Anouk Baron (Research Master MHIR) about her internship at United Nations Women South Asia Regional Office in Delhi, India
How did you look for a placement? What was your ‘search method’?
After my bachelor in international relations, I started the research master ‘Modern history and international relations’. An obligatory part of this master is a research placement, which means that you have to do independent scientific research during your placement to improve your research skills. Most research master students therefore intern in an academic environment, like a university, think thank or research institute. However, I wanted to do a research placement in an office of an international organization situated in a so-called developing country, as I was not sure whether I wanted to pursue an academic career. I started applying for placements more than 6 months before I wanted to start the placement, since I heard that it is hard to find a placement in an intergovernmental/non-governmental organization and I also had to make sure that I could set up my own research project there. I thus uploaded my motivation letter and CV to many online application databases of different ((sub-)agencies of) organizations (like the United Nations, Amnesty International and Oxfam) worldwide and I also emailed the heads of the units that I found most interesting. For some months, I did not get any replies at all, but in the end I got 7 replies on my 35 applications. I reviewed the offers and decided that 5 out of them might be worth a try. I then had 5 interviews via Skype. During these interviews, I asked questions about the expectations of the possible placement providers and about the freedom I would have to set up my own research project. I also told during each interview that I was having interviews with other possible placement providers, but that - if they would choose me - I would consider their placement offer with sincere interest. All 5 placement providers in fact did offer me the placement, so I was lucky and could choose the one which suited my interests the most. Hence, I interned full-time at the governance unit of United Nations Women South Asia Regional Office in Delhi, India, from the 1st of September until the 31st of December 2011.
What did you learn from the placement? For what reason do you think students should undertake a placement?
I gathered a lot of new ‘intellectual’ knowledge during my placement, as the viewpoints and issues you learn about in an UN office in India are very different from what you learn at a Dutch university and in the Western culture. Moreover, I developed my ability to work individually as a researcher, but also as a colleague in a multicultural team. What I also find very valuable is my personal learning. For example, I learned how to - as an intern and a foreigner - adapt to and behave in a demanding working environment and to live in a country and culture I did not know and sometimes found incomprehensible or even awful. Hence, I think students should do a placement, if possible abroad, because it is one of the biggest boosts you can give to your personal as well intellectual development, which makes it challenging, but also very interesting, valuable and useful.
What did you like best?
I really liked that I was moving out of the ‘ivory tower’ into the ‘real world’ for a bit and got an insight into a part of the international political (development) system in practice. This allowed me to further my ideas about what future career I might want to pursue. I also very much liked that I could use this opportunity to investigate a topic which I find really interesting, but that I also got tasks from my boss that dealt with topics I would never have delft into myself. Furthermore, I was really lucky, because I got many opportunities to meet interesting people, to participate in conferences and seminars and to travel in order to better fulfill my tasks. Of course I also enjoyed the periods of travelling prior to and after my internship a lot - India has much to discover!
What would you do differently the next time you would do a placement?
I would check beforehand whether the country I am about to choose is eligible for a Marco Polo fund. I did not know that you can only get this fund if the security level of a country is level 3 out of 6 or lower. I could not get a Marco Polo fund for India, because at that time its security level was 4. Hence, I had to find money elsewhere, which was quite a struggle, but in the end I - via ‘de fondsendisk’ (a cd rom with an overview of fund providers, which is available in the arts library) - did find other funds.
What would you advise other students for their internships?
I would advise them to think about what kind of placement they want well in advance and to actually start looking for placements half a year prior to the planned start of the placement, as getting a placement (google, use your network, call people), signing the placement agreement and defining the tasks, getting funds, a student visa, an insurance, tickets, vaccinations, a house at your destination, a sub-renter for your room here, ‘OV vergoeding’, etc. (can) take a lot of time. Also, you need time to learn about the country and its culture and to prepare for the work you will be doing. For months, I just took 2 hours every Friday afternoon to organize my placement. At some points I was of course frustrated, but I forgot about all this work as soon as I arrived!
|Laatst gewijzigd:||06 juli 2017 08:30|