Ever since I was a kid, it was my dream to work for the United Nations. I never thought it would actually happen, but it did!
I grew up in a Canadian city in Northern British Columbia called Prince George: our population is just under 80,000. I used to think that this was a “big” city. Little did I know that one day I would be working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) at UNICEF EAPRO in Bangkok, a city of over 8 million people!
While job searching after grad school, I learned about the International Development and Diplomacy Internship Programme (IDDIP). This programme, offered through the United Nations Association of Canada (UNA-Canada), gives young Canadians the opportunity to work for UN Agencies around the world.
On a whim, I applied to IDDIP, and I was accepted! Before I knew it, I went from -30 degrees Celsius to above 30 degrees, from Prince George to Bangkok!
I was absolutely thrilled to work for UNICEF – but I was also terrified. Who was I to earn a spot here? Did I belong here? Was I an imposter?
I used to have moose in my backyard – now I had skyscrapers! What could a girl from a small city in Northern British Columbia have to offer to the UN?
Working at UNICEF – I can do this!
Despite my fears, I accomplished a lot during my time at UNICEF.
During my 6 months at UNICEF EAPRO, I have worked with the Education department to help advance the efforts of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). The aim of UNGEI is to realize “a world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, and a world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social, and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed.”
Through this work, I have been given the chance to connect with partners from lots of different agencies. I got to learn about the different girls’ education initiatives happening in the region.
I also was given the opportunity to organize two UNGEI regional partnership meetings. Being responsible for coordinating these meetings was quite a rewarding experience. I gained lots of valuable communication, organizational, and networking skills!
As it turned out, my fears of being an imposter were unfounded.
Although there were many challenges, I was able to overcome them. I feel proud of what I accomplished during this internship!
The people at UNICEF have helped me realize my potential as a young professional. While working with the Education team, I was given not only guidance, but trust.
I learned that I can do this.
When I wasn’t working on UNGEI-related tasks, I would help out the team wherever I could on other projects. I helped prepare presentations, edited education strategy documents, conducted research on digital skills for girls, developed an intranet repository site, and attended a range of interesting meetings and workshops!
During these meetings, I gained valuable insight into critical development issues in the region. I got to attend workshops on a range of topics including gender equality, the rights of young people, and comprehensive sexuality education for out-of-school children.
I even got to act as rapporteur for the 10th Regional Steering Committee meeting for SEA-PLM, a South-East Asia regional learning assessment. It was fascinating to watch the development of this important regional learning assessment first-hand. It was quite the task being rapporteur – in the end, I had written 74 pages worth of notes!
I have to admit, one of my favourite parts about these meetings was THE FOOD. At one of the meetings I had three entire plates of Pad Thai!
Whenever I would offer help to someone in the office, they were always very appreciative. You often hear horror stories about interns being treated poorly, being stuck with basic tasks like coffee-runs. This was not my experience. During my internship, I was trusted to do real, meaningful work. And the work that I did was always met with gratitude.
This really was a wonderful internship experience!
You can do it too!
I know that there are other people like me out there.
Somewhere in the world, there is a young person who dreams of one day working for the UN. Maybe this person has an opportunity to get their foot in the door, but they are nervous about their skills. Maybe they’re not sure if they belong. Maybe they don’t know if they can do this.
I want to be able to reach out to this person and tell them the truth: You can do this!
At the start of this internship, I thought I was an imposter. However, I quickly learned to have confidence in my skills. With the help of the Education team and everyone at UNICEF EAPRO, I learned that I have a lot to offer!
I think it’s incredibly important to find a balance between humility and confidence, especially as an intern. You don’t want to be so over-confident that you don’t learn anything. However, you also don’t want to be so humble that you degrade yourself.
I hope I can use my experience to inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter how intimidating it may seem.
Thank you for everything, UNICEF EAPRO!