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My Experience as an Intern at Transparency International
Written by Sean Kang | Published. 2020.09.05 04:21 | Count : 295

Over the course of this summer, I worked as an intern at Transparency International Korea. Transparency International is a worldwide organization with 100 national chapters that promotes transparency and advocates against corruption in government, politics, business, and society. The office I worked at is located in Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, Seoul, and my working days were Tuesday and Thursday, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. Here, I will be briefly writing about the most essential lessons I took away from my experience as an intern and how that experience helped shape into the mature person I am now. 

[Transparency International Korea Office in Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
Photo courtesy of Sean Kang]

First of all, what allowed me to secure a position as an intern was an interview call with Abraham, the executive director of climate corruption in Korea. He asked me questions regarding how I define corruption, the reasons behind my application, and what I sought to achieve as an intern at Transparency International. I answered his questions the best I could, while maintaining both modesty and sincerity. After a week of multiple correspondences between Abraham and I, my application to be an intern at Transparency International Korea was accepted, which made me extremely happy.

On the first day of my internship, I was an inexperienced, 16-year-old teenage boy who knew little of the “outside world.”  Abraham introduced me to his colleagues and led me to what would be my desk. He also gave me a sheet of paper that listed the assignments and office duties required of me as an intern. The tasks I had to complete included a couple of readings/analyses about the prevalence of climate corruption, organizing a Transparency International-affiliated club at my school, and creating a website for the club.  As the weeks went by, I became more comfortable in my work environment and accustomed to interacting with adults. Looking back, I realize that I have learned and grew so much in terms of my social skills, responsibility, and intellectual understanding.

[Raising awareness of climate corruption. Photo courtesy of Abe Sumalinog]

One of the first important lessons I learned from my experience as an intern was how to interact socially with adults. Most people, I assume, overlook this skill. However, I believe that strengthening one’s ability to socialize, whether it involves talking, eating, or other forms of common courtesy, is essential to a person's success. For example, at Transparency International, I got to have deep conversations regarding corruption with my colleagues at the office. In addition, during lunch time, I would have discussions about topics that I find interesting and talk about my personal background. As most people, especially my age, grow and mature intellectually, mentally, and emotionally, they need to acquire such experiences with adults when they transition to the workforce in the future. Although it may seem simple, knowing how to interact with adults is a powerful skill to acquire in life.Secondly, as an intern, I believe that I greatly improved my self-discipline and ability to manage my responsibilities. Over the course of multiple weeks, I took full responsibility for waking up at 8:30 am every day and arriving at the office on time. Since I’m more of a night person, waking up that early every morning was a challenge that I had to eventually overcome. Furthermore, I made sure that I was mentally ready and had all my daily assignments/tasks done by their respective deadlines. Because I wanted to make an impression as an excellent intern, I always arrived at the office with everything prepared, and I always made sure I was on top of all of my tasks. My dedication to fulfilling my responsibilities was a great asset for me over the course of my internship.

Lastly, during my internship, I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge on the topic of corruption. As I became more aware of corruption at various levels of society, I decided to focus on climate corruption. Since my advisor was the executive director of climate corruption at Transparency International, I had a great opportunity to learn more about such an overlooked topic. While I was thinking of the best way to learn about climate corruption, I realized that conducting an interview was probably the most appropriate approach.

[Interview with Abe Sumalinog, the executive director of climate corruption at Transparency International Korea. Photo Courtesy of Mr. Han Beom]

First, I asked Mr. Sumalinog, a climate corruption activist, why he joined Transparency International. He told me that he joined because he had a desire “to understand why corruption separates people from one another and how corruption causes the poor to become poorer and the rich to become richer.” He continued by firmly stating that “every human being has a moral responsibility, and people in high positions have a responsibility to adhere to moral standards and moral integrity when taking advantage of any chances to become rich.”

My next question stemmed from my curiosity about what Transparency International was doing to tackle climate corruption. Mr. Sumalinog explained, “We are following and monitoring climate projects that are being funded by climate funding-related institutions such as the Green Climate Fund. We look at their transparency policies, such as the anti-corruption policy, which includes the conflict of interest policy for board members, and lastly, we provide inputs for policy-making, suggest policies, and add to transparency policies.”

Moreover, as a teenager, I wanted to know what young people can do to fight climate corruption. Especially in the society we live in today, governments hear out individuals who are young and passionate about eliciting change. An example pointed out by Mr. Sumalinog is “young people collecting evidence or data of climate corruption.” In addition, he said that “young people can do a lot by writing to the government, making suggestions or proposals of what the government can do to reduce climate pollution, and engaging with others on social media (taking photos and uploading them to Instagram). They can also participate in activities at school or organize clubs.”

Finally, I asked Mr. Sumalinog what climate corruption issue he is most focused on right now. Currently, he is “monitoring the Green Climate Fund, the main funding of the United Nations, to stop or mitigate the effects of climate change globally.” He said, “Many governments and public/private institutions contribute to the Green Climate Fund, and that money is allocated to climate projects in many developing countries.” However, he explained that “the money is used mainly for adaptation, such as building walls to protect vulnerable cities from flood, and mitigation, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by deploying renewable energy, including solar and wind power.”

Starting out as an inexperienced teenager, I have now grown into the sociable, responsible, and intellectual person that I am today. In summary, I gained three important benefits from my internship experience: developed social skills for interacting with adults, improved my self-discipline and ability to manage my responsibilities, and expanded my knowledge on the topic of corruption. Therefore, to anyone who plans to intern in the future, I strongly recommend that they make the most of it and take every opportunity to learn from their colleagues and the working environment.




Sean Kang
11th grade
Yongsan International School of Seoul

Sean Kang  student_reporter@dherald.com

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