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What is the External Relations internship really like?

My time as an intern - Phoebe Corrigan - External Relations

Having extensively studied refugee issues during my degree I was familiar with the work that UNHCR does for refugees globally and had a strong admiration for the organisation. After graduating I wanted to gain experience in communications and ultimately start a career in an international, humanitarian setting. The role of External Relations Intern at UNHCR seemed to suit this perfectly.

UNHCR UK’s small but busy External Affairs office aims to build and maintain the organisation's presence in the UK. The team is responsible for public engagement, media outreach, advocacy, fundraising and educational support domestically in the UK, as well as raising awareness on international issues and work done by UNHCR staff in more than 120 countries worldwide. An interest in current affairs and a willingness to stay informed about current humanitarian issues are crucial for this position.

Although the office receives a broad range of enquiries from the general public, the bulk of the External Relations unit’s work revolves around parliamentary affairs and media. One of your daily tasks will be monitoring of the national press for stories relevant to UNHCR. Personally I can’t think of a better way to start my day than enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the newspapers.

Parliamentary monitoring is also an integral part of the workload and is a task that I have really enjoyed. Although sifting through lengthy political debates might not seem thrilling, it has really given me a good understanding of what happens in Westminster. Furthermore I have closely followed legislation such as the Immigration Bill and Draft Modern Slavery Bill. This has given me a unique insight into the workings of Parliament and is something I am sure will benefit my future career.  

Other duties include maintaining UNHCR’s online presence through the website, use of social media channels and monthly e-newsletter. This provides you with experience in copywriting, website management and the use of marketing software.  

During my time at UNHCR, the External Relations team co-organised the Women on the Move Awards. Being able to assist in the organisation of the event was really inspiring and all the more rewarding when seeing all our wok come to fruition. Other events I have attended include APPG’s and various lectures on issues, such as statelessness and humanitarian response.

No day is ever the same and the unexpected can happen at any time, for example when Typhoon Haiyan struck. Being part of UNHCR during one of the agency's most challenging years has driven me to work well under pressure and strengthened my organisational capabilities. I have improved my communications skills and gained an in-depth understanding of current humanitarian crises and how UNHCR responds to them.

I would recommend this internship to anybody who is passionate about the refugee cause, has an interest in media and parliamentary affairs and wants to gain first-hand experience of a fast-paced, exciting working environment.