Interning at IISD: Hyeyoon Cho

Screenshot of Hyeyoon’s presentation she delivered at resilience team meeting. Talked about one of the projects she worked on, based on her literature review on Indigenous climate change adaptation.

My name is Hyeyoon and I recently graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Arts degree this May. I am starting my Master’s program at McGill this year, and will be researching the politics of energy infrastructure in the Art History & Communication Studies department. Foremost, I was excited about this internship because I desperately wanted to gain work experience outside of academia and learn more about how an independent think tank operates. Since my previous work experience as a research assistant taught me what research looks like in academic setting, I wanted to explore how research (especially social science research) is conducted in non-academic workplaces. I also wished to learn more about the workplace culture, leadership structure, and the actual research/advocacy/advisory work that the resilience team at IISD does.

IISD is an independent think tank that aims to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resources, and fair economies. As an intern, I was part of IISD’s resilience team, which works with governments and local organizations to accelerate efforts to adjust to the current and anticipated impacts of climate change. My responsibilities included: supporting resilience team on Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) and Climate Adaptation in Canada (CAC), to inform IISD’s future work related to Indigenous Peoples, people living with disabilities, and climate change adaptation in developing countries and in Canada. More specifically, I developed an annotated bibliography of literature that examine the role of Indigenous Peoples in climate adaptation planning processes in Canada, as well as their progress in preparing for climate change within the Prairie provinces. I also updated and consolidated the list of key adaptation initiatives and projects that involve First Nations and Métis communities in the Prairies. Lastly, I updated the previously created bibliography on social inclusion and adaptation to further cover people with disabilities. Highlight of my internship was definitely my presentation that I got to deliver at resilience team meeting. I presented on one of the projects I worked on, which examined what just climate adaptation looks like from the perspective of Indigenous scholars, activists and communities. It was challenging at first since I had to juggle other things but it was rewarding.

A table on the terrace of a cafe, with a computer and a drink
Hyeyoon Cho working at her favorite café’s terrace on a sunny day, which was one of the perks of remote work.
Challenges that I encountered during the internship had to do with the nature of remote work. It was especially difficult to stay motivated since I was working alone on long-term research projects, without being surrounded by colleagues and my supervisor. With two years of Zoom university and all I thought I’d have no problem with remote work, but it did pose several challenges. In order to overcome them, I carved out small objectives and deadlines with

my supervisor to stay focused. I learned that it’s helpful to break larger tasks into smaller ones because it’s much more manageable. My supervisor also made the time to meet with me weekly to discuss about my progress and follow up on things I had been working on. This was tremendously helpful.

Although I am not receiving academic credit for the internship, this experience had impact on my university experience and my career trajectory in general. Not only I got to apply classroom knowledge in professional environment, but I also learned how to pitch my ideas in a reasonable manner, synthesize different research materials, and present key findings. I want to express my sincere gratitude to the ION office and RBC scholarship for providing me this invaluable opportunity. What I learned from the internship will greatly inform my academic and career endeavours, as I continue to study and research energy infrastructures, just transition and environmental justice. I highly recommend students to apply to internship opportunities that ION office provides. It is a great way to learn more about how internationally-renowned organizations work but you also learn so much about yourself, what you dislike and what you are passionate about, and what you want to focus on in the future.

Books and a drink
Hyeyoon taking a break between work. Read “Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice” edited by her previous professors from Communication Studies.

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