THE HOD “DAY IN THE LIFE” FEATURES STUDENTS WHO HAVE COMPLETED THE HOD INTERNSHIP AND THEN SHARE WORDS OF WISDOM TO ILLUMINATE THEIR EXPERIENCES. THIS WEEK HIGHLIGHTS THE STORY OF BLAKE SIDON, WHO COMPLETED A DISTANCE INTERNSHIP AT U.S. MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS, IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND IN THE SUMMER OF 2015.
Who: Blake Sidon
Internship Site: U.S. Mission to the United Nations – Geneva, Switzerland
Check out video clip’s of Blake’s HOD Capstone Internship experience:
The Mission’s formal title is the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. The Mission as it’s known today became active in 1946 after the birth of the United Nations. The central goal of the Mission is to represent the interests of the U.S. at the UN Office of Geneva (UNOG) and other Geneva-based international organizations, such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Human Rights Council (HRC), World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), International Office of Migration (IOM), and International Labor Organization (ILO). As a bureau of the State Department, the Mission assists in representing U.S. foreign policy goals as well as playing a formal role in negotiating and constructing international law. Additionally, they assist with humanitarian aid coordination and support.
What was your role as an intern?
As an intern for the public diplomacy office, my role changed daily. One day I could be attending a meeting on the Syrian refugee crisis, another day I could be taking notes at an ambassador’s press conference. The work required a high learning curve and an ability to be flexible. Some of the “longer” projects I worked on was developing social media campaigns for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the US Patent and Trade Office’s Patents for Humanity program, and the 16 days of advocacy for Ending Gender-based Violence against Women.
What was your capstone design project for your HOD internship?
For my capstone project, I wanted to focus on the difficulties of working in the foreign service. One common observation was the struggle working abroad and trying to balance work and lifestyle. As I looked deeper into this issue, I realized that the current office culture is not supportive of a culture where work-life balance can flourish. In order to shift the Mission’s office culture, I developed the Cultural Change Agent Network (CCAN). The CCAN identifies employees who healthily prioritize a work-life balance, termed Change Agents. Change Agents are tasked with leveraging their internal networks to facilitate culture change through office activities and events. The CCAN is a cost-effective program that relies on the buy-in of employees at the foundation of an organization rather than the typical “top-down” method of organizational change. This intervention is very beneficial for organizations performing in a high-stakes environment, lacking internal mechanisms for morale improvement, and struggling to retain employees.
What was one of the highlights from your internship experience?
One of the highlights of my internship experience was helping organize an event with Ima Matul as a guest speaker. Ima Matul is a survivor of human trafficking and now advocates for the rights of immigrant laborers in the U.S. She also works with lawmakers to develop survivor-centered legislation at the local, national, and international level. The event included guests from Geneva-based organizations, including IOM, UNHCR, and ILB, as well as delegates from different countries. It was an amazing experience to see NGOs, governments, and civil service working together to address an important issue. Additionally, it’s easy to forget how your work affects other people, especially when you’re surrounded by people in suits and leather conference rooms. Listening to the story of someone with first-hand experience surviving the issues we are trying to halt is an influential reminder to the importance of the work being conducted at the U.S. Mission and United Nations.
How have you grown as a result of your internship?
This internship has enabled me to grow personally and professionally. It has taught me to take risks and put myself in situations that make me slightly uncomfortable. I’ve also learned the importance of keeping an open mind. Before my internship, I was hesitant on working for the government. However, I have learned a great deal about how the U.S. Department of State works and how important it is for the promotion and protection of American interests abroad.
What are 3 pieces of advice for someone in the process of their internship search?
- Do your HOD internship abroad! The HOD internship program at Vanderbilt is unique in that it provides the opportunity to work abroad for a semester. Take advantage!
- Don’t be afraid to look at different internship opportunities. There are many opportunities out there and the HOD internship office may not know of all of them. Research your own opportunities in addition to using the HOD internship database.
- Try something new! The HOD internship allows you to try working in an industry you may not get to otherwise. Maybe you’ll find a new passion.