Working as an intern: “Remember how big decisions affect individuals”
Karolina Lång is a 24 year old law student studying her fifth year at the University of Helsinki. She has a diverse work background: she previously worked as a journalist in Hufvustadsbladet and Svenska Yle before the internship and has also been active in Nordic cooperation both as a youth delegate to the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers and in Finland as a co-writer at a project for the Finnish Ministry of health and social affairs.
Why did you decide to apply for the internship?
“This is a very interesting time to be at the United Nations. We are facing very different kind of global threats and the only one way to solve them is to find global solutions. United Nations has a very prominent role in that task. That’s why I see it as an important place to do an internship at and learn more about the organization and political relations.”
How would you describe your work?
“My tasks during my internship have been very diverse, but mostly I’ve been writing reports of different types of meetings and negotiations. During my internship I’ve followed the UN Security Council and the fourth committee, which is the special political and de-colonialization committee. Fourth committee include very different types of topics: one of them was the peaceful use of outer space. At first it can sound like something from a Star Trek movie, but in reality space law and the peaceful use of outer space is closely interlinked with the work on the sustainable development goals for example when space technology is used in crisis management or in mapping environmental phenomena with GPS-technology. I was also lucky enough to be able to follow a negotiation for a resolution draft held by Finland during my internship. It was very interesting as a young person to follow the debates at the 4th committee, because there was both students and young people from different organizations as civil society representatives.”
What did you learn during your internship?
“The internship taught me a great deal about how UN works. It’s been inspiring to work with the diplomats at Finland’s permanent mission to the UN and I’ve learned constantly from them. As a bonus my English vocabulary and French language skills have become better too. I now have better understanding how Finland works and cooperates within UN and how we work with EU and other Nordic countries in an international context. I have also learnt a lot about Africa and African conflicts. Despite United Nations having major activity in Africa, these discussions are usually overshadowed or forgotten in the public debate because of the conflicts in the Middle East."
What are your plans for the future?
“I will continue and finish my law studies. The internship gave me a clearer picture of how one can work with global issues. It’s easy to miss “the big picture” and global point of view when you are back home at the university. The internship was a good experience to remind me of what and why I really study. The philosophy of Dag Hammarskjöld has always inspired me, especially his perspective of the role of the individual. The work I did during my internship was mainly paper work and reports, which many people just see as bureaucracy. However, as naïve as it may sound, you can’t forget that the discussions at the United Nations can lead to actual persons somewhere getting access to clean water, education and life without war.”
What advice would you give to incoming interns?
“This is a very practical advice, but if possible try to get apartment close to the work place. This makes everyday life so much easier. We had great group of interns at the mission, but try to get to know people from other countries too despite being busy and take advantage of the uniqueness of the United Nations as a meeting place. I love New York. The city surprises you all the time with all the colors and beauty of life, even though very common things can be very difficult here. But still, don’t forget that you are in New York. There is plenty of great things to do, so try to enjoy it.”