Global Health Communications at a UN Think Tank: Letter from an Ex-Intern

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  • 2022•04•20

    Radhika IWIKS

    Dear Aspiring Intern,

    If you’re reading this, there is a high chance you’ve come across articles that begin with “Here’s why you should apply as a ‘so-and-so’ intern”.

    On why you should consider applying to, and interning with UNU-IIGH – the UN think tank on global health, I can start with the most obvious and say, “You will be working with one of the most reputable organisations in the world”, but I choose not to begin with that and instead share with you why you should NOT apply.

    Here are three reasons:

    First, do not apply if you’re ONLY looking to receive the “UN tag”– it restricts you from expanding your thoughts and further exploring your opportunities. Throughout your internship, you will only work at the organisation for the ‘sake of it’ and so it looks good on your CV. You will wait for the time your programme ends, to collect your certificate, walk out the door and never, or seldom look back. DON’T apply for this being the sole reason.

    Second, do not apply if you aren’t willing to learn and go beyond the requirements of the internship. If you choose not to have an open mind, you’re only stifling your personal and professional growth and not allowing yourself to be more open to numerous other opportunities that may come your way.

    Third, do not apply if you think you cannot let go of reasons one and two. Leave all biases and pre-conceived notions at the door, so you are introduced to a world full of novel and critical things to learn about. Although, now, you will also be introduced to an office space being renovated for you to be able to join us and settle in really well!

    And now, getting to the part that also matters: There are, without doubt, many reasons why you should consider applying to the Communications and Programmes Internship at UNU-IIGH.

    If you’re still reading this and wish to hear of my journey, here’s how it started …

    “You’re going to get it, you know?”, said my family to me when I first applied to the programme back in May/June 2020. I wasn’t sure how I’d have a successful application with a Global Health Research Institute, let alone, a UN Think Tank! I had just graduated from university with a master’s degree in Media and Communications and had no idea what my job prospects were, when the world was hit by the pandemic, a time so volatile. Nevertheless, in some time, I heard from the Institute and received an email on my accepted internship application! I was overjoyed and ecstatic to know an organisation like the United Nations University would consider having me work with them!

    When I joined the team, I began work with a lot of questions on my mind, questions about whether or not I fit in here because of a difference in my educational background, whether my job would only entail mundane and monotonous data entry work, whether it would only require me to get coffee and snacks for the more senior staff, et cetera. To my amazement, I was surprised to see how I was valued and acknowledged irrespective of my work experience, or a lack, thereof! I was given a seat at the table, my opinions were asked for and I was encouraged to think out loud.

    On discussions about global health, I learned hugely from my colleagues and was driven to do my own research on what this area of learning was all about and how I, as a young woman from the Global South, could contribute to the betterment of ‘Health for All’ and ‘Equal Access to Healthcare resources’.

    Cut to the present – having completed almost 2 years with UNU-IIGH, there are two things I wish I knew before I started. First, my voice as an early career professional matters, and holds strength and value and second, how complex, yet important and multidimensional the global health space is. The commonality in both my learnings is my understanding of how I locate and place myself within these realms, both personally and professionally.

    Starting out as a Communications Intern and later, transitioning into a Programme and Communications Assistant role, supporting with communicating UNU-IIGH’s research and findings to the policy-making community, with people and organisations in the Global South, this ride has been one filled with lessons learned, and practical applications tried, tested and implemented.

    I have great gratitude for the Institute and now, feel a little closer to contentment, currently exploring my opportunities and understanding what my next steps are. Looking ahead and reminding myself that this journey I’m on is a work in progress, I see how much more there is to learn and equip myself with. So, from one 20-something year old to many others, here’s what I can say (based on a tad of experience): Take a leap of faith, submit that application you’ve been so hesitant sending out, pick and stay in the job you very well know and acknowledge you have the space to voice and word what you think and feel, and remember, work smart so you don’t have to wait until the end of your stint to be heard or seen, but rather, appreciated by the end of your first assignment/month (it is indeed euphoric!).

    To Infinity and Beyond ~
    An Ex- Comms Intern

    Radhika Das is a Programme and Communications Assistant at UNU-IIGH. Her job responsibilities include providing support in managing the UNU-IIGH community on social media, curating UNU-IIGH’s website and editorial content & assisting UNU-IIGH in its physical, virtual and hybrid convening activities.

    This blog is part of the I Wish I Knew Series which aims to document reflections and lessons from staff across UNU-IIGH to serve as mentorship advice for those looking to work in the global health space, particularly aimed at young women and those from the global South. The series aims to capture the valuable insights all staff can share on their journeys, regardless of where they are in their careers.