Vicki Tien formerly interned at the World Food Programme in Geneva as part of the Geneva Summer Practicum. She is a MAIR student who will graduate in December.
This fall I had the opportunity to work at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Washington, DC. UNHCR is the UN refugee agency mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. UNCHR’s Washington Office on the other hand is a regional office of UNHCR which specifically covers the United States as well as 27 countries and overseas territories in the Caribbean.
As a Public Information intern, I work closely with the Public Information officers and UNHCR Spokespersons for the US. I am responsible for several tasks, such as:
- Monitoring news related to refugee issues and immigration policies in the US and the Caribbean, and preparing daily reports
- Responding to requests from the US media and the public
- Providing support for UNHCR campaigns and pitching to major media outlets
- Disseminating press releases and other relevant documents on a timely basis
- Attending congressional hearings and public policy forums pertaining to UNHCR and briefing staff.
In addition to my duties in the Public Information Unit, I also provide assistance to staff in other units as needed. For instance, I provided support to our External Relations officers during the High Commissioner’s visit to Washington. I also work directly with our Regional Representative for the Washington Office’s weekly reports.
There are several learning opportunities during the internship at UNHCR. In the beginning of the internship, units like the Resettlement Unit and the Protection Unit would provide intern training, which are open to every intern from every unit. From time to time, heads of different regional offices, such as UNHCR’s Jordan Representative and Americas Bureau Director, would visit the Washington Office to share the latest refugee situations in their regions with DC staff and interns. There is also a weekly UN in DC Brown Bag Series, featuring different speakers from various UN offices to introduce the mandates of different UN agencies and share their career advice with the interns.
Due to a surge in media attention for the Syrian refugee crisis around the globe, UNHCR’s Public Information Unit has been flooded with hundreds of media requests during the past few months. It is such a unique learning experience for me to join UNHCR under these circumstances as it has allowed me to gain first-hand insight into the work of UNHCR and see how it is handling and managing the current crisis. It has also expanded my knowledge on refugee issues and US resettlement processes as well as further building my experience and skills in the field of communications, particularly in media relations and social media. Interning with UNHCR has been an invaluable experience, and I am truly grateful for every experience I am able to have here.