2018 PFIG Recipient Olivia Sanusi
Journal Entry #1
June 2, 2018
I’ve only spent a week in New York, but now I never want to leave. I approached this summer with a lot of nerves and very little preparedness: My internship this summer is at the United States Mission to the United Nations, which is part of the US Department of State. It’s the culmination of seven months of applying, interviewing, and finally getting my security clearance processed. It’s the summer I never dreamed I’d have. Yet when I set foot in New York, I knew I’ll want to come back
My first few days in the city taught me that New Yorkers don’t have the words “slow down” in their vocabulary. My very first rush hour showed me the professional side of the this place, bubbling over with students, financial analysts, and government workers hurrying to jobs that won’t wait for them. Because of Memorial Day, I didn’t start my internship until Tuesday this week.
Looking up to the top of the towering USUN building, I realized I wasn’t prepared as I had thought. My first day was a blur of orientation, introductions, and briefings. I would be working within the Office of Management for the summer, which handles many of the administrative details such as procuring supplies and ensuring everything was in order for The Mission. Soon I had my own desk, name card, and email address--ready to go.
Reflecting back on my first week, I can see this summer being instrumental in my future. I’ve already learned so much about the structure of the United Nations and how every detail must come together in order for things to run smoothly. Right now we’re preparing for the United Nations General Assembly, which will take place in September. Members of the Assembly will congregate in New York, some of them former interns at the US Mission to the UN. Preparing for the assembly and meeting my colleagues at the Mission has made me realize the value of interning anywhere, specifically at USUN. I’m excited to keep learning and exploring the city as the summer continues!
Journal Entry #2
July 21, 2018
I’m just past the 3/4s mark of my internship, and I can’t believe how this summer has flown by. I’ve been most surprised by how needed I’ve felt in my day-to-day tasks, as well as how much my colleagues and supervisors appreciate my work. That became especially evident when I started spending time in multiple sections of USUN.
Around the halfway point of my internship, I was asked if I’d like to help out in the Host Country section of the Mission. They were desperately backed up, and even an inexperienced intern’s help was better than nothing. The Host Country section ensures that the obligations of the US to the United Nations and the UN community are upheld: this includes legal assistance, accreditation, and visa issuance. Basically their job is to guarantee that the each of the permanent missions are safe and compliant in a country that is not their own. In the past few weeks, I’ve been working specifically within the visa office, assisting in the renewal of visas for both UN staff, their family members, and the missions to the United Nations.
It’s been different than management, but in a good way. Working in the office has given me a peek into the life of a Foreign Service Officer, who generally spends two years doing similar consellor work. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to experience this and to see the immediate effects of my work, since the visa process has a relatively quick turn around. The more hours I put in and the quicker I do my work, the faster these families get their visas. I noted that and have since doubled my inputting speed in the Host Country Section.
The Mission has provided several great opportunities for interns to meet high level government employees in the past few weeks. Not all of these run-ins have been planned: For example, I accidentally rode the elevator with Ambassador Nikki Haley one day last week and was shaking the whole time.
However, there have also been celebratory events and meet and greets for the interns and employees to mingle with the Ambassador. I’ve heard her speak several times, and then just yesterday I also shook the hand of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It’s experiences like these that have made me seriously consider a future in government. I have loved seeing the way that my colleagues interact with each other and with the interns on a day-to-day basis, and I admire their dedication to the Mission. I never thought I would say this, but I could see myself working for the government in the not-so-distant future.
Journal Entry #3
August 7, 2018
I’m done! My internship’s last day was Friday, and I’ve now packed up my dorm, moved out of the city, and rejoined my family. I can’t believe it happened that fast.
My time at USUN this summer taught me about the infrastructure of the United Nations, the US Government’s involvement at the UN, and the role of the Mission in policymaking. I learned about controversial decisions being made in the National Security Council and the decision to place an arms embargo on South Sudan. I heard about the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and the continued funding difficulties. I found friends in high places--meeting with Foreign Service Officers, Lieutenant Colonels, Legal Advisers, and other USUN employees to give me a well-rounded view of the Mission and its important work.
I met people I know I’ll stay in touch with. Along with my dedicated supervisors, I’m excited to stay connected with the other interns at USUN. These are students who have come from other states, countries, and backgrounds to represent the US government at the United Nations. I learned about scholarship opportunities, graduate programs, and study abroad trips from these incredible individuals. I know hearing about their experiences will be helpful for me and my future in international relations.
Looking back, I know I’ve learned more valuable skills than just making copies and inputting data. I know how to dress professionally and interact with strangers, who I may never see again. I understand the sense of urgency when working for the government, especially involving sensitive issues. More than anything, I learned that representing a government is more than just representing a person or a singular belief.
I’ll miss the place. I already do. My last week there made me realize how difficult it would be to leave the relationships I’d made and the habits I’d formed. I have high hopes of returning to the city in the future. But at the very least, I’m so happy to have had this opportunity. I’ve had the most informative, exciting, and craziest summer of my life this year. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.