Friday, April 22nd, 2016
2016 IPSS Fellow Shen Li is currently interning in the Market Access Division of the World Trade Organization. The WTO recently interviewed Shen for its newsletter – you can read the interview below.
Where are you from, and what did you study before joining the WTO?
I am from Beijing. I did my Bachelor’s degree in China where I studied French. Then I went to the US to do a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies – Trade, Investment and Development – at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
One of the reasons I am here as an intern is to earn academic credits for my school project. I applied for an internship at the WTO because I am studying trade. Also as I have studied French, Geneva is the perfect place to practise it.
When did you apply for the internship?
I have been planning the internship for a long time. I would say that the WTO has fascinated me ever since I started to study trade two years ago. I have always wondered what it would be like to work here. At university, we had an international trade negotiation class where we simulated negotiations in the Doha Round, imitating the way WTO negotiations take place. Whenever we wanted to raise some points or ask questions, we would raise a nameplate to speak. It is amazing to find it is exactly the same here.
I submitted my application last October and I was really surprised when I received the internship offer in December. This is my very first experience of professional life so it is a great starting point. I am really excited and grateful to have this opportunity to learn about trade issues, the needs of developing countries and the challenges facing international trade.
You have been working in the Market Access Division since 1 February. What kind of work have you been doing?
I am mostly working on the Trade Facilitation Agreement with Sheri Rosenow. Last week we organized a donor event, where donor countries and international organizations introduced their programmes for helping developing countries implement the Agreement. Once the Agreement is implemented, the international trade is going to flow much more smoothly. So I feel like I am making a real contribution to world trade. It’s so exciting.
In March, we had a workshop to help participants gain a better understanding of the Agreement so that their governments can ratify it sooner rather than later. I helped to prepare the presentation and facilitated the workshop with other members of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility team.
How have you found life at the WTO so far?
I really like the atmosphere here because people are very open to other cultures. Everyone in the Market Access Division is really nice. I am also so pleased that we have a Volleyball Club at the WTO because I really love playing volleyball. It is quite relaxing to play a game after work. I haven’t met all the interns yet but we do have lunch together and sometimes we meet in the atrium for a coffee break and to have a chat. It is a really nice opportunity to get to know people.
Is it your first time in Switzerland?
No, this is my second time. As I studied French for my Bachelor’s degree, I undertook an exchange programme in Paris. As an exchange student, I had quite a lot of holiday so I took the opportunity to travel, including to Switzerland. I used to think that everywhere in Switzerland would be very peaceful, like it is by the lake, but after moving here I realize it is much busier than I thought.
What have you done for fun in Geneva?
I have tried a relaxing picnic by the lake with some friends. I’ve also been to the chocolate festival, which was very interesting. We tasted all kinds of chocolates and bought many different varieties. It was a good way to spend the weekend. I like Geneva because it feels very familiar here, having already lived in France for a year. So there are not too many culture shocks and that has helped me adjust more quickly than I did in the US.
Last question: what are your plans for the future?
I think after this I will go to the US to finish my school project and graduate. After that, I haven’t given it a lot of thought but I would welcome any opportunities involving international trade. An international organization would be perfect but the private sector could also be interesting.