My United Nations Experience: Six months as an intern at UNIC Tokyo
Previous to my internship at UNIC, which I undertook from January to June 2014, the United Nations seemed a bit removed from my own reality. As I am from Germany, I had certainly never witnessed UN activities in my home country – an experience I am sure many Japanese share. Later, studying International Relations at university, I studied the UN in depth and strove to improve my understanding of this complex organizational system as much as possible. Despite this constant exposure and my hope to work for the UN one day, I did not know whether I would ever be able to realize this dream and the UN remained an object of study more than anything else. When I finished my Master’s degree and was accepted as an intern to UNIC Tokyo, I was extremely pleased and curious about how my experience there would evolve.
UNIC Interns with Ms. Rajni Jha, a YLC participant and an international para-swimming champion from India
In January 2014, once I began my internship, one of my first assignments was to interview some of the participants in the UNOSDP 8th Young Leadership Camp which was held in Tokyo. Personally, I had not even known that UNOSDP existed so I first discovered this particular angle from which the UN approaches some of the issues it works on. The camp participants were young persons, mostly from the developing world, honing their skills and developing their talents to contribute even more to peace and development of their communities back home through sport. Some of them came from very disadvantaged backgrounds. When I saw their hard work and determination to persevere despite many difficulties, be they personal, social or economic, I was deeply impressed and glad to have met some of them because their leadership set a very good example for me, too.
Not only the events and encounters with external guests and invitees but also my colleagues at UNIC Tokyo and at various UN agencies were invaluable to me. Meeting the staff and fellow interns from various other agencies at theUNU Headquarters building inspired me and taught me so many things. I especially wish to thank all my Japanese colleagues who took the time to teach me things about Japan and Japanese culture and language. Although I visited places such as Kamakura and the Izu Peninsula and read up on various things on my own, I could never have learnt as much without them and I feel both grateful and enlightened thanks to them.
As far as the contents of my work go, I learnt much about the field of communications, which of course is one important area of the work of UNIC. Although I knew that public relations are important in politics and diplomacy, I had no insight into how the process worked in concrete terms. Moreover, having had very little direct contact with diplomats and international civil servants, I was fortunate to learn from their vast experience and knowledge about how to build positive relationships through diplomacy and how to bring all stakeholders to the table. It was great to meet Under-Secretary-General Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal on his recent visit to Japan and to be a part of the Middle East Media Seminar in which many different panelists showed how they contribute to the peace process.
Some of the UN staff, interns, and seminar panelists who made the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East happen
Going back to the beginning of this reflection, I can safely say that the UN has become a place of profound learning for me. Through becoming a part of what is often called the “UN family” I learnt many valuable lessons – not only at the professional but also at the human level. I experienced the UN as a place of human interaction, people working with people and for people and I feel very happy to have been a part of it. Therefore I thank everyone who has contributed to this special experience of mine and I wish to encourage others, who may share my initial perspective but are nonetheless curious, to explore how they could become a part of the United Nations.