Internship Stories

Ryan Drysdale Gains First-Hand Info on US Foreign Policy Impacts in Chile

Ryan Drysdale spent his Summer and Fall Semesters in Santiago, Chile, improving his Spanish, interning at TechnoServe and taking courses through SU’s university partnerships. He is a MAIR student.

Chilean Diego Rivera, Maxwell MPA alumna Eliana Briceno, and Ryan Drysdale in front of the Chilean executive office called La Moneda
Chilean Diego Rivera, Maxwell MPA alumna Eliana Briceno, and Ryan Drysdale in front of the Chilean executive office called La Moneda

The Santiago Center through Syracuse University Study Abroad offers graduate students a unique opportunity to study at two of the best universities in Chile and South America while interning at a variety of organizations. During the Fall 2015 Semester, I was able to intern with the global NGO TechnoServe helping their Monitoring and Evaluation program track the progress of their initiatives working towards helping small entrepreneurs improve their business performance.

In addition to my internship, I took the two courses offered by the Santiago Center: 1) Environmental Policy in Chile and 2) Dictatorships, Human Rights, and Historical Memory in the Southern Cone. The highlight of the academic experience in Santiago was the latter course taught by historian and the center’s director, Professor Mauricio Paredes, a former member of the resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship who was detained and tortured.

Through declassified US government documents, visits to local museums and torture centers with Professor Paredes, and his engaging lectures, we gained a firsthand look at the impacts of US foreign policy and how those effects still linger today in Chile. The United States establishment in the 1970s during the Cold War, led by President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, feared the rise of democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende in the US sphere of influence. According to declassified documents, during a National Security Council meeting in 1970, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird stated: “We have to do everything we can to hurt Allende and bring him down.”

The US helped orchestrate a failed coup attempt against President Allende in 1970 and supported the successful coup against Allende in 1973 which brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Seventeen years of military rule resulted in tens of thousands tortured and disappeared, over 400,000 forced into exile abroad, and the ushering in of neoliberal economic policies crafted by Milton Friedman which has led to Chile being one of the most unequal countries in the OECD today based on a Gini coefficient of 0.51 out of 1.0

Forty-five years after the US first started to meddle in Chile’s internal politics, the ramifications still exist. Our experience in Chile, however, coincided with a historical announcement by socialist President Michelle Bachelet to start a four year process to finally rewrite the current constitution implemented in 1980 under Pinochet’s brutal military rule. A major takeaway from the semester was seeing and hearing firsthand about the drastic impacts that foreign policy and geopolitical decisions can have for decades on a country and more importantly the people of that country.

Ryan Drysdale and Maxwell MAIR-ECON student Julianne Dunn on top of the Santa Lucia hill in the heart of Santiago, Chile
Ryan Drysdale and Maxwell MAIR-ECON student Julianne Dunn  on top of the Santa Lucia hill in the heart of Santiago, Chile

 

Ryan Drysdale is Repelling down a 75 foot cliff outside of Pucón, Chile
Repelling down a 75 foot cliff outside of Pucón, Chile

Chris Conrad, Interning with International Justice Mission–“Justice is Our Middle Name”

Chris Conrad recently completed his Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) degree. While completing coursework in Syracuse, he also worked on the Black Spots Project: Mapping Global Insecurity at the Maxwell School’s Moynihan Institute for Global Affairs.

Chris Conrad went sailing for the first time ever with his Contingency Ops team. Despite the cold and windy conditions, it was a day filled with fun and laughter

Several years ago, I read Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect, which describes a plague of everyday violence against the poor. This violence keeps them in situations of poverty, while offenders – committing abuses such as human trafficking, forced labor, and violence against women and children – escape with impunity. To break the cycle of violence and poverty requires transforming dysfunctional justice systems, protecting vulnerable communities, and bringing criminals to justice for their crimes. This is the goal of International Justice Mission (IJM) through its operations around the world. IJM is partnering with governments, local communities and a network of supporters to “rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible”

Fast forward to my time at the Maxwell School, where I accepted an internship with IJM in Washington, D.C. for Fall 2015. The internship provided me an opportunity to combine my studies on security and transnational crime with advocacy for human rights and the justice movement. I worked closely with IJM’s Contingency Operations team, drafting safety and security policies, researching emerging global threats, compiling daily news briefings for senior leadership, and monitoring security events in IJM’s areas of operation.

