My career dream has always been to work for an international organization. During my internship hunt, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) was hiring a procurement intern which was a perfect match for my major – Supply Chain and Purchasing Management. Consequently, I applied for the internship without hesitation. Two months later, I received an offer. When I was told that I had been selected for this internship, I felt like I was on cloud nine! I was very excited to start a new chapter in my life and immediately began to look for accommodation, book the train ticket from Milan to Geneva and pack my bags.
Working at UNOG
I interned at the Procurement and Contracts Unit (PCU) for six months. PCU provides purchasing and contracting services to many United Nations (UN) organizations based in Geneva, i.e. the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, etc. That is to say, PCU acts as an intermediary between the UN and vendors from all over the world. My main duty was to deal with the purchase orders requested by the UN organizations. For each purchase request, I needed to do market research, prepare bidding documentation and help evaluate the vendors.
A fascinating part of working at the UN is the multicultural environment. I was part of a team with five members, and each of us came from a different country. One of my colleagues said: once you step out of the office, you will meet people from all around the world. Moreover, you will be “taken” to any corner of the world as the projects you work on often involve the participation of different countries and regions. The international diversity gives you a global vision, and it always reminds you to Think Big.
Learning at UNOG
A great workplace is where the employees get more out of it than the salary alone. For me, the “treat” lies in the continuous training that a company or an organization can provide for their employees. At the UN, staff members have both online and on-site training courses. For example, there is an online Procurement Training Campus for all the procurement clerks in the UN organizations across the world. This online learning platform trains new staff members in fundamentals, guiding principles, regulations and rules, and the procurement process within the UN system.
The training is, of course, not limited to only what you are working on. The cultural dynamics of the UN gathers people from all around the world, which encourages its staff to be multilingual. In order to greatly motivate people to learn a new language and to improve their language skills, UN staff members can subscribe for free to one of the five official languages of the UN at an appropriate level. As UNOG is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, learning and improving their French is a mission for most non-native French speakers.
Besides those diverse training topics, people are encouraged to step out of their office to attend conferences and meetings they are interested in. I went to a conference for all the interns working at UN organizations in Geneva with the theme “Interns with a Mission”. At the conference, we discussed youth empowerment in the age of digitalization with a panel consisting of speakers from the public and private sectors.
Looking back on my internship at UNOG, what made this experience unforgettable and rewarding were the lovely people I worked with, the best supervisor who was always patient and helpful with my questions, the coffee barista who often teased me over confusing 5 centimes coins with ½ Swiss franc (50 centimes).. Yes, I was totally new to Geneva, but I’m always ready to explore further.