Sometimes you just gotta roll with it…
By: Ade Samuel
If there’s one thing this last year has taught me its to be willing to embrace the unexpected. In June of 2020 I was in the middle of my second year employed as a chemical engineer, cutting my teeth in the field at one of the world’s largest chemical companies BASF. I don’t think I imagined that a year later I’d be sitting at a desk in Edinburgh, Scotland collecting data on energy developments within my native St. Kitts and Nevis. But… in June of 2021 that is exactly where I found myself.
Growing up and going through high school in the US, I told myself that I wanted to become an engineer so that I could work on developing novel innovations to help the Caribbean. After finishing my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and embarking on a career within that field, however, I started to feel like I was moving further away from my goals of applying my skills to benefit Caribbean communities. So, in September of 2020, I left my job as a chemical engineer to pursue an MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh. The transition wasn’t exactly smooth with a visa issue preventing me from moving to Scotland at the outset of my program and adding onto the difficulty of making the jump from a purely technical field into an exceedingly interdisciplinary social science program. Despite those difficulties, a continued focus on applying the new ideas I was being exposed to in Caribbean contexts somewhere down the line kept me ticking over.
As spring 2021 came around and I settled in after finally moving to Edinburgh, I started looking for ways to get more place-based exposure to Caribbean energy contexts. I ultimately decided on a master’s dissertation topic focused, in part, on Caribbean energy transitions that I would work on over the summer. It was while developing a collaboration with the CCREEE around that work that I first came across the 2020 ERC internship opportunity. I already had quite a bit on my plate but felt that this internship was a chance I couldn’t let pass me by.
Looking back now, as I approach the end of my engagement with the CCREEE as the Data Collection Intern for St. Kitts and Nevis’ 2020 Energy Report Card, I’m glad I didn’t. This internship program has been the perfect complement for culminating my master’s studies. I’ve gotten exposure to practical nuances of working within the Caribbean energy sector, a familiarity with the diverse sets of stakeholders involved within various island contexts, and a greater appreciation for the diversity of national energy landscapes across the region. These types of learnings help ground the more theoretical perspectives that I learned throughout my MSc and are helping to give me a better idea of how I can find a place for myself in the Caribbean energy sector.
I can’t say that as a kid (or even a year ago) the CCREEE was where I wanted to work when I grew up, but now that I’m (a bit) more grown up I can confidently say that working at the CCREEE is exactly where I want to be and am excited for where this experience will carry me next.