My favorite part about working with IJM was the lively, encouraging atmosphere I encountered every day at work. The staff at IJM are some of the kindest and most encouraging people I’ve met, and they made the internship an affirming experience for all of us interns. Likewise, I grew close to the cohort of interns I worked with, who displayed a variety of knowledge and skills and a passion for justice.

Another highlight from the experience was attending IJM’s Advocacy Summit in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. Throughout the day, we met with U.S. Senators and Representatives from our home states, either thanking them for their support of the bill or asking them to be a co-sponsor.

The entire semester was an amazing time to learn and experience new things, and I feel confident as I take these next steps after graduation from the Maxwell School. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement along the way!

Attending a conference with Maxwell alum Kean Clifford, on the roof of D.C.s Newseum.
Attending a conference with Maxwell alum Kean Clifford, on the roof of DC’s Newseum.
Selfie with IJM’s CEO, Gary Haugen and other interns at IJM HQ. He delivered us delicious brownies made by his wife, Jan.
Selfie of IJM’s CEO, Gary Haugen, and other interns at IJM HQ. He delivered us delicious brownies made by his wife, Jan.
In front of the U.S. Capitol with other constituents from Michigan for IJM’s Advocacy Summit. We were on our way to meet with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. (See http://news.ijm.org/early-christmas-gift-for-anti-slavery-efforts-as-congress-approves-25-million)
In front of the U.S. Capitol with other constituents from Michigan for IJM’s Advocacy Summit. We were on our way to meet with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. (See http://news.ijm.org/early-christmas-gift-for-anti-slavery-efforts-as-congress-approves-25-million)

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Marc Barnett Tells us About Working with Transparency International

As part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Degree Program in International Security and Development Policy, Marc Barnett will graduate with dual degrees from two leading institutions. He will complete a Master of International Relations (MAIR) degree at the Maxwell School in Syracuse, and he will complete a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Over the summer, he further interned at the Council of Europe.

Atlantis students Celina Menzel, Andrew Lyman, Tim Stoutzenberger, Rachel Penner, & Marc Barnett at the Berlin Festival of Lights
Atlantis students Celina Menzel, Andrew Lyman, Tim Stoutzenberger, Rachel Penner, & Marc Barnett at the Berlin Festival of Lights

Corruption represents a pervasive issue for both the developing and developed world. It tends to undercut national security by providing safe havens for terrorist groups and organized crime as well as undermining human security through impunity and lack of accountability. Transparency International is headquartered in Berlin, Germany and one sector of this organization, the Secretariat, has fought against corruption since its inception in 1993.

Transparency International was founded by Peter Eigen who is a former World Bank employee. The Berlin-based Secretariat organizes and coordinates the fight against corruption working in conjunction with over 100 national chapters. Corruption issues have found their way to the top of many policymakers’ agendas in recent years, in no small part due to the work Transparency International has done. Due to support from PAIA, The Maxwell School, and Syracuse University I was given the opportunity to intern with Transparency International – Secretariat, which is nestled in the eclectic Berlin district of Moabit on the river Spree.

Working under the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) division, my duties mainly focused on the Western Balkans. This is an area in which I had prior expertise due to my research with the Global Black Spots Project, a joint initiative between the INSCT and Moynihan. I edited and synthesized various corruption reports from the region. Most notably I analyzed the National Integrity Systems (NIS) project, which contained seven accounts from national chapters in the region including Turkey. Some of my other responsibilities were substantial and sophisticated donor mapping analysis of South East Europe as well as working with members of the ECA team on grant proposals and concept notes to various organizations including the European Commission, Open Society Foundation, and bilateral donors in the region. Finally, I tested out important recommendations from the NIS reports in order to strategically plan for the next phase of the NIS project.

As someone interested in the developing nexus between corruption and national security, the experience proved to be invaluable. I was able to be a privileged observer to corruption experts in the field. Furthermore, building upon my experience this summer with the Council of Europe (Pompidou Group), I gained valuable insight into the inner workings of an international organization. As Transparency International develops a new strategic plan, conversations in the Berlin Secretariat resounded and resonated with my prior coursework from the Maxwell School, centering on impact, output, and strategic analysis.

