This summer, I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky fourteen students selected for a summer study abroad program in Geneva, Switzerland. The program entailed a five-week internship at an international or non-governmental organization (NGO), and a four-week International Relations (IR) course; basically, any IR major’s dream come true. Geneva is truly a multicultural city filled with a multitude of languages, cuisines, and cultures that permeate the streets, and not to mention, the United Nations (UN) flags and buildings that just seem to be everywhere!
My internship was at an NGO called UN Watch, which aims to monitor the performance of the UN. The organization was a perfect fit for me due to my strong interest in human rights. With UN Watch, I had the opportunity to attend the 17th Session of the UN Human Rights Council to take notes for the organization I was interning for. I was even given the honor of speaking on behalf of UN Watch about human rights abuses in the DPRK, Sudan, and Syria at the council. In my wildest dreams I never thought that as an undergraduate I would not only be attending UN meetings daily, but speaking and having my voice heard too.
The class itself, entitled “Summer Programme on International Affairs and Multilateral Governance” was divided into different topics for each of the four weeks. Every day a different professor lectured giving us different perspectives on one single weekly topic. The topics included: Global Public Goods (Health and Environment); Global Migration; Human Security and Human Rights; and the European Union. For the first three weeks we attended class with approximately 35 other students from countries around the world, and in the final week we had a more intimate experience with just the fourteen of us Trojans. While the intention of the class was for graduate students, we all participated fully in each lecture and felt as though we were on the same level, regardless that we were all undergraduates, as the rest of the students.
Looking back, there were a few things that I felt prepared me for the Geneva Summer Program. One class I took at USC, “Global Civil Society: Non-Governmental Organizations” (IR371) (with Professor Geoffrey Wiseman) gave me the needed background knowledge to understand the role NGOs play in the world, and most relevant to my internship, at the UN. Another IR course, Foreign Policy Analysis (IR341) (with Professor Steven Lamy) also helped by teaching me how to analyze and understand different international scenarios with “tools” and “levels of analysis” regardless if I knew all the details or not. Finally, reading some sort of foreign policy or international journal or magazine (such as the Economist) before and throughout the trip ensured that I was up to date on the current debates in world politics.
The best part of having a program like this in Geneva is the ability for students to not only learn in the classroom, but to learn and experience the inner workings of foreign policy at the multilateral level. An opportunity like this seems inconceivable for young undergraduate students, and I am thus extremely grateful that I go to USC, and that I had the opportunity to participate in this prestigious program. Because of this summer experience, I am now confident enough to walk into Room 20 at the UN in Geneva, sit down with my laptop and start taking notes while understanding the politics, tensions, and policy echoing throughout the room.
Photo: Rebecca Wertman at the United Nations. In addition to their internships, students took a class at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wertman.Becca Wertman is a junior majoring in International Relations with minors in French and Economics. As a Canadian studying in the United States, she dreams of doing foreign policy work for the Canadian government or perhaps one day working in the field of diplomatic relations between the two countries. When not studying, Becca enjoys doing research about Human Security and the Responsibility to Protect human rights norm with Professor Lamy, traveling, playing tennis, and volunteering to cook Friday night Shabbat dinners at USC Hillel.