An internship at the International Organization for Migration and how I got here June 13, 2011Posted by Kate Saetang in Graduate, Individual Fellowship, Master's, Switzerland.
Tags: climate change, Ford School, international institute, International Organization for Migration, Master's in Public Policy, migration, university of michigan
I’m typing this from the terrace of my apartment in Geneva, Switzerland. When I look up, I see the French Alps. When I look down, I see Lake Geneva and the tourists milling around taking pictures. How did I get here, exactly?
I’m Kate Saetang, and I’m in Geneva because I have a three-month summer internship with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM is an intergovernmental organization with regional offices around the world. Their main functions involve providing expertise in the areas of migration to governments and civil society. The IOM also has a strong operations component. Although their headquarters is based in Geneva, with a staff of about 200 people, their regional offices employ about 6,500 people. These offices are the front line in delivering emergency relief and technical assistance.
An internship is a requirement of my Master of Public Policy degree with the Ford School here at the University of Michigan. I’ve just completed my first year and will resume a second year after my internship. When I was offered the opportunity to work with an international organization in Geneva, the heart of international diplomacy, I jumped at it. I came into grad school uncertain about what I wanted to study. I really only had a good idea of what I did not want to focus on. During my first year, I became interested in international policy, and especially human rights both as a theory and a tool for advocacy. I had a background in U.S. immigration prior to graduate school and knew that human migration was essential to the flow of talent, ideas, and innovation. I also knew that migration is a source of conflict in many societies, as groups of people with different values and norms clash. I wanted to work at the IOM for a behind-the-scenes look at how civil society and governments can work with each other to manage a phenomenon that only shows signs of increasing in magnitude. I am working in the International Cooperation and Partnerships division of the organization. I will be researching the relationship between climate change and migration (a growing and popular field), as well as assisting in coordinating the IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration’s September workshop on migration and economic crises.
One of the drawbacks, however, to working as an intern in an international organization is that work experience at these organizations is highly coveted by altruistic students. As this internship is unpaid, I would not have been able to participate without help from the International Institute. Although I also received funding from my graduate program, the II Individual Fellowship has been instrumental in ensuring that I have the financial capacity to feed and shelter myself in the fifth most expensive city in the world (according to a 2010 Mercer Survey).
So that’s how I got here. I’m excited to be here, and I’m excited to be surrounded by brilliant, talented, and passionate people doing the kinds of things I picture for myself further along in my career. Geneva is bursting with diplomats, international organizations, languages, food, chocolate, cheese–I know the next three months will be a great learning experience.