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Melissa C., Geneva International Relations Internship

Melissa at UN in GenevaInterned in International Relations at the Women’s World Summit Foundation, Spring 2015

This past spring, I studied in Geneva, Switzerland at the University of Geneva for the International Relations Internship Program.  After finishing up the six weeks of the semester attending classes, I worked as an intern for the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF), which is an international organization with United Nations consultative status dedicated to empowering women and children, particularly in rural areas.

During my internship at WWSF I helped to research and write for WWSF’s newest campaign, the “17 Days of Activism for the Empowerment of Rural Women and Communities,” which aims to empower rural women and their communities to rise and claim their rights by addressing their local and national governments, and the international society at large.  My day-to-day tasks at WWSF consisted mainly of researching and writing about rural women’s rights, i.e. the right to water, land, adequate healthcare, etc.  After the writing portion of the campaign was finished, I also helped with the final editing and formatting of the campaign and am now published as a co-author of the campaign kit.  However, in addition to helping draft the campaign, I also got to attend the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations as a representative of WWSF, where I got to attend panels and discussions geared towards advancing international human rights.

The thing that surprised me most about my time abroad was how easy it was to travel to other countries and experience new things.  As Switzerland is located very centrally in Europe, all of the destinations that I travelled to via plane were within 1-2 hours away from Geneva, which was very convenient considering how short all of the trips I took were!  I thought it was really cool literally being able to eat breakfast in Kotor, have lunch in Zurich, and grab dinner in Geneva.

The hardest part of my experience, hands-down, was not knowing how to speak French.  Even though most people in Geneva speak at least a little bit of English, it was a very big shock to arrive in a country and have no idea how to speak the language.   I eventually learned the basics in French, like grocery shopping and ordering at cafes, but I would still definitely recommend to anyone going on the Geneva program to familiarize him or herself with the French language.

The best part of my experience was meeting new friends.  Most of my friends from school either went abroad in a different city or stayed in Boston for the spring semester, so when I left for Geneva I didn’t know anyone on my program.  However, as the Geneva program is a relatively small program, a lot of people were in the same boat as I was, which I think made it much easier to make new friends.  Everybody on the program was so ready to explore and try new things in Geneva that I don’t think anybody really had much trouble finding friends to travel with, and I think most of us left Geneva with long-lasting friendships as well!

My top tip for those planning to study in Geneva, aside from learning to speak French of course, is to research local attractions going on in Geneva during the time that you’ll be there.  Geneva has a lot of exciting cultural events to offer, but they are easy to miss if you don’t know what they are!  I would also highly recommend travelling mostly by foot.  Since Geneva is a pretty small city, it is really easy to get to different places by walking.  Even though it has a great transportation system, the best way to experience the city is to walk through it and take in all of the beautiful scenery.

I think that one of the best hidden gems in Geneva is a boulangerie located right around the corner from the residence called “Celine et Sebastien,” which has great pastries, sandwiches, and coffee for inexpensive prices.  Since Geneva can get pretty pricey, this cafe is a great place to stop in for a quick bite or small coffee when you’re not willing to pay $6 for a Starbucks!  The other hidden gem that I found and absolutely loved was the Golden Pass Line, which is a panoramic train that runs through the Alps.  If you’re only going to take one train ride while you’re in Switzerland, this is definitely the one to take!

Kate Walsh, Paris Internship and Geneva & London International Conflict Resolution

LondonInterned for a small, French management-consulting firm in Paris, Spring 2013. Also studied International Conflict Resolution Program in Geneva & London during Summer 2013.

I Learned: Even though I’d taken French languages courses up to the 300 level at BU, I couldn’t really speak the language until I had to take courses with Parisian professors and haggle over fruit prices with vendors.

I also learned that when all else fails: charades.

Comparing/Contrasting My Work Experiences: The business I interned for in Paris was trying to expand globally, so they had a number of interns from very different backgrounds. Almost all of the businesses I’ve worked for in the US have only had American employees, which leads to a relatively limited perspective in the workplace.  I’ve really only worked with small businesses, but my experiences with coworkers have been extremely positive in both France and America.  Side note: for anyone who will be living in France, the French are much more direct about topics that Americans consider controversial like politics or religion. Don’t take offense!

Hardest Part: Once I was accused of stealing an apple from Monoprix (basically the French Target) by an over-zealous security guard. It was traumatizing.

Best Part: The best part of being abroad was making connections with both the other students on my program and fellow travelers. I’m still in contact with people I met in random European hostels!

 

Deepika Sud, Geneva Internship Program–Public Health Track

Interned in Consulting with Global Development–Advising the Leaders, Spring 2013

Internship: I interned at a boutique consulting firm called Global Development-Advising the Leaders which assists various players such as international organizations, non-profits, governments, company and industry alliances, private foundations, and global public-private partnerships to catalyze and develop sustainable global partnerships in international development. Practice areas of the consultancy include global health, food security millennium development goals, corporate social responsibility and social investments. Clients and stakeholders include the World Health Organization, Merck, USAID, the Global Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

My role as an intern included a wide variety of tasks including working with the president on a daily basis on internal briefings and consultancy proposals, participating in conference calls, and facilitating and coordinating planning for a private sector round table discussion at the Global Newborn Health Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Throughout my time at GD, I had the unique opportunity to work with people from all different organizations and got to see daily, first-hand how these partnerships to improve international development were formed.

I Learned: One major lesson I learned was how to travel practically in foreign countries with people that you may not know. Once I got over the initial confusion of being in a new place, being open-minded but conscious allowed me to make the most of my travels around Europe and exploring within Switzerland as well.

In terms of my internship, one thing I learned was that hard work really pays off no matter where you work. If the people you work with see that you are trying to learn as much as you can and putting in effort, they will appreciate it and take your contributions seriously.

Comparing/Contrasting My Work Experiences: Since the organization that I worked with was so small, one thing that I was encouraged to do was make suggestions to the president herself, which was something that I couldn’t do at bigger organizations. Adjusting to the slower pace of business here was a challenge at first, but it really allowed me to focus and submit my best work, allowing me to spend a bit more time on projects to make sure they were done right.

Hardest Part: The hardest part was budgeting out time and money and trying to prioritize what I wanted to do. However, planning things out as best as possible early on in the program really allowed me to make the most of my time in Geneva and spend my time seeing and travelling to different places with some amazing people.

Best Part: The best part was being immersed in a new culture and seeing just how different things are from the US. It not only opened my eyes to another part of the world but also made me appreciate so much about things back home, both in and out of the classroom.