Ruyi has joined us as our latest intern after we were successfully awarded funding to pay for her post from the Santander Internship Scheme with Goldsmiths University in London.

We caught up with Ruyi to talk about her experiences and how she thinks more young people can get involved in the sector.  

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Ruyi. I’m a Malaysian student at Goldsmiths, University of London, pursuing my master in Social Entrepreneurship. I studied international business, marketing and management in my diploma and undergraduate. I worked in a food trading company before I departed to London in September 2019. Since 2015, I have become an enthusiast in voluntourism and ecotourism. It is the way I learn and understand the world, fulfilling my curiosity about cultures and planets. The experience shapes my thoughts and critical thinking. I continue to be involved in community service, expeditions and had an internship experience in India with an education social enterprise. Last year, I decided to join a sea turtle conservation volunteering project that is based in Perhentian Island in Malaysia. It was a mind blowing experience and it is a turning point for me. I was involved in the conservation activities and awareness program directly for three weeks. The three weeks experience on the island taught me the critical environmental and conservation issues. 

I observed the critical impacts of humans on the animals and the marine ecosystem and there is a need to act immediately to save the ecosystem. Knowing the facts of the ecosystem and habitat are deteriorating every year,  I developed empathy for the animals and felt hopelessness. I truly believe that there is no way to separate the environment, economic and social. Hence, I decided to kick start my journey in finding sustainable ways to bring hope to nature that I love. Currently, my research is focused on sustainability and conservation. 

What are you studying for your MSc at Goldsmiths?  

My course is a course that caters for all the individuals who are passionate to create business around social and environmental purposes. The course develops critical thinking among the students on social and environmental issues. We learn about social enterprise models, social impact evaluation, and advanced topics on social enterprise. 

My most favourite part of my course is the diversity. We are from different countries and backgrounds. We learn from each other and contribute our insights that are not included in the course, providing new perspectives and collision of ideas. 

Why did you choose to study Social Entrepreneurship and in the UK? 

Firstly, I think my greatest motive in choosing social entrepreneurship is my questioning on the impact of traditional business models on the environment and to the next generation. I disagree with the mainstream capitalism ways in solving poverty and improving quality of life as the model does not consider human and environmental factors.  Although I was a business student, I admire the social entrepreneur rather than the successful businessmen. Similar to many people, I had the great ambition to change the world when I was young. I found my passion in serving the community when I was in my diploma. Then, I asked myself if there is a way to integrate doing goods and my skill set, which is business together.

That was the point where I found out about the “social enterprise” model. I was fascinated by the concept and have constantly researched about different social enterprises around the world. Unfortunately, the social enterprise ecosystem in Malaysia is still in its infant stage. There are limited institutions that provide courses or incubators to inexperienced individuals to learn about social entrepreneurship. Thus, I decided to study social entrepreneurship in the UK that has developed a mature ecosystem and structure for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. 

Where did your passion for conservation and environmental causes come from?

I had never imagined myself to be involved in conservation and environmental causes. The environment that I grew up in does not teach me anything about conservation or environmental issues and causes. However, I know that nature is part of my soul and life. I enjoy staying in nature. I love watching documentaries voice over by Sir David Attenborough and traveling to nature scenes. I hate food waste, feel uneasy seeing plastic pollution by the roadside and in the sea. I believe that animals should have animal rights. 

The Perhentian Sea Turtle Conservation Project was definitely a turning point. The experience has a strong direct impact on me. I was healed by the nature on the island but felt depressing understanding the truth of the vicious relationship between humans, environment and animals. The deepest feeling that I had when I was involved in the project “Why do animals have to suffer from the deeds of the greedy and selfish humans? They have done nothing but playing their roles in the ecosystem diligently, helping humans indirectly.” I feel a strong sense of guilt because of what we have done towards them. I still remember the overwhelmed guilt and sadness when I watched “A Beautiful Planet” in the Natural History Museum. I was surprised I teared up in the theatre within the first ten minutes of the documentary, seeing how beautiful our planet is and linking back the tremendous facts on what we have done toward our planet. It was an impactful emotion that I could not ease away until now.

Why did you choose to do your internship at Citizen Zoo?