I hope that future students will be able to follow in my footsteps and continue the arduous, yet rewarding work of Transparency International. Ultimately, fighting corruption remains more of an art than a science with no formula for success. Even scholars and experts often disagree on the most successful initiatives, but fixing political corruption proves to be the most important, yet possibly the most elusive.

IOM and ASP Allow Ngoc Hong Le to Explore Multiple Interests

Ngoc Hong Le is a recent graduate of Maxwell’s MAIR program. For her final two semesters, she participated in the Geneva Summer Practicum and the Maxwell-in-Washington Program.

Fall internship at ASP in Washington, DC

Ngoc Hong Le smiling in front of ASP's photo zone
Ngoc Hong Le smiling in front of ASP’s photo zone

After coming back from Europe with a wider knowledge of the migration and international relations fields, I decided to challenge myself to understand a new security field related to climate change: Climate Security. Personally, I am very concerned about the impact of climate change from manufacturing to human being’s daily lives. Climate security involves challenges from climate change to national security.

American Security Project (ASP) invited me to be a climate security intern in Fall 2015. ASP is a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century in the U.S. ASP brings together prominent American business leaders, former members of Congress, retired military flag officers, and prominent former government officials to address climate security.

As a Climate security intern, my daily duties were providing news articles related to climate change policies adopted by countries around the world and in turn following the latest news about climate change in social media such as Twitter, Google+, and other news sources. In addition, my position involved posting blog post(s) on the ASP website related to climate security issues under ASP aspects and personal aspects, and attending conferences on the Hill and around Washington D.C that were related to climate change and climate security. In addition, as an intern in ASP, I assisted ASP staff to operate conferences related to security issues, such as cyber security. Moreover, interns rotated daily to contribute to “In Case You Missed” for ASP subscribers. This gave interns the opportunity to improve knowledge on many security subjects such as American competiveness, national security strategy, asymmetry operations, public diplomacy, climate security, energy security and nuclear security, in addition to their own focus.

While interning in ASP, I got to learn basic public relations skills associated with social media, and this was a valuable contribution to interning at ASP. Public relations and communications are a tools to promote your business, as well as to increase reader viewership. The internship taught me many new things that I did not know before and it was a great experience.

Summer internship at IOM in Geneva

Ngoc Hong Le is enjoying the beauty of La Rade Lake and the Jet d’eau Fountain Geneva after the first day of work
Ngoc Hong Le enjoying the beauty of La Rade Lake and the Jet d’eau Fountain in Geneva after the first day of work

IOM Headquarters located in Geneva, Switzerland gave me an opportunity to work with the Governing Bodies Division, Department of International Cooperation and Partnerships during summer 2015. IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. My department was responsible for supporting and coordinating organization relations with IOM Member States, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and the media.

I spent a whole summer at IOM assisting staff working on the Annual International Dialogue of Migration, named the Conference of Migrant and Cities from October 26 and 27, 2015 in Palais des Nation, Geneva, Switzerland. My internship duties included providing information about potential guest speakers for all five sections of the two-day conference, as well as responding to requests from attendants and guest speakers about visas, accommodations and travel arrangements. I also attended conferences in Palais des Nation related to migration issues in the world. I have learned a lot about how to organize an international conference with VIP level guests, which I did not have before. I was able to have a great learning experience in Geneva thanks to IOM.

In addition to my daily duties, I had the opportunity to attend weekly lunch meetings, featuring different departments in IOM with other interns. They taught me how an intern-government organization works with countries and international communities. I got to know more about how field work takes place in developing countries, and I wish to learn more about my international relations field because of this experience.

Even though I did not work on the conference with staff until the last day, my knowledge of migrants has expanded, and I’ve learned necessary conference operation skills from being so deeply involved in the “Migrant and Cities” conference. It was a unique experience that I could only gain from my master’s degree from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs and Citizenships.

Ngoc Hong Le traveling in Jungfrau mountain region
Ngoc Hong Le traveling in the Jungfrau mountain region

Yibing Tang Obtains Valuable Experience at UNOCC

Yibing Tang, with other Maxwell interns at UN headquarters.
Yibing Tang (center), with other Maxwell interns at UN headquarters

Yibing Tang is a Public Diplomacy student who will earn two degrees, a Master of International Relations and Master of Science in Public Relations. She is currently taking part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program while simultaneously interning at the Broadcasting Board of Governors in the Public Affairs Department in Washington, DC. Yibing wrote the following in August 2015.

