While in school, there are very few things that truly pique the interest of a student and cause an awakening. One such area was the topic of International Organizations. It was in 2014 when I was first introduced to the United Nations as a part of the course curriculum. Hailing from a city like Delhi, the plethora of opportunities allowed me to be a part of Mock UN’s which only increased my liking for this sector. Little did I know that one day I would get an actual opportunity of engagement in the form of an internship at the United Nations Development Programme in India.
I understood that stable, poverty-free, sustainable societies are the norm, but the making of these scenarios made me wish to be part of these esoteric debates and learn ways in which I could contribute towards making a change.
Transitioning from a student to a professional often came with skepticism and irregular intervals of self-doubt, but I knew that this internship would be my common ground to get a head start into the development sector. The interview went seemingly well with the interviewees appearing more as my peers rather than the stern serious faces I had imagined them to be. It was then that I realized that not only does the organization do the right kind of work, it also creates an environment conducive to achieve its goals by creating a spectacular team of like-minded people.
As an avid MUNer, a term that had found its accolades in my school, landing an internship at UNDP was a definite silver lining. We completed documentation, I was all set to step my foot into UNDP India’s office and engage in insightful conversations with my supervisors and finally realizing that I was in the making of a Global Graduate!
Just a day before my internship was about to start, a pandemic resulted in a nation-wide lockdown. An online internship in the midst of a global pandemic with an organization I had always dreamt to work with was like a bullet in the silver lining, with self-criticism reaching its peak as I questioned every email and article, because the mandatory nod and smile from my supervisor was missing. However, I believed that an organization with so much scale and impact will do right by its motto and serve those in need even in such arduous times. With all the conundrums weighing down on me, I still believed in the goal and motivated myself to give my best to this internship.
My sense of curiosity led me to question ideas, strategies and institutions, people who constitute these institutions, communities and whole societies. Surprisingly, in the course of 6 months of my internship, discussions with colleagues and sectoral experts helped me uncover the meaning of development. Moreover, a multi-cultural and skilled team made me realize that education knows no bounds and age is just a digit, if you’re driven by passion, every vision can translate into reality.
As a member of the Inclusive Growth Unit, I worked primarily for the advocacy of Project Disha, that aims at establishing a continuum from school to work for girls and ensuring active participation of women in the labour force. It would be hard for me to recall a time where I was not looped into a meeting when my Team Leader spoke to an external partner, or my colleagues were discussing the plan of action for the next few months, helping me develop a sense of belongingness with the team as well as the organization as a whole. It was through these experiences I had realized that my learning curve was accelerating, and I could see myself think beyond my personal beliefs and limitations.
In these challenging circumstances, it is important for new professionals like me to explore, identify strengths and learn how to use my skill set to uphold my notion of development. A tapestry of work and social experiences, this internship taught me the importance of initiative and engagement. Whilst I worked with different teams and coordinated across various offices, I could see myself emerging as a more confident individual who was not afraid to speak her mind and provide a different viewpoint that might cut across the general idea.
I am even more grateful for this opportunity because when most people were making desperate attempts at clutching on to jobs and trying their best to be productive, I was steadily being transformed into a change maker.
My key takeaways from this opportunity would be to keep at it, however adverse the times around you maybe. An internship at UNDP has the power to change perspectives. As I continue to explore my pathway, I believe it is okay to pivot as many times as you need to build your own narrative.
The writer was an intern at UNDP India.