OID: Thanks for talking to OID today! Can you start off by telling everyone who you are: Where are you from, what made you passionate about development, and what is your area of concentration?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: My name is Ruvinda Pilapitiya and I am originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Whenever I tell people that they just stare at me until I tell them that I’ve lived in the US for about 7 years now though. I’m a UN kid so I’ve done a bit of traveling during my childhood and I just always felt a pull towards getting into development; it just felt like the most useful thing I could do with my life. Concentration? I’ve worked with contractors on project recruitment, my classes are in post conflict governance/security and my current internship is in trade policy, so…take from that what you will.
(Editors note: please don’t stare at Ruvi. We’ve included a map in this post so that you can nod knowledgeably and ask him intelligent questions about the country, and this vibrant urban center, and/or just nod. Seriously, don’t stare at him unless he grows a third head or something. That’s right, keep talking when he grows the second one and just stare at the third.)
OID: Where are you this summer and what are you doing?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: This summer I am in Bangkok, Thailand interning at the United Nations Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific. Specifically, I’m in the Trade and Investment Division (ESCAP-TID) working on the gravitational model of Aid for Trade. I am studying the policy decisions which relate to aid for trade in the ESCAP region.
OID: How did you get this internship/opportunity?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: I had been applying to positions in Bangkok for about two years now so getting this has been a long process of cultivating relationships and getting the right recommendations. Only one intern I have met got this position without talking to/emailing/knowing someone in UNESCAP and there are about twenty interns on my floor alone!
OID: Many students in the IDS program pursue a variety of different areas within development. That said, you seem to be in a more unique niche than others we’ve spoken to. Has it been challenging to be engaged in economic trade policy and analysis within the IDS framework?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: Well, it’s not as different as you would think. Aid for Trade has done a quick evolution by incorporating the Paris Principles and really focusing trade which will align with partner country created strategies/priorities for addressing poverty alleviation. The focus on infrastructure is a little old school, but integrating PPP and being serious about south-south trade makes the donor-partner dynamic more equal.
OID: Do you have any recommendations (for courses, internships, or time management…whatever you think would be useful!) to the incoming first years?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: Never forget a face.
OID: Was it difficult to find a position outside of the US this summer and are you happy you made that leap?
Ruvinda Pilapitiya: I feel like being at GW gives us a huge leg up when it comes to finding things to do abroad, like I’ve already said though I have been looking to get this internship for a while now. But it has definitely been worth it after spending so much time in working in DC. Being out of the country looks a lot better on a resume if you’re looking for a non-HQ position. Also it’s nice to be out of DC for a little while.