United Nations Internship Experience

By Antonios Rudy | October 27, 2022

As we journey through our four years at Holy Cross, we as students aim to prepare ourselves to join the workforce upon graduation. We try our best to take the right classes, choose the right majors, join the right clubs, and gain whatever skills needed for our desired profession. In this process you were probably told that you needed to get an internship. Why is that? Reasons include gaining work experience, learning new skills, receiving a potential return offer, adding it to your resume, networking etc. The advice and reasoning can be overwhelming, and can leave you asking so many different types of questions ranging from “where to apply?” to “what type of position do I even want?”. I too went through this same conundrum during my junior year at Holy Cross.

A quick introduction to myself…my name is Rudy Antonios and I am now a senior at Holy Cross double majoring in Economics and Political Science. This past summer I was a Data Analytics Intern for the United Nations’s Business Transformation and Accountability Department. The goal of this piece is to shed light on my own personal internship application process and experience and hopefully make the process easier for yourself.

First and foremost, you need to have a good understanding of what you are interested in. Personally for me, I have found any classes or topics to do with international relations and macroeconomic policy to be very interesting. Additionally, I have gained a background in data analytics both through classes I have taken and extracurricular activities. So moving into the application process, I knew I wanted something within the realm of international relations, complemented by some form of utilizing data. Of course, this led me to numerous think tanks, government departments, and intergovernmental organizations. To narrow my search, I began to network with alumni I connected with on LinkedIn as well as the career center for advice. Fortunately, I had made a connection from home that worked at the United Nations in New York City. After our conversation, he recommended that with my skill set, I should apply for a data analytics position in his department.

I seized the opportunity and applied last April for this position, and due to my qualifications, I was able to move forward fairly easily in the interview process. This process included submitting both a technical and written assessment to prove I was qualified for the role. After all my preparation and interviewing, I was offered a hybrid internship by the UN and secured a start date in late May that year.

For this position I would be working in the United Nations’s New York City Headquarter building facing the East River. On my first day, I parked at the train station and took the Metro North into Grand Central. From there it was only a 10 minute walk to the famous UN building. After getting my security clearances, I went to the 18th floor of the building, home to the BTAD team I was on, and met with my supervisor. Before I even got a chance to begin working, my supervisor offered to give me a tour of the building. This tour included seeing the famous General Assembly Room, the Rose Garden, the Knotted Barrel statue, and even important pieces of history like a piece of the Berlin Wall standing in their backyard. The experience was surreal to be walking through history as a college student.

As my work began for the summer, my team was a part of multiple projects. The first project was a data consultancy project for UNIFIL. Essentially, the question at hand was to analyze Lebanese and Middle Eastern news. Using a program called R-Studio, my team was able to web scrape entire news feeds and collect all the words into tabular data. From there, my team used a package in R-Studio that assigned predetermined numerical values to each word depending on the word’s connotative implications (the more positive the word, the higher the value). For example, the word “amazing” had a value of (+5), while a more negative word like “war” had a (-3) value. Once numbers were assigned to our word, a plethora of options could be done with this data. We were able to run many statistical tests and create many visualizations using the data. Surprisingly, results found that Lebanese news is actually more positive and less anxiety driven than American news.

However, the project I worked on the most during the summer was called “100 Series Kamino,” a play on the word Camino, which means road or journey in Spanish. This emerging project will be an educational data science program the United Nations will publish first internally, then externally, for the purpose of teaching novice learners data science. Many of my days this summer included creating code and articles for the project website. Since the topic of data science is so large, we had numerous people on the team working to build up their given sub topics of data science. Not only did I build up my technical skills doing this, but also my collaborative and communication skills. Interestingly, I was the only native born American working on this project. I was working with individuals from Brazil, Japan, India, Myanmar and from different time zones. That is how the UN operates as an IGO, and thankfully I got the chance to experience this first hand.

At the end of the summer, I was very happy with my internship experience and glad I put in the work for it my junior year. It even made me wish I had done one going into my junior year as well. Internships, in my opinion, are a great opportunity to explore your interests and gain professional work experience before you even graduate. The process is difficult at first, but with time, the internship process begins to make sense and the right pieces will fall into place.

Edited by Colin Jones