Independent, International, Virtual! A UN Internship Online
When and where did you complete a virtual international internship?
I had the honor to intern with the United Nations Association in Canada, through Carleton’s International Internship Program in the Winter 2021 Term. The length of the placement was four months, lasting from January 2021 to April 2021. UNA-Canada is a non-profit organization that engages Canadians in the work of the United Nations and many global and international issues.
Describe your internship role. What were the cross-cultural components?
My role was diverse and I was involved in a variety of initiatives revolving around the UN BYE (Building Young Entrepreneurs) program. Firstly, I assisted in the development of briefing materials, such as a two-pager information package for external partners, describing the new phase of BYE. I also assisted with logistics during training sessions, and was responsible for supporting social media communications. I also enhanced my grant-writing skills and fundraising abilities by researching and applying to grant schemes in both the public and private sectors. This last task included researching corporate social responsibilities for different companies and thinking critically about which would align with UNA-Canada’s mission. As the launch of our recruitment for the 2021 Building Young Entrepreneurs cohort took place, I was also tasked with some PR and stakeholder relations jobs, reaching out to youth organizations, non-profits, universities and national actors all over Canada to promote the programme. Finally, I liaised with student applicants and successful candidates from across the country and around the world. Through this and other projects during the internship, I was able to engage with youth from a diverse range of nationalities, including Chinese, Peruvian, and many more! Most were based in Canada, but the cross-cultural communication component was still present.
What is your major or area of study? Does your industry have international components?
I am a fourth-year student at Carleton University majoring in global and international studies. My program continues to provide me with a multidisciplinary foundation in global and international issues occurring worldwide. Using these approaches to study the world, I have gained a global perspective, intercultural understanding and knowledge of diversity in global social and cultural environments. As a result, I am a highly globally aware and worldly citizen with the desire and aspiration to continue learning about the world through experience. As part of my course, there is a mandatory international component, wherein we must pursue studies or an internship in an international context. Given the current situation with the pandemic, those programs are being offered virtually.
Did you face any challenges as a result of working remotely? How did you overcome them?
One challenge that I found as a result of working remotely was not having a manager physically present during my work hours. I had to learn how to make independent decisions whenever I ran into challenges, because my managers were often busy. This was tough at first, but quickly turned into an opportunity, since I built the skills to be more confident working and solving problems alone.
What made you pursue a virtual international internship?
During these unprecedented times, there were many moments when I questioned what exactly I was going to do with my time. I quickly realized that a virtual internship would not only be an amazing way to gain professional skills but a fun way to network with professionals my field all over the world. I found that many employers actually need workers who are able to adapt to the current situation by working effectively online, and having a virtual internship on your resume is a great way to show that skill set. In my position, I was given the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals and increase my knowledge of the non-profit sector while developing my interpersonal skills – all virtually.
Do you have any advice for professional communication via online channels (online meetings, Skype, chat, phone messages, file management, etc.)
Communicating online is definitely not the same as in person. My number one tip would be to try and be as organized as you can be! It is very easy to get lost amongst the hundreds of incoming messages, group chat requests, virtual meetings and different files. It is also super easy to get caught up and confused when everything is digital. Stay organized! I myself use Google Calendar to manage my school work, work life and internship priorities.
Do you have advice for others hoping to pursue virtual international internships?
With everything being online and virtual, sometimes making the distinction between when to work and rest is very hard. I myself am a workaholic! I found myself working at times that I should have been resting. When you are super passionate about your placement and the work they do, this problem is one that is very easy to get wrapped up in. At times it can be overwhelming. However, it is important to take scheduled breaks for your mental health as well. Having access to your work in combination with school can be very challenging but taking necessary breaks is key!
How will international skills impact your future in your chosen industry?
My time as an intern has been filled with remarkable learning opportunities and astonishing experiences that will definitely contribute to my personal and professional development as I begin my career. I gained valuable work skills in a virtual setting and also built my knowledge base about the non-profit sector. I built my public relations skills, stakeholder engagement capabilities as well as increased my professional network in a field that I am super passionate about!
What are your future plans for international learning, travel and/or your career?
In the future I hope to be able to go abroad and experience a new culture physically. The experience that I gained with this virtual internship definitely improved my interpersonal skills in many ways. I hope to one day go abroad to South America, work on global issues I'm passionate about, and make new connections! With this internship I learned about program implementation, and I am hoping I can use this skill in an international context in future.
Since Inaara is aiming towards a global career, it’s doubly important for her to have meaningful cross-cultural work experiences during her studies, and to learn how to describe her international skills professionally. We commend Inaara for completing the well-respected UN virtual internship program.
If she hasn’t already done so, we suggest that she adds a language learning component to her program, or as an extra during her summer after graduation. Second and third language skills are appreciated in almost all international careers. We’d also recommend that once global travel is moving once again, she should travel abroad long-term to complete an immersive internship or volunteer experience with an organization overseas. Inaara could even consider an international master’s to further underscore her commitment to going global in her life and career. Good luck!
- [idlink:8773: %title] will help you frame your experiences in terms of key career competencies.
- The Ideal International Profile is a key article for anyone considering working towards an international career.
- Language Learning & Your International Career discusses the significant career value of language skills, and ways to go about building them.
- Building Towards a Career in International Development is an article written for those who are just starting out and who made a decisive choice to work in international development.
- International Development Career Resources lists a range of resources for those who want to build their careers in international development.