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Having clear goals helped new graduate land a UN internship

My history abroad began with the letter of acceptance from the University of Padova to attend the master’s programme in Human Rights and Multi-level Governance. As a woman from the interior of Rio Grande do Norte, in the Northeast of Brazil, I never imagined that one day I would be here fulfilling my dream of studying in Europe. In 2018, when I got a scholarship from the University of Padova to study the master’s degree, I decided to create @estudandonoexterior (Studying Abroad) - a personal project which aims to help young Brazilians achieve their dreams of studying abroad by providing information on how to get scholarships. The project has gradually grown and reached thousands of Brazilians. Today, it is not only a hobby, but also a pleasant job that I keep innovating, and reconciling with my studies and other professional activities.

Following this path and arriving here was not easy, but every obstacle overcome has made it worthwhile. I started the degree by seeking experiences that would enable me to build a career within an international organisation, such as the United Nations. With this in mind, one of the first experiences that I participated in was the Padova Model UPR. Getting to know this innovative UN mechanism aimed at promoting human rights, in which all 193 member states of the organisation participate, was an essential point in my degree journey. Afterwards, I decided to learn more about the Universal Periodic Review by applying for an internship at the UPR Branch in Geneva, Switzerland. Without a doubt, landing this internship was one of my most outstanding achievements during the program, as being selected for a UN internship is not easy because even though the internship was unpaid, competition was still stiff. After sending several applications for different internships within the UN system without receiving any answers, I was finally selected for the UPR branch internship. What made a difference in my application was knowing the mechanism, understanding its works and having the simulation experience.

“If you believe in yourself anything is possible”

Once selected, I agreed to start the internship on 30 September. 2019. Moving to Geneva meant missing a semester of lessons, which was only possible because classes do not require mandatory attendance. I worked 5 days a week, 8 hours a day; making it difficult to balance studies and the @estudandonoexterior. Nonetheless, I tried to do my best to organise my daily schedule in a way that made it possible to include all my obligations using a daily planner with a list of tasks and deadlines to meet. Since the internship was unpaid, and Geneva is quite expensive, I had to manage my scholarship wisely to cover my cost of living while situated there. I kept an excel table with a list of fixed monthly expenses, i.e. accommodation, food, telephone and transport, reserving an amount for leisure and other activities.

Throughout the master’s degree, I have had enriching learning experiences. The HRG program covers different human rights topics, so the student can select those that are more related to his/her interests and career goals. It also incorporates practical activities, with a compulsory internship, in addition to promoting various extracurricular activities through conferences, simulations, and workshops. In fact, the internship was such an enriching experience as it allowed me to put into practice my knowledge and work with human rights. The experience also fundamentally improved my personal and professional development, motivating me to write my thesis on the work of the UPR in the promotion of women’s rights. When I completed the internship, I was nominated for Servizio Civile Universale, which allowed me to gain professional experience in Padova and continue working within my field of study. As a volunteer operator at the Human Rights Centre, I support a project that promotes the rights of defenders of human rights, engaging in different activities and initiatives.

In my two years as an international student at the University of Padova, I have sought to engage in different activities, always relevant to my curriculum and being prepared for the professional field after graduation; managing my schedule to succeed in my studies, my project and other academic and professional experiences. I would advise each student to keep in mind their goals and target experiences that aid progress on this path.

Written by Nathalie Gurgel

Edited by Christine Nanteza

Per leggere in italiano, fai clic con il pulsante destro del mouse in un punto qualsiasi di questa schermata e seleziona "Traduci in italiano".


Congratulations to Nathalie on graduating from the HRG program with honours. Follow her story on instagram @estudandonoexterior.


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