Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

From a Dorm Room Conversation to Landing in Ethiopia

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Just three months ago, I was interviewing with a start-up in San Francisco, when I received an email from one of their recruiters saying that they were no longer looking for interns, as the company was beginning to reassess their future. At that point, the one place I was really hoping to work for this summer was going under; however, little did I know what was ahead of me.

Right after I received that email, I went to a friend to talk about my frustration over losing this (potentially) wonderful internship. Here I was—in the middle of April—with no internship for the summer, despite having applied to over 50 companies and interviewing with a handful. As I was talking with a friend about the start-up opportunity that vanished before me, he explained to me that there was an opportunity to work at the United Nations for the summer. Immediately, I said to him, “You can’t joke about that…just stop,” and within 48 hours, I landed the opportunity to work at the United Nations for the summer.

In my first week of this “internship”, I was actually informed of a few key things that have made this experience much more fulfilling and meaningful:

  1. At the United Nations (UN), I immediate learned about its complex organizational structure: there are the Member States, UN bodies (such as the World Bank), Major Groups & Other Stakeholders, and others types of organizations and structures. A Major Group is an UN-mandated mechanism that is involved in United Nations negotiation processes, through which many organizations and individuals participate. Each Major Group has many organizations within it, including the one I am in: the Major Group for Children & Youth (MGCY). MGCY was created at the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to represent social groups in Sustainable Development and has hence taken to different processes as time has gone by. Although I am not a part of any organization, I work with members of various organizations in this Major Group.
  2. People within MGCY do not use the term “intern” or call the work an “internship”. The space through which MGCY runs recognizes that everyone is equal to one another, although there are some people—called deputy organizing partners—within MGCY who take the lead on certain working groups. (A working group is a task force involved in creating policies on specific UN processes.) Organizing Partners oversee all of MGCY and act as both facilitators and coordinators of all MGCY-related activities.
  3. MGCY follows several of these working groups, one of which is Financing for Development (FfD). When I learned about the opportunity to cover FfD for the summer, I also learned about the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that would be taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At this conference, Member States of the United Nations adopted an action agenda that they are to bring back to their respective nations, in order to catalyze sustainable development worldwide.

After discussing with one of the organizing partners that has been taking the lead on FfD and its respective conference, I learned that I would be sitting in on negotiations for the aforementioned action agenda in New York. I have reported what Member States were negotiating about regarding sustainable development, from technology to public-private partnerships, fishery management to solving world hunger. I have also been able to contribute to writing language that would be potentially included in this agenda, based upon positions, values, and beliefs of the Major Group for Children and Youth.

The exciting part of story, however, is when I found out that I could apply to attend to conference on a generous sponsorship. After a tough round of applications, I was honored to be selected among a large number of applicants to attend the conference on a sponsorship. Although the negotiations were supposed to finish in New York one week before the conference started, they ended the second-to-last day of the conference, where an action agenda was finally agreed upon by all and adopted. Additionally, while in Ethiopia, I was able to a tweet on behalf of MGCY the most up-to-date information regarding the conclusion of the negotiations.

Reflecting on the past week-and-a-half as I write this story back home, I never would have thought that I would have had such an amazing experience this summer, let along travel to a United Nations Conference halfway around the world.

This post was written as part of the #Interning series, which is tied to LinkedIn’s new student editorial calendar. Follow the stories here or write your own.