What internship did you do?
I was an intern at United Nations Volunteers (UNV), administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at the United Nations in Bonn, Germany. UNV supports human development worldwide by promoting volunteerism as a cross-cutting tool to facilitate this process. Their mandate is to develop projects that support development, in particular with regards to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in addition to their established UN Volunteer programme.
What work were you involved in?
I had two supervisors during my internship. With my first supervisor, I was helping develop a very new project, the Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Project. This was intended to act as a platform to accelerate the MDG Framework, and to ensure that countries strive to achieve all 8 Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline, as well as drawing up plans for beyond this deadline. I also worked a lot on sustainable development issues, especially on the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in July (Rio+20).
My second supervisor was the in-house legal specialist at the UN, and I learnt a lot about the legal framework within the UN system. I created a database detailing the legal provisions already in place for UN Volunteers abroad, as well as analysed and produced reports on cases from the UN Appeals Tribunal and Dispute Tribunals, and UN Resolutions pertaining to UNV’s mandate.
How did you hear about the internship?
Through UNV’s website.
What was the application procedure and who is eligible to apply?
There are Terms of Reference attached to each internship vacancy, detailing the work that will be done during the period of the internships and the skills required. I sent my CV alongside a letter of motivation.
Only students enrolled in a postgraduate programme of study are eligible to apply.
Is the internship paid?
Unfortunately the internship is unpaid. Interns must also have proof of health insurance before their internship starts.
What sponsorship possibilities are available?
Universities are willing to sponsor some interns, as well as certain education and government bodies. I would recommend talking to your university careers service and discussing what options there are; they can point you in the right direction.
What previous experience did you have?
This was my second internship at the UN in Bonn, Germany; my initial one was the previous summer with United Nations Environment Programme (Unep). This should not deter anyone from applying for an internship, as most of the interns I had met there were on their first internship; I just wanted to do a second one to experience a different part of the UN. My experience with Unep definitely helped, as a lot of the sustainable development issues I worked on were highly relevant for this internship, and it helped that I was already familiar with the UN system.
Was it as you expected?
It was very challenging at times to help develop a new project, but very rewarding. In addition, I felt that my legal studies were really being put to good use, and I gained a perspective on alternative careers into law, such as being an in-house legal specialist for an international organisation.
What tips could you give to somebody about to start their internship?
If you speak a second or third language, use it to your advantage as much as possible. I was very lucky to be able to use my fluency in French and Persian to full effect during the time of my internship. It’s a fantastic way to meet colleagues and I did a lot of networking thanks to my language skills alone!
In addition, the UN offers free language classes and I took a weekly class in German. This definitely helped me with getting around the city and being able to communicate (to a small extent!) with locals. Generally speaking, German people speak perfect English – it definitely should not put you off moving to a different country if you don’t speak the language, as the UN is an English-speaking environment and it will be a perfect opportunity to learn a new language while you’re there.
In terms of finding accommodation, I would recommend looking in advance; I was lucky in that I found a girl who was travelling abroad exactly during the period of my internship, but I know others who were living in hostels while trying to find accommodation.