- Tell us about your internship at the UN.
Throughout July and August 2019, I was an intern at Chinese Translation Service, a section within the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, U.N. Secretariat. The Service is responsible for translating all kinds of U.N. documents including General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. I provided draft Chinese translations of summary records of meetings and provisional agenda items for the 74th session (the upcoming one) of the U.N. General Assembly.
This internship was a great experience in many ways. I received feedback from top-notch translators, learned the workflow of U.N. translation teams, gained first-hand knowledge about what it takes to be a staff translator at the organization. In addition, I had the exciting opportunities to observe ECOSOC and Security Council meetings. But perhaps the greatest experience to me was working in an internal translation team. The importance of maintaining consistency across the agency and meeting productivity requirements was complementary to my school training.
- What did the application process entail?
I filled in an application form at U.N. career website Inspira. The form consisted of multiple pages, with detailed inquiries about an applicant. I carefully examined my answers on every page, with extra attention to the initial, screening questions. At the end of the form, a cover letter was required. I wrote a draft and asked my Career Advisor, Winnie Heh, for suggestions. It took time for the recruiters to process applications. In some cases, there may be an interview or even a test for applicants.
- Now that you have experienced working in an international organization as a translator, what part of your T&I training do you think helped you the most for that role?
Having attended two U.N. MoU schools, I was trained by professors who used to be staff translators at the organization. I believe my previous exposure to the language of U.N. documents gave me a head start in my internship. Also, the great attention to details and the pursuit of utmost accuracy I inherited from my professors mirror what is expected of a U.N. translator.
- What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing an internship with the UN?
First of all, do not give up! Before this internship, I had applied three times only to be turned down. In fact, I hesitated for a long time before I finally applied for this one on the very last day. Now I am glad that I made the right decision. In addition, what I have learned through subsequent talks with senior translators at U.N. is that your cover letter matters. Prove to the recruiters your commitment to the type of work in the internship; show the qualities they are seeking; write more about what you can offer, less about what you wish to gain; stick to the business – it is irrelevant to mention how much you like the city where the internship is. And if you are to attend an interview, try to illustrate how you possess the core competencies that U.N. seeks. (see https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=WWLF)