Recent grad Ran Guo, (’23) International Relations, Political Science (BA); Minor Philosophy shared the following about being an Intern at the United Nations…
What did you do as an intern at this organization?
What you get to do as a UN intern really depends on the time of the year. I started my internship in mid-September just three days before the annual UN General Assembly week, when the heads of state around the world gathered together in New York City, so a lot of my work was about helping with these conferences. I worked with the United Nations Department of Global Communications, Civil Society Unit, Non-Government Liaison Service (NGLS) Office. The Civil Society Unit is mostly responsible for connecting civil society organizations with the UN through meetings, newsletters, formal affiliations, and conference registrations. For the UNGA week and a couple of days after that, I volunteered to distribute tickets to NGO attendees for 6 conferences.
Then, between late September and mid-October, I helped analyze data and craft infographics for all UN Conferences happening in the past year, including the one I attended as a Tufts student representative in March (5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries). It mostly involved skills of graphic design and Excel, and the workload pretty chill—usually below 20 hours per week. Starting late October, I prepared the annual report for the NGLS Office for the end-of-year review. These experiences really allow me to look deep into the participant demographics—for example, I was surprised to see Africa to be one of the most active for almost all UN conferences.
How did you find this internship?
I learned about this internship through Kelly Roberts! She is the Tufts Career Advisor for International Government, International Affairs, and Policy. I would recommend everyone exploring a career in international affairs to reach out to her! She is super passionate about helping students, extremely knowledgeable about NYC, and is willing to help you more than you expected! We still regularly keep in touch after the start of my internship and I learned a lot of fun events, alum activities, and future career resources in NYC through her.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
Definitely the countless events happening in UN and around NYC! Before I came to NYC, I felt that it might be too chaotic for me after four years in Medford. I turned out to like the city very much. I work two days in person every week in the UN office. For the other five days in the week, I could basically arrange my own time to really explore the city, make new friends, explore all kinds of food in the world, and attend cultural activities.
My colleagues at the Civil Society Unit are super chill and helpful—they would work hard to ensure you get tickets to all UN events that you wish to attend! I was very fortunate to get tickets for all high-level conferences I volunteered for, which was an eye-opening and humbling experience. I sat right before the Secretary-General in the 78th UN Day of Concert.
What did you find challenging?
I think everything is pretty manageable! One thing I keep thinking about is perhaps “what’s next” after the UN, because the institution is a quite rigid hierarchy where few interns could stay for longer than six months or get a “return offer,” and I think most interns are here for the experience rather than the prospect for full-time employment. As a result, I had to be constantly aware of other opportunities. The good thing is that a lot of future employers do appreciate your time at the UN, which makes it a valuable professional experience for future career development!
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to make the most of an internship like yours?
I would say there are two kinds of internships. One is skill-heavy, which usually comes with high workload and intensive hours; the other is network/knowledge heavy, which comes with flexible hours and abundant opportunities outside of daily work. For most interns, their work as the UN belongs to the latter kind, so definitely take time to network and learn: meet other interns, attend conferences in-person, learn about the UN structure and activities, and form your own opinion on the UN and their work. Try to live close to where you work, so that you wouldn’t miss the events going on inside the UN complex and around Manhattan! Overall, I think the UN Headquarter in NYC is definitely a great place to be for students interested in global affairs!
About the Organization
The Department of Global Communications tells this UN story across multiple platforms, digital and traditional, to build support for the aims and work of the United Nations. Through our global operations and offices in 60 countries, we reach millions of people with trusted, objective information and an inclusive message that enables the public, civil society, private sector and Member States to engage in the work of the United Nations.
Communicating in more than 80 languages, the Department embodies the United Nations principle of multilingualism, extending our impact to all corners of the world.