The main reason I chose Citizen Zoo for my internship is because I would like to act and do something for the animals and nature. I would like to address the impactful emotion that I have, feeling less guilty but bringing hopes to the animals and environment. I did not know how to address those emotions and feelings. My only thought that I had was searching for a social enterprise that focuses on environmental causes or conservation.

I have never heard about Citizen Zoo previously as conservation social enterprise is rare around the world. This is one of the reasons I choose Citizen Zoo for my internship. Volunteering with the sea turtle project, I learned about the financial and operational challenges many conservation projects are struggling with. The sea turtle project I volunteered with is using a social enterprise model to overcome the challenges. They operate in the ecotourism sector in the protected areas. Meanwhile, working with Citizen Zoo,  I would like to see how disruptive conservationists solve conservation problems in urban areas. Initially, I did not know what rewilding was and thus I decided to join to learn more about the concept. It was all driven by my curiosity. Besides, I love how Citizen Zoo involves the community in their conservation efforts since I believe that there is an inseparable relationship between people and environment. Community involvement will create a more sustainable environment and habitat as the community has a direct impact on the local habitats. 

What are some of the main projects you’re leading on during your internship?

I am having a remote internship with Citizen Zoo due to COVID-19. I am based in Malaysia now. Due to the geographical and time limitations, many of my projects are more online based. I am in-charge of the management & coordination and community engagement in the community-led Water Vole Conservation Project initiated by Citizen Zoo. Currently, the project is working hard on the fundraising campaign that will be launched in August 2020. Thus, I am occupied with engaging with the community to prepare for the fundraising campaign. I also work on developing new business propositions for Citizen Zoo to create a new revenue stream for the enterprise which we will announce soon. That involves a lot of work related to defining processes, including market research, business model design, webpage design and more.

Is this your first time working with a community-led project, and if so, how do you feel about it?

Yes, this is my first time working with a community-led project. It is a pretty new concept to me. I love how Citizen Zoo makes the community to be inclusive in all stages of the project but not operating in a top-down structure. Recalling my past experience with community projects, most of the projects usually have a top-down structure where the people in the community do not have much say and are not collaborative. I like how Citizen Zoo listens to and communicates with the community. Besides, I am amazed by the age range in the community. I have been inspired and motivated by the volunteering spirit of the community. The people in the community come from various backgrounds and many of them were professionals in many fields. I have gained many learnings from them.

How do you think more young grads can get involved in internship opportunities? 

I think the most important action is to open your eyes and ears to any opportunities. Schools and universities have many collaborations and are always prepared to assist the young grads. Thus, the most direct way is to seek advice from the career department in the universities. The universities provide fair internship opportunities where you will get the minimal welfare. Secondly, be active online. There are many web pages that help the young grad to find internship opportunities. There are also many platforms that link startups and the young grads. LinkedIn is another platform to keep track of internship opportunities amongst the big companies. Nevertheless, I think making connections is vital in getting internship opportunities as you will get the latest opportunities from those connections.

Are there any exciting resources that have helped you find opportunities to progress your career that you can share with other young people?

To be honest, I don’t know any exciting resources that could help in the progression of my career. I have been relying on the resources available in my universities. And looking for other opportunities that I am interested in online. The way I research online is looking for the organisations that align with my passion and career interest. Then, keep an eye on their opportunities openings. Thus, understanding what is your passion or subjects that you care about is crucial in developing a career pathway. Besides, what will make a difference is really the connection. I have been kept in touch with my lecturers and friends that I recognised in my volunteering programs or some events I participated in. Those connections are quite international and are in a varied age range. Many of them have many experiences in their own fields. They are my close friends and understand my passion. They always give me practical advice and introduce me to suitable opportunities to create meaningful experience in my career. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

I would like to share my reflection during my lockdown period here as I think it is relevant to the youths. In the past few years, I lost direction and myself as I care about others’ opinions so much. I used to feel myself as an useless person and am so tiny to help in the matters and problems I concern. However, the experience taught me that it is okay to have those feelings. I learned to embrace them and they shape who I am now. In this unprecedented period, we are in a human and environmental crisis. Many people, especially the young grads, have much more worries and anxieties. So am I.  We heard about happy and sad news in conservation and the environment sectors in this period of time. I felt hopeless and anxious. Nevertheless, life goes on. Only “When we start to act hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope look for action.” by Greta Thunberg.