This summer, I received an internship opportunity at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I worked for three months at the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC).

UNOCC is known as the “nerve centre of the United Nations”. The UNOCC provides support to senior leaders across the UN system, enabling informed, timely and coordinated decision-making and strategic engagement on UN field operations and crisis-related issues. UNOCC was established at UN Headquarter in a joint effort by 10 stakeholders, which represent the three UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and development. The UNOCC has three basic functions: situational awareness, crisis response support, and executive communication.

Although I was recruited by the Information Management Unit (IMU) of UNOCC, I also worked with two other major units: the Research and Liaison Unit (RLU) and the Watch Room. My major duties were related to graphic design, but I helped with lots of other works as well. For example, I assisted in the preparation of presentations and speaking points for operational briefings and other meetings on a regular basis. I helped to categorize historical political, security and humanitarian incidents according to reports from peacekeeping missions in the field. I created maps to visualize peacekeeping information, and designed several layout options for UNOCC reports.

My supervisor was very concerned about my own interests. He offered me opportunities to work with other units and departments besides IMU, which enabled me to explore UNOCC as a whole and get a synthetic knowledge of the centre. Other staffs in the office were also very helpful. They taught me everything from scratch, always answered my questions in detail, and shared their career stories and working experiences generously.

I really appreciate this internship experience, from which I consolidated my graphic design skills and obtained an overview of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Town Hall briefing at a conference room Yibing Tang helped with the visual aids and presentation of Town Hall briefing
Town Hall briefing. Yibing Tang helped with the visual aids and presentation for the Town Hall briefing.

 

Hyeseul Hwang Does Cross Sectoral Work at IOM

Hyeseul Hwang wrote about her summer experience in Geneva last August. She has now graduated with an MAIR degree from the Maxwell School and a wealth of professional experience.

I arrived in Geneva at the end of the May to conduct my internship in International Organization for Migration (IOM) and to participate in the Geneva Summer Practicum. Since the start of my internship at IOM on June 1st, it is hard to believe that today is my last day of the internship! Time really flies.

During this summer, I have worked in the department of International Cooperation and Partnerships in IOM for two and a half months. I worked at supporting my supervisor, a migration policy officer. I was mainly in charge of supporting and following up with an interagency research project about a crisis related migration stocktaking exercise which targets eighteen agencies over thirty‑nine countries from all over the region. Also, I conducted my own research and wrote papers about the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Global Migration Group (GMG)), and UN HABITAT III.

The other interesting activities that I have done during my internship in IOM are participating in various events and sessions that are going on inside and outside of IOM. Day by day, there are many learning sessions and events within IOM regarding the current migration crisis, such as the Mediterranean and Syrian crises. Also, I have participated in many IOM intern events with professional talks from the field of emergency affairs, shelter assistance, and many other topics. In addition to that, participating in the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment was an amazing opportunity for me to actually see how many UN organizations and other humanitarian affairs agencies such as ICRC are working for humanitarian affairs in more collaborative ways.

In addition to my internship, the Geneva Summer Practicum course provided valuable opportunities for me to gain more understanding about work within other international actors in Geneva via guest speakers from UNHCR, Permanent Mission, Center for Human Dialogue and others. Dr. Werner Schleiffer’s profound knowledge about the UN system and class debates truly nurtured my knowledge and sense of working in the field of humanitarian affairs. Moreover, class field trips to Bern, Luzern, Zermatt, Basel, and Zurich gave me a greater understanding about living in Switzerland. I am very happy that I have spent my amazing summer in Geneva through my internship, course with the Dr. Schleiffer and awesome classmates.

Hyeseul Hwang in front of Lake Geneva
Hyeseul Hwang in front of Lake Geneva

Jane Chung, Working with East Asia Foreign Policy Community in Washington DC

Ms. Jane Yoona Chung is a dual MPA/MAIR student in the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs. She will be completing her dual degree program in Summer 2016.

