Dreaming about making political impact? Want to work in truly international environment, since you’re passionate about global projects? Or maybe you want to use your degree from outside politics in a political setting? If any of these sound like you, maybe you should apply to the United Nations for your next internship! I’m going to present everything you need to know before you click “apply” to make sure you, and the United Nations, get the match made in heaven stamp of approval.
Let’s dive in a word of politics to learn what an internship at United Nations can give you!
1. Location—or Rather “A” for Adapting to the Pandemic Reality
The usual localization of UN internships initially started in New York, however, as we all know, the pandemic transferred many offices into a work-from-home situation. Although anyone can name a couple of negatives for that, it also took long distances out of the equation. In the case of the United Nations, it means you don’t need to physically be in New York to the intern.
“I do feel like I’m missing out on office events—but the personality and welcoming character of the team makes it all for the better. It’s great having the flexibility to work from home and continue local grassroots work as well, ” Founder/CEO of the Spark Foundation and current intern at the United Nations Rochelle Prasad said.
The team really exuded a welcoming attitude and allowed for swift greeting and integration into the office even without the in-person events. Definitely a great advantage, as many offices lost a lot of human connections in the world of working from home.
2. Unlimited internship possibilities
If I aimed to mention here all the positions available, this article would turn into a multiple-page long pdf document. That is one of the biggest advantages inside United Nations—you could intern as a political affairs intern, an ECOSOC intern (United Nations Economic and Social Council), or the one that I heard probably the most positive opinions on, an internship at the Office of Global Communications. Check out agencies around the UN such as WHO (if you have a degree in the health-related field) or UN Women also offer internship positions if you want to make the world more equal, as well! Awesome, right?
3. What’s it actually like
It’s a great experience, but it can get chaotic. A lot happens at the UN all the time. At the same time, already an army of people work there. Therefore, prepare yourself for the fact that it may take around a week for your team to learn your name and about your new presence. Don’t be discouraged though!
“My experience so far has been awesome! It started off with an uncertain beginning, with no welcome letter/package and or on boarding workshop. And the first week on the internship, no one knew I started! But from that week on, I’ve felt welcomed, encouraged and supported. The team here at Global Communications are truly inspiring people,” Prasad said.
Starting a new job doesn’t always go perfectly, but the global workplace means that it can take a while to adjust and fit in, but the experience one gets makes up for it. You can explore so much more, and once you get recognized, your team will make sure you get taken care of.
4. Cool stuff you get to do
The ability to attend some high-level meetings definitely makes it to the top of coolest things about interning at the UN. Depending on the position, some meetings you will be asked to attend, some you may help to organize and others you may just end up attending if you ask collogues. For example, some interns end up helping with the annual assembly, while others attend climate conferences and that gives you an opportunity to meet a lot of cool people.
“My supervisor gave even more opportunities than I expected when I started working with them. Originally my only duty was to do translations for the organization’s newsletter from Italian and Spanish to English, but eventually, I started working with data entry and attending multiple United Nations NGO meetings. By attending meetings with different NGOs, I was able to meet leaders from all over the world,” Former intern Alissa D’Vale said.
Right now, due to COVID, a lot of them transferred to an online sphere, but that doesn’t mean that being on these meetings online sounds any less cool or prestigious.
3. What you will learn
That depends on positions you apply for and the one you get, but something that you will for sure learn. Firstly, you will learn how to navigate work in a diverse environment with multiple interests and agendas involved. Secondly, you will learn project management and coordination as interns besides regular clerical work often get involved in a specific project or couple of them. Thirdly, you will definitely practice your formal writing skills as their interns may be asked to report on issues, summarize meetings, or work on documents and agendas.
“The staff provided support and guidance for the interns. Furthermore, we were provided the opportunity to write reports and a research paper, which enriched the internship. We had constant communication and a variety of tasks to understand the system,” former intern Aishwarya Narasimhadevara said.
It just goes to show how well-rounded and thoughtful experience this internship gives you. The United Nations and its surrounding agencies provide a variety of tasks so you can learn and experience as much as possible.
2. How to prepare for the application
Networking never killed nobody, so go out there and connect! Pre-pandemic, the United Nations allowed for registration for some events and sessions for the public, if you lived in New York area.
“Attend the events the UN has, get to know the people, the work that gets done at that office you want to apply. When you know these things, their objectives, how they work, in your application it will be a lot easier to express how you will be a great asset for the department,” Former intern at Office of Global Communications at United Nation Valentina Méndezsaid.
In the pandemic, they offer streamed sessions where you can still ask questions and interact. This can be a great way to interact with staff and learn more about UN work in practice, to tailor the application to the needs of the specific office.
1. Pro-Tip for anyone who wants to apply!
Languages are the key to work in such an international workplace, so don’t forget to emphasize your ability to speak them. United Nations communicates in its six official languages: English, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. As you read this article, you could already be speaking one of them. Now, it may be a great time to learn additional languages. If you just started college, taking French classes may be an especially good idea, as most United Nations internship offers mention French. Of course, if you speak any other from the remaining five, you make an excellent addition to the team too, as knowledge of any of them will add to your application.
The internship is part-time or full-time depending on the agency.
Duration: 6 months (usually)
United Nations, unfortunately, offers only unpaid internships so keep that in mind.
If you want to apply for United Nations posts many offers up on LinkedIn and you can also check out the websites of agencies you find yourself interested in.