Vanessa Godinez was one of two Kennesaw State students that recently completed internships in Geneva through KSU's UNITAR partnership.

Editor’s note: This sponsored article is provided by Kennesaw State University’s Division of Global Affairs and was written by Dave Shell. 

Vanessa Godinez and Hayley Englund wanted to experience the world. They both had their chance during a unique internship at the United Nations headquarters in Switzerland.

Ms. Englund, who graduated from Kennesaw State University this summer recently completed her internship with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), while Ms. Godinez’s experience was in 2018. Yet both returned with a suitcase full of memories and a determination to make the world a better place.

Haley Englund

“My internship with UNITAR gave me the chance to travel abroad for the first time and see for myself what I had only read about in class. It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Ms. Godinez, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s in international affairs with a Latin American studies minor. “It also helped me learn how to adapt to different situations and gave me the chance to experience other cultures.”

Binbin Jiang, executive director of the Division of Global Affairs and Director of CIFAL Atlanta (the International Training Center for Authorities and Leaders), a UN-affiliated center at KSU, said the center champions any chance for students to travel overseas and gain both life and work experience. That Ms. Englund and Godinez both landed internships with UNITAR speaks well to the initiative and abilities shown by KSU students, she said.

“It is an exceptional opportunity for KSU students to have a global internship experience, and rarer still at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland,” Ms. Jiang said. “I am extremely pleased that these two KSU students were able to have the internship opportunity at UNITAR, which not only enabled them to broaden their outlook and understanding of the United Nations, and UNITAR in particular, but also gave them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and on-the-job training.”

Unique experiences

Ms. Godinez served her internship at UNITAR through CIFAL Atlanta in fall 2018. CIFAL Atlanta seeks to strengthen the abilities of local governments, leaders and private sector authorities to foster economic development, environmental sustainability and social development. CIFAL Atlanta is the only such UN office on a college campus in the United States.

Ms. Godinez dove right into her internship and worked with Luis Gallegos, the ambassador from Ecuador to the United Nations, helping his staff during events held at The Palais, such as the 39th Human Rights Council session, the Universal Periodic Review and the Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational corporations (IGWG on TNC).

“Through these meetings, I engaged with others my age from around the world, discussed various topics and developed ways to increase awareness for human rights issues,” Ms. Godinez said.

Ms. Englund’s internship at UNITAR came about when she inquired about those opportunities at the Education Abroad office within the Division of Global Affairs. She learned of opportunities available to fund overseas studies, crediting program coordinator Cassie Denekes for leading the way.

“She informed me of the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship, a great scholarship program that helps Pell Grant students study and work in amazing places all over the world. Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to afford this experience,” said Ms. Englund, an integrative studies major.

Ms. Englund’s internship focused on sustainability and said that her experience at UNITAR allowed her to apply her theoretical knowledge into practice.

During her internship, Ms. Englund worked on projects centered around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including event planning with mayors and governors from around the world, helping local and regional authorities develop a driving safety manual, and creating a UN publication still in circulation.

After finishing her internship last fall, Ms. Englund immediately set about expanding on work experiences she started at the UN. She currently has an internship with AmeriCorps in the Atlanta area, working on a sustainable agriculture project she hopes will start in development this fall.

Now that Ms. Godinez has finished her CIFAL experience, her future plans include graduate school, the Peace Corps and starting her own small business. Under the current circumstances dictated by the coronavirus pandemic, however, Ms. Godinez said she has used her best-learned skills in adapting to changing environments.

“Through my UNITAR experience, I have learned how crucial it is to be adaptable and organized to really progress in any field,” she said. “With my time at UNITAR and the Ecuadorian Mission, I have grown a stronger self in acknowledging my skills and make them valuable to any goal I choose to achieve. My passion for human rights and Latin American history was put to the test during this experience, and I plan to take a more determined and analytical mindset into my professional life so that I can make sure to grow alongside any work I implement in my career.”

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