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How Can Students Become Involved in UN Work?

Hundreds of students each year get international experience as UN interns for a semester or summer. Though the UN typically pays no salary, such internships are highly competitive, because the number of interested students far exceeds the strictly limited number of “badges” needed to enter UN premises.

by Harold Takooshian, PhD & Fred Campano, PhD (Fordham University)

Harold Takooshian of Fordham University is a member of the six-person team representing APA at the UN.  Fred Campano of Fordham University was a full-time economist in the UN Secretariat  for 30 years, from 1967-1997.

Resourceful students often ask “How can I best find an internship at the United Nations in New York City?” Among college students preparing for a solid career, it is the wise student who seeks an “edge” with international experience—through study abroad, an internship, languages, research, or other ways (Russo & Takooshian, 2002; Takooshian & Stambaugh, 2007).  Hundreds of students each year get international experience as UN interns for a semester or summer.  Though the UN typically pays no salary, such internships are highly competitive, because the number of interested students far exceeds the strictly limited number of “badges” needed to enter UN premises.  So how can interested students intern at the UN? This is a challenge, but several resources are available, and a year of advance planning is needed.

1. Secretariat. The hardest path is an internship in the Secretariat—the political arm of the UN.  These are strictly limited to graduate students only, and generally go through the Department of Human Resources, www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/sds/internsh/index.htm.

2. Agencies.  An easier path is with the 25 specialized agencies that perform specific functions within the UN, www.unsystem.org.  These include such foci as children (www.unicef.org), health (www.who.org), women (www.unifem.org), labor (www.ilo.org), each with its own website and internship procedures.

3. NGOs.  The easiest path by far is with “civil society,” the network of 3,000 Non-governmental organizations working with the UN. These are corporations or nonprofit groups registered with the UN, and each receives up to six badges for its representatives. A student in Greater New York can check the website of the Committee on NGOs, www.ngocongo.org , to find where many of these 22 committees are meeting, and then attend it to meet current NGO representatives.  Thanks to CONGO, each NGO can appoint a few students as “associates” with a 3-month UN pass if these students are working on some specific project.  APA has such an intern program that began for the first time in 2008. Calls for applications to this program will regularly be posted on the APA UN website.

4. Missions. A fourth possible route is to seek a placement with the mission of one of the 192 nations represented at the UN.  While many missions are staffed by citizens from that nation, some missions deliberately seek savvy US interns to do their local work. 
Students have an advantage if they are fluent in multiple languages, particularly the five “official” languages of the UN—English, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Russian, Spanish. Also students can take advantage of the several special activities for youth at the UN, such as the 5th Youth Assembly in August 2008: http://www.faf.org/programs/unyouthassembly/ya_home.htm

In general, students can find helpful news from the APA www.apa.org/international, and its division of international psychology, www.internationalpsychology.net.

The authors would like to thank Anita Thomas of CONGO, Elaine Congress and Salvatore Longarino of Fordham University for their kind assistance. Please direct any inquiries to Harold Takooshian by clicking on this link.  Ψ


References
Russo, N.F. & Takooshian, H. (2002, Spring).  Student involvement in international psychology: Why and how.  Eye on Psi Chi, 6, 12-13.

Takooshian, H., & Stambaugh, L.F. (2007). Becoming involved in global psychology.  Pages 365-389 in U.P. Gielen and M.J. Stevens (Eds.), Toward a global psychology: Theory, research, intervention, and pedagogy. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.