Summer breaks are made for beaches, sunbathing, and everything fun. However, for this year’s summer, I spent most of my time indoors. As part of one of the courses in my degree program, I had to go through an internship for the summer.
I was accepted in a notable international research organization where I was tasked to do a lot of science communication, specifically translation, editing, and finalization of 86 fact sheets.
At first, I was not very confident with my knowledge and skills in science communication. I mean, I can do technical writing and editing and I have had sufficient technical courses to back me up but I think my forte really is graphic design and layout. I am more comfortable writing and designing children’s story book than editing technical materials. So, when the task was explained to us, I decided to take the challenge and learn for myself. After all, I have always have the willingness to learn and to an extra mile out of my comfort zone.
(Here’s an excerpt of the reflection paper I wrote about my whole internship experience during the midyear 2016.)
The Paths that Await
There is no better way to learn than to experience the learnings yourself. Every field has its own theories and practices that are beyond imagination even when thoroughly explained by our brilliant professors. The best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the actual workplace where you may be working in the near future.
Back then, my relatives kept asking me what my future job will be. As a communication student, my relatives expect that I will either be a journalist or a broadcaster. However, as we were taught in the College, development communicators are not boxed within the realms of mass communication. Devcom, as a field, may be close yet far from journalism and broadcasting. Somehow, we can say that Devcom is like an asymptote relative to mass communication – it may be close but it will never be the same to mass communication. This asymptotic relation of Devcom to mass communication is delicately beautiful yet mysterious.
Even when I am already on my third year, I still get confused of what our futures can be. For other fields, it is clear as day. But if you study Devcom, you can be many things. You can be a writer, a journalist, a communication consultant, a project head, a layout artist, a broadcaster, a researcher, and the list goes on and on that in the end I end up asking what we really do and what our identity really is.
After five weeks of first-hand experience and training as development communicator in the Impact Acceleration Unit of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), I saw Devcom in a whole lot new perspective. It is true enough that Devcom exceeds the boundaries of journalism and broadcast. In fact, it touches the fields of the hard sciences like agronomy, entomology, soil chemistry, plant pathology, and the like. More than the practice of the normative work of communication students, Devcom entwines itself to the sciences to deliver accurate and relevant scientific and technical information that are practical to the lives of the general public.
Working for a well-known research institution has become both a challenge and an opportunity in my learning experience. Back when I was still an aspiring applicant, I have already been briefed about the task that we will be doing, that is standardizing fact sheets for the Rice Doctor mobile application.
At first, I was doubtful on myself. In our generalist curriculum, I found that we lack experiences in science communication yet I am about to standardize 86 fact sheets for a mobile application of a prominent research institution. Honestly, I am confident with my skills in graphic design and layouting. However, this time I am faced with a task far from what I have always been used to doing.
As Devcom practitioners, it is imperative that we develop the skills that are beyond our comfort zones. After all, we will never truly know the paths that await us.