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The guide to NOT becoming an EU/UN-intern

After “A UN Internship Guide” and “Guide to an EU traineeship in Brussels”, here comes the consecutive third part of the “How to become an international intern”-series. Only this time, it is not about how to best sneak yourself into one of the major international institutions of our world but is about how to get even closer to the core without even being part of it.


Taking part in diplomatic negotiations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, wearing a UN badge with a bright red capital “D” for Delegate on it, meeting some of the major representatives of the European Union and having chats with Members of the European Parliament in the corridors of Brussels and Strasbourg – this you can already experience as an intern, you do not have to keep it in your dreams about what you will be doing once you got the often-quoted “real job”.


The only little detail you have to come up with to gain an internship experience like this is to have some self-motivation. It might be tiring for some of you to read this word since it is probably what you hear from every career advice center on this continent – especially during times of the eurocrisis – and it is also one of the neoliberal doctrines of our times. At the same time it might be exactly what you need to have your own very unique experience and not to swim in the same wave as the other several hundred institutional interns in town.


This self-motivation is what you will need to figure out your own way into the world of politics. Located near the major political institutions you can find hundreds of opportunites in organizations and institutions which all deal with European or global political affairs but are neither called United Nations nor European Union. And if you open your eyes and take a look around, you will quickly notice that this does not mean that you will end up as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, though this might also bring you much closer to what is going on in the political world.


imagesUN General Assembly HallHaving been an intern in a national delegation to the General Assembly in New York City, I not only witnessed diplomatic negotiations, but also participated in them. Coming from a rather small country that does not have the means to send a diplomat to every single formal or informal negotiation session, I was allowed to go to negotiations by myself, monitor how they developed and report the progress to my supervisor.  And I could sit in the General Assembly Hall in NYC behind the name plate of my country on the day when Palestine was accorded “non-member observer state” status in November 2012.


Now as a journalism intern in Brussels, I have the chance to participate in press briefings with the major officials of the European Union, go to Council press conferences of the national heads of states and ministers and do interviews with Commissioners, MEPs, researchers and European citizens. This gives me the possibility to experience a major political institution closely without losing sight of its pros and cons and without getting totally absorbed by its "bubble" environment.


Being a national delegation intern or a journalism intern in an EU correspondence bureau are only two of many ways of how to work as an intern with the major international institutions without being part of it. Apart from the fact that these internships might bring you closer to the core events of politics, internships in smaller organizations and institutions are often much more flexible in terms of dates and duration. The application process is also much quicker and less burdensome than the one for European Commission traineeships and those internships are often much better compensated than the zero-payment UN internships.


So if you want to have your unique internship experience, want to get close to European and international politics without losing a reflective way of thinking and can bring up just enough self-motivation to think about and search for your own way, there are plenty of opportunities waiting for you. And also if you just got rejected by one of the major internship programmes this does not mean that you are just not good enough for an international career, it might just mean that your career path lies somewhere else. Because as career consultants will often tell you, nowadays you need plenty of self-motivation to get what you want, and often you will hear that “no” does not always have to mean “no”.


Doris Pundy is a journalism trainee in Brussels. Originally from Vienna, she has lived in New York, Oslo and Leeds and worked as an intern in the National Delegation at the General Assembly in NYC.