Ivan Zhivkov also interned at the U.S. Department of State in the European Affairs office as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program.
My name is Ivan G. Zhivkov and I am a Master of Arts in International Relations student, focusing on security and diplomacy pertaining to Eastern Europe. Having spent the initial two semesters on campus, partaking in the core MAIR and some fascinating elective courses, I decided to spend my summer 2016 studying abroad. I chose the Graduate Internships in Geneva program, due to the unique opportunity that it offers to intern with an international organization at the heart of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Upon multiple interviews, I was selected by Werner Schleiffer to be a part of the program and placed to intern with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Working in WMO was intensive, educational, and extremely rewarding. I was placed in the Climate and Water Department, serving as an Intern with the Agricultural Meteorology Division. I was in charge of working on Drought Management, National Capacity, and improving the Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) for Central and Eastern Europe, the Horn of Africa, and West Africa. I had two supervisors, the Director of Agricultural Meteorology, who assigned me to work on drought and flood management, and the Senior Program Officer for the IDMP. I was in charge of researching, assessing, and reporting on National Drought Programs (since only 18 UN Member States have so far implemented them), Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and how they relate to a country’s effort to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions, and the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals.
My responsibilities were wide and diverse. I had the opportunity to attend branch, council, and town hall meetings, learning how WMO functions and where it needs to improve. The statistics bureau of the International Labour Organization was hosted on the third floor of the WMO building, allowing me an easier access to another organization and learning from its work. Working with WMO was an invaluable experience for me. Although it did not directly relate to my focus of studies, some of the skills that I acquired at Maxwell allowed me to thrive in WMO.
Living and working in Geneva opened my eyes to the function of international organizations, their relationship with the local community, and to experience life in Switzerland. Rich and diverse experiences characterized my time in Geneva. I was the only American from a group of roughly twenty interns in WMO, which allowed me to learn from their cultures, share common experiences, and practice foreign languages. Interacting with locals allowed me to make friends and improve my French. Overall, the Geneva Summer Practicum was invaluable to my education, to my development as a future international relations professional, and to my improvement as a world citizen. I would recommend it to anyone and I would not trade it for the world.