Life As An Intern In The UN

Life as an intern at the UN

Hello! My name is Barbora Korcova and I am arecent law graduate from Queen Mary University of London. Ever since I waslittle, my dream has always been to work for an international organisation andthis summer, I had an opportunity to work in the headquarters of the biggestone in the world –The United Nations– in New York, where I was doingan internship at the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the UN astheirYouth Advisor.Youth is on the rise in the international areaAs a Youth Advisor, I was invited to various events and meetings. To give you an example, I had the pleasure of being one of the youngest delegates to discuss the future of education with the Finnish Minister of Education Li Andersson over lunch. It was incredible to listen to all the brilliant ideas of my fellow youth delegates and to see that ourinputsare not taken lightly and can actually influence change.Promoting youth and their equal and fair participation in the decision-making processes of the UN is a hot topic at the moment and it is therefore prime time to do an internship as a young person. This year, after long meetings and negotiations which I personally attended, the UN successfully passed the resolution to establish a UN Youth Office. This is an important milestone for young people and reflects the utmost importance of our engagement throughout the UN and its processes.

But this is just the beginning.Even now, when I look around the UN General Assembly, I hardly see more than a handful of young people among the representatives of more than 193 states. Change is happening, but slowly. Up until now, world leaders didn't really listen to young people and their opinions. Society needs to understand that the youth cares about finding solutions to global issues above anything else, because it is our future that is going to be impacted by the high-level decisions made today. We should have the same rights as other generations to participate in shaping them. And we should never stop fighting for this right."It is truly breath-taking what we can achieve when we all unite – not only in our words, but also in our actions."

Why I believe in intergenerational solidarity

At the upcoming COP27 (UN Climate Change Conference), taking place in Egypt this November, Mission of the Sovereign Order of Malta organised a Youth Delegate Panel Discussion on Climate Change. I was pleased to be invited as a panelist, to express my views, among others, on how we can encourage greater intergenerational solidarity in order to prevent climate change. I highlighted the importance of creating an environment that encourages collaboration and support and where every generation feels inspired to use its unique strengths for the greater good of all of us. There is no denying that older generations have the benefit of more experience, but what we as the younger generation can offer is the enthusiasm and ambition to drive change. We need all generations to join forces and develop conversations where everyone is learning and respects the value that others bring to the table.


The highlight of my internship was the UNGA 77 - opening of the 77th United Nations General Assembly. During the High-Level Week in late September, I sat in the General Assembly Hall, listening to the powerful words of Presidents and Government Officials of all the Member Staes of the UN. It is truly breath-taking what we can achieve when we all unite - not only in our words, but also in our actions. While most statements included similar topics, such as ongoing wars, upholding international law and climate change, it was interesting to follow how some countries presented strong opinions, openly criticising certain countries for wars and violations of international law, and others decided to be more cautious and politically neutral in their speeches.

The importance of the SDGsIn 2015, the UN set out their sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world by 2050 - no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, climate action - just to mention a few. These are very important goals for the whole world to achieve. However, Covid-19, inflation, global conflicts and other crises have hampered the progress of these targets. We live in a fragile world and it is critical to get back on track as soon as possible. I see this as a challenge for the upcoming years, probably decades. It is up to every state to do their part and it will be interesting to follow their progress.A insight into the life of a diplomatI worked with diplomats on a daily basis and one thing I believe that not many people know is that the workday of a diplomat does not end at 5pm. Their day usually continues at receptions and events organised by missions of other states, the United Nations or other organisations. This is an integral part of diplomacy. Socialising and making valuable connections.This is where they continue those important discussions but in a more casual context, often coupled with good food and drinks. The attendance or non-attendance of state representatives at these receptions speaks volumes about their current diplomatic relations, where receptions are usually attended by like-minded states or states that are negotiating with each other and therefore have something in common.

What to consider before applying for an internship  

This was a once in a lifetime experience. I met a lot of interesting, influential and inspiring people and I was able to gain a first-hand understanding of relations between states. However, this is unfortunately an unpaid internship and as an unpaid intern, you have to bear in mind the cost of living in New York. In the beginning, I was surprised by how expensive everything was, but I slowly found my way – using every available promotion and trial for gyms to stay fit, saving on transport by walking everywhere (New York is one of the best walking cities after all) and not going to restaurants too often, since customers are always expected to pay 15-25% tip on top of their bill. Tipping is voluntary in the US, but it is good practice and you will most probably be confronted for not leaving an adequate tip.

Overall, it is a valuable investment for your future and I highly recommend it to everyone who is interested in the exciting world of international relations and diplomacy.