A glimpse into innovation: reflections from my summer internship in Kazakhstan

December 5, 2022
“No one is an island by itself, said the poet.”


The internship at UNDP Kazakhstan Accelerator Lab allowed me to connect with people, gain valuable experience, and learn more about what it is like to be an international civil servant.

My name is Yuwen. I was born and raised in China and have spent the last four years in five countries - France, Singapore, the UK, China and now Kazakhstan. I am passionate about the world around me and how I can use my skills and knowledge to make it a better place. Coming to Kazakhstan for the first time as a UNDP intern is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will be happy to tell you more about.

Walking in someone else's shoes  

When I received an invitation to come to Kazakhstan, I started researching more about the country online, looking at data and international reports. I am sure you will agree that there is nothing quite like travelling to the country and walking in the shoes of the people who live here. This was my summer 2022 in Astana. 

Kazakhstan is a country where people are resilient, flexible and optimistic, which they probably learned from centuries of nomadic history. I learned about the country by walking around the city and meeting the people who live here - my colleagues at UNDP Kazakhstan and other young people I met during my stay.  

During my time in the office, I understood what it really means to be part of a global development organization. Every day I had the opportunity to participate in learning sessions, innovation talks, and hear from UNDP colleagues from around the world. Every week, I participated in the global Accelerator Lab teams' calls where I learned about what practical experiments the Labs are running around the world.  

One of the goals of my internship was to improve my writing skills. Therefore, I actively sought out opportunities to write memos, concept notes, and blogs. I was excited when the blog I co-authored was published on the official UNDP website of Kazakhstan. While writing the blog, I was deeply engaged in the topics of portfolio approach and systems thinking. 

Working in the Accelerator Lab team allowed me to learn about different topics the country office is working on - from digital service delivery to urban development to green finance and social protection. As I am about to start my degree in Public Policy, working with UNDP Kazakhstan has given me hands-on experience and a better understanding of the development challenges in Kazakhstan and many other developing countries. 

Travel 10,000 miles & read 10,000 books

My adventure in Kazakhstan goes far beyond professional development. The time I spent in a new country was an exploration of myself, reflecting on my identity, my values, and my goals. There is an old Chinese saying: to gain knowledge, one must travel 10,000 miles and read 10,000 books. The trip to Kazakhstan was literally a journey of thousands of miles. I look forward to starting my new journey at the University of Chicago and bringing all the practical lessons from my internship into the classroom.