During Summer 2015, I completed my internship at the US Korean Institute (USKI) at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) as Johns Hopkins University. As a program and research intern for USKI, I was responsible for several tasks, one being attending events on behalf of the research institute. This gave me the opportunity to be exposed to and meet experts from the larger East Asia foreign policy community in Washington D.C. Examples of institutes included the The Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Korea Economic Institute (KEI), Sejong Society of Washington D.C., the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Once or twice a week, I attended workshops and/or talks all over the D.C. area. One workshop that stood out to me was a simulation on post-reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Attendees were divided into groups comprised of experts, students, and visiting North Korean scholars. This workshop was an especially humbling experience as I was able to hear from the North Korean perspective on reunification first hand. Moreover, meeting the North Korean students was a fascinating encounter, one that I will never forget. Other talks and conferences I attended discussed the Russian role in East Asia, the tense relations between South Korea and Japan, and the North Korean nuclear program. Learning and hearing from experts, political officials, and academics was very rewarding as it refined and expanded my knowledge and curiosity in East Asian foreign policy.

In addition to the talks and conferences, USKI hosted its first student exchange program with Ajou University in South Korea. This exchange program brought 30 college students, from a variety of majors, to spend a month in Washington D.C. to learn about American politics, history, and culture. I was both a discussion leader that led class in the afternoon and a “guide” for afternoon site visits around Washington D.C. This gave me the opportunity to visit organizations all over the city and to attend a Washington Nationals baseball game for free!

As part of my internship, I was also responsible for conducting independent research on a current topic related to the Korean Peninsula. I presented my research to the Staff on the implications of a land bridge that would connect the Russian Far East and North Korea. With this project, I communicated with experts and had access to a plethora of resources from USKI and Johns Hopkins University (a perk of working with a university). To be able to complete this research project on top of the other responsibilities taught me how to juggle multiple responsibilities with finesse.

USKI Stock Photo

At the same time of my internship, I also took courses through the Maxwell-in-Washington program at CSIS. While it was a bit tiring to take courses in the evening right after a full day at my internship, I would still recommend taking a course. These courses are taught my experts in the field and are conducted as a seminar rather than a lecture.

Being in Washington D.C. was an eye-opening experience as it challenged me personally and professionally. During my internship and stay, I learned about the culture of think tanks, the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, and the immense beauty of the nation’s history. Although I worked full-time, Washington D.C. makes it easy to still have a social life after hours and on weekends. Friday evenings were spent enjoying a glass of sangria at Jazz at the Garden or getting a nice warm bowl of duck noodles in Chinatown. Weekends were spent traveling throughout the city on the $1 DC Circulator, free museums, free movie screenings, or hiking through Rock Creek Park. Balancing between professional and personal aspects of my experience was a challenge, but all in all, I would describe my internship experience in Washington D.C. to be humbling and rewarding.

Jane Chung (far right) with colleagues at US Korean Institute
Jane Chung (far right) with colleagues at US Korean Institute

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

From Geneva to Pretoria, Kara Coughlin Builds Experience at IOM

Kara Coughlin is a joint MPA/MAIR student who interned at the IOM in Geneva, Switzerland during her summer semester and in Pretoria, South Africa during her fall semester.

This summer I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to intern for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in their headquarters office in Geneva, Switzerland. I worked within the IOM Development Fund (IDF) on project development, monitoring, and evaluation. The goal of IDF is to provide “seed” money to governments in developing countries for projects that build capacity to better manage migration in the future. These projects focus on developing policy frameworks, training government officials, building infrastructure, raising awareness, and developing guidelines and manuals to better protect migrants and enhance governments’ ability to manage migration in a humane and orderly manner.

Working with the IDF team was an incredible learning experience for me. IDF projects cover a wide variety of migration thematic areas and are implemented in IOM country offices all over the world. As a result, I was able to learn about key migration issues in each region of the world and be in constant contact with IOM staff members from all different country offices. My role was to assist country offices in developing project proposals, as well as edit and review interim reports, final reports, and extension requests. Through these tasks I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how projects are monitored and evaluated, and the importance of designing projects with well thought out indicators.

In addition to reviewing reports, I conducted a review of completed IDF projects that focused on the prevention of human trafficking. The goal of this review was to evaluate methods used for project development and implementation to better inform IDF on how counter-trafficking related projects can be more sustainable. Sustainability is a key factor for IDF and refers to how well governments and relevant stakeholders maintain project outcomes once the IDF funding period is completed. To assess sustainability, I developed a survey that was sent to each country office that implemented one of the 18 counter-trafficking projects being reviewed. I analyzed the data from the surveys and wrote an in-depth report outlining the project characteristics that led to the greatest level of outcome sustainability, as well as the main challenges that these projects faced in maintaining outcomes. Through this project I was able to develop a better understanding of project evaluation and obtain valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of methods used to prevent human trafficking.

