
Where: Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada
Why: To advise on maritime policy
‘I spent my internship at an NGO (the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, CPAWS) which is part of an advisory committee. In maritime policy an increasing amount of attention is being paid to marine spatial planning, an approach in which policy is made at ecosystem level. There is a pilot project running on Nova Scotia, which provides a model of the new approach. CPAWS asked me to look at it from a European point of view and give advice. I mainly read policy documents and arranged interviews. To get a bit of variety, I also helped with the PR, so I regularly manned a stall at a fair or event, together with colleagues.
Sadly, the pilot project was at a standstill for various reasons, and the committee members were not entirely happy with how it was going - to put it mildly. So it wasn't really a very positive story. But on the other hand, that could be what you learn the most from; as an NGO you are incredibly dependent on those around you. An NGO worker spends a lot of time on fund-raising. If it is not successful, the work just stops. Unless, like my supervisor, you start working on a voluntary basis.
Getting around without a car was quite difficult. At the start I lived just outside the town, so it wasn't easy to go out at night. Luckily I was able to move later on, and I got to know more people. Otherwise it could have become quite difficult.
One of the places I visited was Montreal. The train trip to get there was an experience in itself - it took 22 hours - and Montreal itself made a nice change from quiet, rural Novia Scotia. Thanks to the CouchSurfing network I was able to get to know the city really well. Another outing was to Prince Edward Island, north of Novia Scotia, with friends. Most of the island dwellers make their living from growing potatoes. Several of my friends grew up on the Canadian prairies: for them it was something quite special to see a potato field. That's why we posed happily among the potatoes!