Sat at my computer with the application form filled out; mouse hovering over the submit button, deciding whether I should press it or not. A million and one doubts and negativity going through my mind. It was a big risk, personally and financially. Luckily I’m no stranger to danger and quickly shook off the negative thoughts and submitted my application, completely unaware of the adventure I was about to embark upon and how much it would change my life for the better.
By trade I’m a software engineer, yet here I am now working as a photojournalist in Thailand. My story is quite different to most people who do internships, as they are generally people looking to gain experience so they can become employable, normally when they are fresh out of studying; but I finished university quite a while back, have worked for multiple big companies and travelled the world along the way, yet I’m doing an internship for the same reasons as others, to gain real world knowledge and skills in an area that I’d like to be involved in.Photography has been a passion of mine since I bought my first SLR a fair few years back. Coupled with my other hobby of backpacking, they both went hand in hand and travel photography became my thing, with my dream being to become a professional travel photographer. Sadly this hobby of mine was a labour of love and not something that I could do 24/7 – 365, financially, it just wasn’t viable. One day though, I saw a job posting for a photojournalist internship and knew this was the stepping stone I needed to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, all I had to do was take the plunge and saddle up my unicorn and prepare for this magical journey.
For some people it can be daunting to move to an unknown country, but as mentioned before, I’m slightly older than the average intern, although not the oldest intern by a long shot, (I’ve been told applications come in from people in their 60’s looking to do internships!) but this made my transition into working in Thailand much easier as I had already backpacked around the country on a few occasions and was already clued up on the way the country works and their customs, plus I knew a couple of basic words in Thai as well, which surprisingly helps a lot.
As part of my internship, I was enrolled into a one week intensive Thai language course, with the purpose not to become fluent in Thai but help with everyday living. It was for two hours every day after work which made my already long day even longer. I am by no means fluent in Thai but just giving me the ability to direct and argue with taxi drivers to stop them ripping me off makes it all worth it, as does knowing the names of dishes and being able to order delicious street food in the native language.
For a photographer, the vast majority of my time is spent sat at my desk on a laptop in the office. Sadly there’s a non glamourous side to photojournalism that people forget about. Luckily my office environment is pretty relaxed and laid back, with some amazing and friendly local folks as well as a few expats like myself. One downside is that my office is mainly female orientated which means having to put up with repetitive Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift songs on occasion during lunch as well as Thai soap operas from time to time! I’m quite fortunate though, as my office actively encourages English speaking and supplies English lessons for everyone in the office so everyone can communicate clearly and work together effectively. Language is the main barrier out here for most people, but it is honestly being bridged more and more and is definitely noticeable.
Working life out here does not actually differ (too) much from working life back home. (Minus the commute to work on the back of a motorbike with death staring you right in the eyes at times!) The working week is pretty much the same routine, with the standard Monday blues at the start of the week followed by the famous Friday feeling at the end of the week; with the weekends being open game depending on how you’re feeling, and whether you’ll plan a relaxing trip to the beach or spend the weekend at a music festival, the possibilities are so diverse and endless here. I’m quite fortunate to be based in Bangkok, which honestly has so much going on around the city constantly, you just have to be social and willing to go out looking for it and talking to like-minded people.
Finding and meeting like-minded people is extremely easy here. Even if you’re not the most social person out there, you will find a lot of people will make an effort to get to know you in all sorts of circumstances. On many occasions now, have I found myself doing something simple like sitting down eating some street food or having a beer after work, and have ended up conversing with the person next to me, only to find out we have some commonalities, which leads to keeping in touch and becoming friends. If meeting random people off the street or in bars is not your thing then there’s still hope for you with meeting fellow interns. The intern community here is big and there are networking events constantly going on. I have to say, that through the networking events I have met the most people like myself, fellow interns who are in the same boat as me and looking to also expand their social (and business) network.
The intern community here is so mixed and diverse, that I’ve ended up meeting people of all ages that hail from countries literally all over the world. The majority of the people that I hang out with are fellow interns I’ve met at networking events, and we now have a large close knit group that ends up doing a lot of things together, from going for food or beers, to going to festivals for the weekend. When people ask the simple question about the group now of “Where are you guys from?” It takes me about five minutes to list all the different countries that everyone in the group is from and the reaction is always the same, with the person in shock that every person is from a different country yet we’re still a tight group of friends that gets on like a house on fire. The most recent reaction I got was from an American guy who responded in awe with “You’re like the U.N of interns!”
I’m just shy of 3 months into working and living here now and the only question I ask myself is why didn’t I do this earlier?! I can’t say that my journey is all fun and games because it isn’t, at the end of the day, it’s still work, and work is work! There are days where I’m working in the office until late at night, and even days where I leave the office but continue working at home until the early hours of the morning just to meet strict deadlines imposed upon me; but again this is all part of the experience and what helps you to grow as a person and become knowledgeable to real world working experience. My motivation is at an all-time high though and I find myself taking a proactive approach to everything to get things done the way I want.
If you’re thinking of doing an internship but worried about the risk like I initially was, all I can say is that you need to take risks if you ever want to get anywhere in life; no one successful ever achieved anything by sitting back and doing nothing, they all took big risks at some point. I am a true believer of something a great man once said, “Ignore the naysayers, work like hell, trust yourself, break some rules, don’t be afraid to fail, visualise your goal and know exactly where you want to go; be hungry for success.” I cannot stress how true this is, as the naysayers will put you down, give you the wrong advices and tell you that you can’t do something, but it’s down to you to ignore them and do whatever it takes to reach your goal; you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. So fill out an application form and submit it right away, then prepare yourself for a journey that will turn your life around.
Sham is currently interning on the Photography & Journalism Internship Programme and bartering with taxi drivers in Bangkok, Thailand. If you too feel like turning your life around (bartering optional), check out the 50+ Professional Internships, Volunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 29 countries worldwide. Start travelling your career today!