How do I apply?

If you are interested in a volunteer intern post at MRF, please send a cover letter indicating your background, the skills you believe you bring to MRF and how these will fit in with ongoing MRF projects, dates you are interested in being a intern along with alternative dates should your first preference not be available.

Also please send a copy of your CV – not a one-page Resume that will not be informative, but rather something by which we may judge your skills and character prior to making a decision. We are particularly keen on finding out how you feel you could contribute to MRF’s goals and objectives, and how an internship would be of benefit to you.

Please note that intern posts at MRF are highly competitive and few in number, and that request for and submission of these documents does not constitute any form of preliminary acceptance.

Are there any length-of-stay restrictions on internships?

Yes, there are. MRF does not accept 1-4 week internship applications. Only applications of two months or greater will be considered.

Does MRF offer any payment to interns?

No, MRF does not provide any form of remuneration for intern positions. An internship at MRF is a volunteer activity. However, MRF will cover travel, food and accommodation and any other work-related costs when you go on field trips.

Does MRF cover any housing or travel costs for interns?

No, MRF does not provide any financial support for housing or travel.

Where is the best place to stay that is close to the office?

There are many back-packer and low cost hotels within walking distance of the office. Please see the list of places some of our past interns have used. Also, consider using Google to search for accommmodation in the vicinity of the office as you will get a lot of details and ideas from there.

What is the transport like in Kota Kinabalu?

Local transport consists of small minivans and larger city buses. There are also taxis and Grab is a favourite mode of transport (like Uber – but we do not have Uber in Malaysia). Many interns find that they can walk to most places – there are plenty of food and beverage outlets, supermarkets, pharmacies, and department stores within walking distance of the office – even within the same building!

What is the culture like in Sabah/ Malaysia?

The following are just some general pointers to highlight some cultural and religious norms in Malaysia. We at the Marine Research Foundation believe strongly in being a part of the local culture, norms and people, and not apart from them.

  • Religion– Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws, and all religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend others, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious sites. You should also dress modestly, particularly in conservative and rural areas and when visiting places of worship.
  • Greetings– Many Malaysians greet each other with a light handshake. Watch what happens and follow their lead. Be aware that some individuals prefer not to shake hands with members of the opposite sex, so it is always safer to let them initiate the greeting. In business culture, it is quite hierarchical so make sure to treat persons of senior rank with respect.
  • Public Display of Affection – Intimate behaviours in public are discouraged, particularly in rural and less liberal areas.
  • Food & Beverage– Muslims consume halal food (permissible by Muslim law) and only dine in restaurants that are certified Halal. They do not consume pork and alcohol. Hindus do not consume beef. If you are offering food to others, consider their religions. You are allowed to eat all kinds of food but be mindful of your surroundings and the people you are with.

MRF has a very respected reputation both Nationally and Internationally. You will be expected to uphold this reputation at all times – think of yourself as an MRF Ambassador when you are out and about, not only on work-related activities but also in your personal time. People look up to those who respect local customs and cultures, and MRF prides itself on leading this type of behaviour, and thus it is your responsibility to uphold this reputation while stationed at MRF.

What would my typical workday look like?

A lot of our time at MRF is spent writing reports, grant applications, analysing and processing data, creating graphics and awareness materials, and generally working on the non-fieldwork aspects of our projects. We do conduct fieldwork, but this occurs at set intervals through the year – not alll the time. We do a lot of office work in relation to fieldwork and this is quite standard across NGOs working in this field – if we were not writing reports, grant proposals, analysing data etc. we would simply end up with data that meant nothing to anyone.

Everybody at MRF lends a helping hand on all projects. You might be assigned to lead one particular project or research area, but that does not mean you will not be involved in, and expected to contribute to, other work that is on-going. When fieldwork is being planned or underway, everyone is expected to help out and be proactive about assisting with project duties.

What is the dress code at MRF?

You are expected to dress appropriately and respectfully.

Working attire in the office is casual. However, you should avoid wearing revealing clothes and in particular, your back, chest, feet, and stomach should be covered (i.e. crop tops, singlets, ultra short trousers and short skirts are not appropriate in the office). You are free to wear as you please any other time – keeping in mind local customs and culture.

For official business and government office meetings, casual business attire is required. This may include long trousers, jackets, shirts, skirts, and dresses that, while not formal, are appropriate for a business environment. Shorts, sandals, and revealing clothes are not permitted at any time for business events or meetings.

Do I need to know the local language to intern at MRF?

No, you do not, but learning a few key phrases and basic words will show a great deal of respect to the people with whom you interact. The majority of Malaysians speak Bahasa Malaysia (Malay). These days there are YouTube channels, phrase books, and even podcasts to learn some key words, and it would be advantageous to know a few before you arrive.

What is the typical career path for someone in this role?

Some people go on to be environmental engineers / scientists in consulting firms, others join fisheries departments, some go on to be wildlife veterinarians, there are opportunities in other National and International NGOs where you can become an environmental advocate, or a researcher and conservationist, a lot like we do.

What skills will I be required to use the most in this role?

Computer skills is a must for interns at MRF. Indeed, we expect you to bring your own laptop so that you can work on projects while you are here. Basic programmes like Excel, Word, Google Earth and some graphics and statistics packages would be an asset. We use ArcGIS to do spatial analysis on some of our data sets, and a few other dedicated programmes, but these can be taught when you get here if necessary.

Which mobile internet package is most recommended, in terms of speed, accessibility, and cost?

There are multiple telecom companies from which you can get prepaid SIM cards: Celcom, Digi and Maxis are three examples, but there are others. They all offer very similar deals and rates and the coverage is about the same across Sabah. Everything is quite competitive so it should be easy to get a plan that suits your needs. Please make sure you bring your IC or passport if you want to buy a SIM card.

What is the weather like in Sabah/Malaysia?

Warm, and rather wet a lot of the time. Kota Kinabalu sits 6° north of the equator, so the weather is tropical. High humidity (up to 100%), and average temperatures of 28-30°C in the cooler months (October to March) and 30-35°C in the warmer months. It is known as Land Below the Wind because the great cyclones / hurricanes all pass safely to the north and east of the State.

Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Loose clothing, hats, sun tan lotion on exposed areas.

When is a good time for MRF to accept interns?

MRF accepts interns all year round, but there is always a heavy demand for places during the summer months of June to August. If this is your intended period of stay, be sure to request an internship post early.

How many interns do you typically accept at MRF?

Normally we limit the number of interns to two or three maximum. MRF is a small agency and we simply do not have space to house a larger number of people at any one time.