Interning at FAO in Rome, Italy.

The first few times I happened to bump into KIM, Da Eun (2018 MDP) on joining KDI School, she struck me as being evasive and shy.  However, the image I had of her peeled off when I took the initiative to greet and chat with her. Behind the seemingly shy and calm demeanor, sits an open, engaging and mild-mannered lady whom you cannot help but like. She did a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Economics and is now enrolled for a Master of Development Policy at KDI School. “I look forward to shaping development in agriculture, more so, on an international organization platform in the future and help fulfill SDG number 2,” she tells me when we meet to have a chat. She is quite specific on what she wants to achieve.

This resolve to work in an international organization prompted her to apply for an internship at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) mid last year through Korea’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs. She came across the call on one of the posters on the KDI School bulletin board.

The internship, which lasted 3 months from May 2019 to August 2019 in Rome, Italy, was a mixed bag of experiences. She crashed via AirBnB with an old Italian lady who could barely speak a word of English. However, through the help of Google translate, she would end up gleaning a lot on Italian culture from her. “It was kind of adventurous, you know,” she adds while chuckling into her folded hands.  Her boss was strict and tough, but her working environment was much more flexible compared to home (Korea). She could report to work anytime around 9 and no one seemed to care provided she delivered. Networking was a bit of a problem because everyone had an office of their own. Even Da Eun. Even though it was empowering, she had to be proactive in order to reach out.  Meeting and working with interns and members of staff from different countries turned out to be a novel experience. So was glancing at the touristy Colosseum on her way to work (cue the movies ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Gladiator’). At a public function that was hosted by FAO, she got to witness the renowned Nobel laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus give a speech.

Da Eun was part of the Sustainable Agriculture Program Management team. From the 5 strategic objectives that FAO’s work revolves around, her group worked on the second. The goal was to make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more sustainable and productive. Her role was to research on partnerships and funding mechanisms, collecting relevant information from other divisions and websites of other regional offices.

Looking back, she has KDI School to thank for equipping her with some of the skills that saw her thrive and co-exist with people from different social backgrounds: “KDIS offers a multi-cultural environment where you get to mingle and interact with students from different countries. FAO has the same features, so I did not have a hard time socializing.”

Asked if she could give some advice to KDI School students who would want to intern abroad, she had this to say: “Have some form of specialization. Know what you want and hone your skills around that area, then seek for opportunities that align with it.” She cannot keep count of the numerous FAO publications, international journals and magazines on agriculture that she has picked up to read ever since she enrolled for an Agricultural Economics degree some years back. That interest and passion prepared her for that role. About the application process, she adds: “You need to prepare thoroughly for every stage. I put a lot into this. I revised my CV and cover letter many times, visiting the KDIS’ Writing Center for help. For the interviews, I visited FAO’s website beforehand and checked out my division to be familiar with its projects, visions and goals.”

 The article was first featured on the KDI School website.

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