I’m so excited to introduce to you the very first guest post on Adventures of an Island Girl. Say hello to Anika!
Anika and I have been friends since high school, and this year she spent the summer in Bangkok interning at the UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre with the Crisis Prevention and Recovery (CPR) team. Anika is a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Toronto. She is interested in issues related to the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States, climate change and addressing natural disasters, especially after Hurricane Ivan which devastated Grenada in 2004.
When Alyssa first asked me to write a post for her blog back in May, I was hesitant because I am not a huge fan of writing about myself. As the summer went by, however, documenting my experiences actually became second nature. It somehow provided a way for me to reflect on all the things I had learnt and to envision the goals I wanted to achieve.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand as part of my Master of Global Affairs program at the University of Toronto, to intern with the Crisis Prevention and Recovery Team at UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre. Without attempting to sound clichéd, it was by far the greatest experience of my life. I learnt so much about myself, my abilities, my career goals and the experience really helped me to grow as a person.
I began my journey in Bangkok where I was immediately immersed in a culture of smiles. The gentle and warm nature of the Thai people reminded me of home and helped to ease the nervousness that I was feeling. I was literally dropped in a community of people that I couldn’t understand, or communicate verbally with but yet we somehow managed to create a bond. This was the first lesson that I learnt on my journey. Sometimes, we get placed in situations that bring us out of our comfort zone but instead of shying away from these challenges, we should embrace them. I managed to find a connection with my Thai colleagues and friends through food, our joint love of fresh fruit and vegetable markets and my desire to learn everything there was to know about Thai culture and way of life. By the end of the trip, I was in love with Som Tum, and although quite spicy, it was by far one of my favourite dishes.
Throughout my summer in Bangkok, I was able to explore some parts of Asia Pacific that added adventure to my trip. From being stuck in 3rd class on a train to Laos for 22 hours sleeping on hard benches and then being temporarily rejected at the border for not having the right return visas. To exploring the rice fields that I always dreamt of visiting in Bali after seeing Eat Pray Love, and travelling as far as Fiji to attend the My World, My SIDS: Youth.Empowerment.Sustainability Conference.
The conference I attended in Fiji was literally the highlight of my trip. Not only because I travelled to Fiji, an island we dream of visiting for our honeymoons, but also because I was able to meet a small group of young people that exuded so much positive energy and motivation. I was able to build friendships with 29 island youth from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Samoa, The Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tokelau.
Throughout the 5 day intensive conference, we brainstormed ideas and solutions for the sustainable development of our small islands and really focused in on the role that we could play as youth in our development process. This motivated me to want to create change in Grenada and all across the Caribbean because I believe a similar force and energy needs to be ignited. We need to start demanding more from our leaders but at the same time, we also need to be willing to play an active role in the process. Youth as young as 18 years old were heavily involved in shaping the development of their small islands in the Pacific and I know that this level of commitment can be created throughout the Caribbean once the right environment and space is created.
If I had the opportunity to share the overarching message or lesson that I learnt over the summer, this quote would sum it up! “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it” — Jordan Belfort. Before this trip, I would make excuses as to why I wouldn’t apply for certain opportunities or positions, complain about trivial matters and even worry about the things I couldn’t control. Instead, I choose to now focus on my strengths and nurture those valuable traits that make me ME.
If you’re not already doing it, I encourage you all to take stock of those key skills that you have, the tools and knowledge that you can contribute and share…and develop them. Stop trying to compare your development and progress to that of others but instead run your own race, along your own desired course. As an old saying goes: the race is not for the swift but for those who endure till the end.
Ensure that you stay grounded amongst people that foster positivity because it’s quite easy to lose track of your goals. Luckily for me, I had a team that provided an environment that encouraged self-development, creativity and growth. To them I will always be indebted because they helped me chart my future path and helped me to build a new sense of confidence and passion for what I love doing.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
The world is ours to explore!