The past few months have been super hectic! Simultaneously and somehow successfully juggling a variety of ambitions, I’ve managed to:
- Complete my final 3 major university assignments and secure a 1st class honours degree
- Start a business
- Attend several interviews for summer internships around the UK and secure one for June, July and August
- Revise and complete exams
- Be nominated for 2 awards for university achievements/commitment
- Enter and win the GOLIN Unternship.
Balancing these ambitions with the general frivolities of student life, endless birthdays, networking events and weddings have resulted in the busiest period of my life to date. Thankfully I’ve managed to come out the other end happier I’ve ever been, with a firm belief that we can all do anything we want – we simply have to put our minds to it.
This particular article is about the final item on the above list – the GOLIN Unternship. A 5 month unlikely internship where you’re paid to not come to work. Instead you’re given £4500 to go anywhere you want in the world to gain life experience and then paid to work in GOLIN London’s digital content team for 3 months to gain work experience. Why would they do this you might be wondering? GOLIN firmly believes that providing an adventure of a lifetime will offer life experience and fresh perspectives that is enriching for the candidate but can also provide fresh insight and creativity within the office.
As you can imagine, hundreds of people applied and the process was roughly over a month long. It was highly pressurised, super creative, required a lot of different skills and was very similar to The Apprentice in the final with a live ‘out of office assignment’. Despite juggling the aforementioned ambitions, losing my phone and getting sick – I relished every moment of it!
The core and arguably most important part of the competition is coming up with an idea of what you would do with the £4500… Where would you go? Why? Is there a theme to your travels?
My idea revolved around the theme of Happiness . This universal thing or state of being that we are all trying to attain in some way shape or form.
Studying the current and previous United Nations World Happiness report a trend jumped out to me when looking at the ‘happiest countries in the world’. This was that the Nordic countries have utterly dominated the list since the reports inception.
This of course raises a multitude of questions, such as how do these cold and dark places manage to reach such superior levels of happiness to the rest of us? Furthermore how have they managed to sustain this happiness for so long?
To gain insight into the answers, I studied the reports and surrounding literature. One of the biggest things which struck me was the large influencing factor that GDP played in determining a ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’ country. This raised the critique that the results suggested – ‘the wealthier a country is – the happier it is’, which invariably brings in the argument of – Does money equate to happiness?
One person who unwaveringly believes it doesn’t is statistician Nic Marks. He asks why we measure a nation’s success by its productivity — instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people? Thus he and a few others created the Happy Planet Index, which is more focussed on the intangibles such as laughter, smiles and freedom, and then measures this ‘happiness score’ against how much of Earth’s resources are used to achieve that level of happiness (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth).
Nic Marks great and insightful TED Talk on the Happy Planet Index
The results from this report were simply staggering. In complete contrast to the UN report, Latin American countries now dominated the top 10.
Thus my idea was born, I’m going to travel to 2 of the top countries on the UN report – Norway and Denmark and 2 of the top countries on the Happy Planet Index – Costa Rica and Colombia. In keeping with the theme I’ve decided to shape my travels using the 5 positive actions for improved happiness (below) outlined by the UK Government Office for Science. I’ll delve deep into the heart of each unique culture and compare and contrast my experiences to provide and share first hand insight into the overarching question of:
What makes these guys so darn happy?!
A few random examples of how I plan on bringing these actions to life:
1. Being Active in Norway by climbing the most challenging mountains and kayaking through fjords.
2. Taking Notice in Costa Rica as I witness the annual migration of the endangered humpback whales.
3. Connecting with complete strangers in Denmark as I indulge in the local Hygge culture.
4. Giving Back to Colombia or Costa Rica through carefully selected and purposeful volunteering.
5. Keep Learning through surf lessons in Costa Rica and Spanish lessons in Colombia.
With such diverse countries the possibilities are truly endless!
If you want to follow my ‘pursuit of happiness’ then head to Golin.com/uk/unternship to follow my adventures from July 10th and you can get me on Instagram @lesliealfonso where I plan on posting photographs and using the stories feature to directly bring you into my world…
Parents – for everything
Dinesh – For your food, shelter and technology
Mags, Kish, Abz, Shaun, Harry, Preyenka, Lance, Jorge, Ayesha, Mike, Jake, Carly, Lawrie and Xenia – for your knowledge and countless creative conversations
James and Anna – for your couch and lemsip
Virgin trains, London Midland and London underground – for being reliable
Books and tools which helped me directly accomplish this
Trello – Amazing project management tool I use to manage my limited time efficiently and effectively to bring my ambitions to fruition.