Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Careers: Exploring opportunities close-up in Geneva

To some, Geneva is an alphabet soup of international organizations. To others, it offers exciting and challenging professional opportunities. Below current SAIS Europe student William Schomburg writes about a recent trip to Geneva.

The journey from Bologna to Geneva crosses the Swiss Alps. But we weren’t going there for the panoramic views.

Last week, 20 students from SAIS Europe traveled to the Swiss city to meet representatives of multilateral and non-governmental organizations as part of a professional development trip organized by Career Services.

The dozen organizations we visited focus on trade policy or conflict management. We visited United Nations agencies including the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as well as smaller non-profits such as the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

During the two-day trip organized and led by SAIS Europe Career Services Director Meera Shankar, we were able to discuss key policy themes with senior representatives who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. The trip provided insight into what a career in international policy might look like.

More than a dozen of the practitioners we met at the organizations and during a social event one evening were former SAIS students. It was interesting to learn how alumni have applied the skills they developed at Johns Hopkins to their careers. One former Bologna Center student told us that 20 years on, she remains close to the SAIS network, both professionally and personally.

Our hosts spoke candidly about their working environments and how they can shift under different circumstances. While at the IFRC we heard how the Red Cross coordinated its response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Our presenter described the deployment of staff and resources during the humanitarian response that is being funded through an appeal for 87 million Swiss francs ($95 million) to assist the estimated 10 million people affected by the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in recorded history.

It was interesting to hear about the relationship between headquarters and regional offices, how they coordinate efforts and the challenges this presents. Our hosts stressed the importance of getting as much real-world experience as possible. Maude Morrison, a SAIS student originally from the UK, told me that she is now "inspired to gain experience this summer in the field. Preferably in Asia."

William Schomburg (BC14/DC15)

In Geneva, the SAIS students visited:

- International Trade Centre (ITC)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),
- Geneva Environment Network
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
- International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
- Interpeace
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

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