Stepping Into The United Nations – My First Internship

Hopeful Beginnings

Didn’t some of you dream of stepping into The United Nations (UN) and working there?

Witnessing world affair conferences with other leaders of the world?

There’s nothing — and I mean nothing — higher than this. Just as I had set my mind to further pursue my studies in International Relations, I knew that there was no better place to learn than in Geneva, the hub of diplomacy. All international organizations are based there. The school I went to was also there, strategically situated across the street from the U.S. mission and next to the United Nation itself.

 The Internship Begins

It was the start of the week, the first day of my internship and also the first day I step in as someone who works for the UN.

My feelings and emotions were all over the place. My excitement was slightly laced with anxiety and nervousness. I was finally able to see what takes places, witness high level meetings on matters of the world and the practical applications of my lessons from theory class into actual work. However, I was rather nervous to mingle with the people in the UN as they had years of experience ahead of me.

I saw my internship as my baptismal of fire that will aid me to gauge myself in the real world. I was ready to discover more aspects of myself that I do not know even existed. I was beyond prepared to expose myself to situations that will surface both my strengths and weaknesses individually and professionally.

Just like most of the other interns, my primary role was more administrative in nature where I was assigned to take notes, liaise with delegates and summarize meetings and reports. Although my role was more clerical, the position still allowed me to be part of most of the UN meetings — even some high-level ones — and to encounter people from different profession and expertise. On top of that, I got the chance to see His Excellency Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, he opened The Conference on Disarmament.

 I have attended many interesting and engaging conferences namely The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, The Biological Weapon Conference and The Conference on Disarmament but among all, I was most invested in Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs). I was deeply intrigued and fascinated by the topic of the rapid advancement of technology and the world.

In general, LARs is developed especially for military purposes. The rationale behind developing the technology is to lessen the risk for human soldiers and make robots do high-risk missions instead. Although there are listed benefits, there are still restrictions and limitations as the technology is prone to machine errors and defects. The CCW Meeting of Experts on Lethal Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) was conducted from May 13th to 16th at the United Nations in Geneva. The meeting focused on both the offered benefits and threats of the development. It was stimulating as an open discussion that was held and people voice out their earnest concerns and opinions.

What I’ve Learnt from My Internship?

  1. The significance of giving voices to every member of the country – The mission I represented was an active participant in the meetings. As a country, it was looking for peace and solutions for the different hostility in the area. It was eye-opening for me to hear opinions and views of reputable people in relation to timely and sensitive societal issues.
  2. Practice vs Theory – Aside from giving me new knowledge and information, the experience has helped me further develop my negotiation skills. I was able to not only see the application but actually practice the lessons I have learned from my Negotiation Simulation class in a real disarmament conference. I am appreciative of the opportunity to witness actual meetings and dialogues as I now have a clearer picture of what goes on within the UN.
  3. Communication is a two-way street – It is not merely speaking but also through listening and observing. Many messages are not only shared verbally but also through non-verbal mechanisms. It is vital skill to be observant and attentive in order to assess real temperaments and sentiments of the people during meetings, discussions and conferences. As such, active and careful listening to the concerns of people is important because it fastens the development process and minimizes error conducted.

Reflections

Overall, it was notably a memorable experience for me because not everyone is given the chance to be part of UN’s daily operations. Ever since then, I have viewed UN as the epitome of diplomacy due of its continuous efforts to combat societal problems and promote humanity among countries. I have learned a lot and I felt comfortable with the working environment and conditions there; it was as if I belonged with the UN.

It made me recognize my strengths and weaknesses that I can now address and develop.  Moreover, my internship there has influenced my career goals and motivated me to perform better in my studies. I was ready to give justice to the opportunity I was given. My internship has also sparked my curiosity in foreign policy which has then ignited an interest to how I would pursue my thesis.

I am grateful for both the chance and lessons I’ve gained from my placement there. It went beyond the requirement for my degree and more of a glimpse of what I would expect in the real world. It can be challenging and tardy at times as I was still taking baby steps in the learning process. I understand that it is not enough to be well-adapt with the lectures and notes but we must also have practical intelligence because not everything can be answered by books. Sometimes, it takes an actual exposure for people to see the true promise of the course/subject we read.

Let’s be both book-smart and street-smart, shall we?

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Maya

Maya

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