Interning at the IOM in Geneva gave me the opportunity to use the skills I learned from my courses at Maxwell and gain indispensible knowledge regarding the phases of project development. Through this experience, I was able to seek out another internship opportunity with IOM for the fall semester and am currently in Pretoria, South Africa interning at the IOM Regional Office for Southern Africa. I am very grateful for Global Programs Award for supporting me in these endeavors. These experiences have been pivotal to my educational goals and have given me the practical skills needed to be successful when entering the workforce.

Kara Coughlin stands in front of the Nelson Mandela statue in South Africa
Kara Coughlin stands in front of the Nelson Mandela statue in South Africa
Kara Coughlin above Lake Geneva
Kara Coughlin above Lake Geneva

Na Ra Kim, Private Sector Engagement at UNICEF

Na Ra Kim is working on dual master’s degrees, an M.A. in International Relations and an M.S. in Public Relations, as a Public Diplomacy student at Syracuse University. She interned at UNICEF in Geneva, Switzerland last summer.

I have always believed protecting children’s rights is the most important task for civil society to be aware of and act on, and my interest in children and their rights was bolstered while studying in the Public Diplomacy program at the Maxwell School.

I interned at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Geneva, Switzerland from May to August 2015. I worked under the Knowledge Management (KM) Specialist and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team within the Private Sector Engagement Section in the UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnership division.

As a Private Sector Engagement Officer, I provided ongoing technical support for knowledge management information on issues related to UNICEF’s private sector engagement. This included uploading content to their intranet site/Internet website, developing templates for collecting information, and drafting case studies and other related materials for newsletters. My role also included participating in conference calls, creating presentation materials and press releases, and supporting data collection and statistical evaluation. Additionally, I researched CSR in different industries (e.g., Food and Beverage, Garment, ICT, Extractives) and the way in which those sectors affect children’s rights and youth development. I also took notes at the Human Rights Council 29th session for the CSR team.

From this internship, I learned about development policy, advocacy, and communication strategy in general, but I mostly realized how important it is to share information and documents within the organization and how it affects the targeting of civil society and leads to its participation.

I would like to add it was a great chance to work with UNICEF staff members and other interns. I was fortunate to work with incredibly nice and sincere supervisors who truly wanted me to learn from my internship, as well as with interns who all encouraged each other to accomplish our goals. Also, it was an honor to meet incredible UN people, ambassadors, representatives and spokespeople during conferences and events. It was a turning point of my life and I really want to recommend this opportunity to everyone in Maxwell.

In addition to my internship, Professor Schleiffer’s lectures also inspired me a lot. He helped me understand the UN system and the history of international organizations in Geneva. Presentations from speakers who currently work at the UN, International Organizations and the Permanent Mission, were the part of his class that I definitely loved the most.

No doubts, Geneva is the most beautiful city to work, travel and dream in. You will find yourself enjoying cheese, chocolate and wine around the nearby lake after work. That’s Geneva.

Nara Kim, at the UN Headquarter, in Geneva
Nara Kim at UN Headquarter in Geneva

Vicki Tien, Public Information Intern at UNHCR in Washington DC

Lin Tien, Public Diplomacy student
Vicki Tien, UNHCR in Washington, DC, USA

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.

High Commissioner António Guterres launches a new UNHCR report, Women on the Run, at the Wilson Center
High Commissioner António Guterres launches a new UNHCR report, Women on the Run, at the Wilson Center
Vicki Tien carries a giant backpack around DC to raise awareness for refugee children! This backpack is part of UNHCR’s “the Tour around the World in a Backpack” Campaign and has traveled in more than 10 countries collecting messages and gifts of support and solidarity for refugee children.
Vicki Tien carries a giant backpack around DC to raise awareness for refugee children! This backpack is part of UNHCR’s “the Tour around the World in a Backpack” Campaign and has traveled in more than 10 countries collecting messages and gifts of support and solidarity for refugee children.

Backpack promo pic