UNOPS: Life as an Intern

As a Global Development Studies student, people are often perplexed when I try to explain what I study. After countless blank stares while I  elaborate that Development Studies is an interdisciplinary field blending  history, political science, geography, economics and sociology; I decided that I needed a quick go-to reply when the inevitable question followed: “ So what do you want to do with your degree?”—my response: I want to work for the United Nations. The more I said it, the more I truly wanted to experience life in the UN.

The conversation that follows are sometimes sprinkled with positive thoughts regarding the UN such as humanitarian aid, crisis management, food security, children’s rights and disaster relief. Yet there are others who reply with concerns of burdensome policies, elitism, and neo-colonial agendas. I believe that the range of responses and perceptions towards the UN reflect its complex organization, diverse positioning and international recognition.

I am so grateful to QES and UFV that have made this distance goal a reality. I am privileged to be interning this semester at the East African Hub of UNOPS in the Partnership Development Office.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is a self-financing, operational arm of the United Nations. They specialize in procurement, infrastructure and project management and have worked in some of the most challenging environments in the world. They offer delivery of services and support such as partner’s project implementation, advisory services to develop national capacity and transactional support such as human resource management and procurement services. To find out more check out their website here: https://www.unops.org/english/About/Pages/default.aspx

To be honest, going in to this internship I had no idea what any of the aforementioned words meant. Slowly, I have adjusted to the whirlwind that is the UN. From learning extensive abbreviated vocabulary, attending confidential donor meetings, meeting respected and elite leaders from around the globe and participating in the daily workings of office life, I can say that I am certainly challenged on a daily basis. Every day is ad hoc. My supervisor may ask me to complete or edit a proposal, record minutes for a high importance meeting or answer donor’s questions on a project I have never seen before. Every day is a new, challenging and meaningful task. I have learned how to be flexible when requirements change last minute and how to network in a room of people that intimidate me. These real-life experiences have not only improved my vocational skills but have also taught minute lessons , like the navigating unspoken sensitive politics, that cannot be taught in the classroom

I am grateful for this incredible opportunity to work with an international organization that is focused on resiliency, sustainability, local ownership and helping people to build better lives.

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