Mark Robbins secures one of only about 80 UN internships available worldwide
By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Mark Robbins always has been impassioned by the idea of working with the United Nations.
So the 25-year-old Stoney Creek native and Carleton University master’s degree political economy student decided to try his luck and apply to some of the internship positions available with the intergovernmental organization that fit his profile in February.
Robbins didn’t expect much from the process.
But in March, he received an offer of internship with the UN in Bangkok, Thailand.
“There were about 80 internship positions available worldwide and UN spots are notoriously competitive, since they only take in such a small portion of those that apply,” Robbins said. “When I read it (the offer) on my phone that morning, I nearly fell out of bed. From there, I corresponded with my future manager about the details, including visa applications, an apartment and whatnot until we were totally set on a start date.”
The UN was established on Oct. 24, 1945 to promote international co-operation.
Robbins’ internship includes working with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The ESCAP was established in 1947, operates out of Bangkok and works to overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by providing results oriented projects, technical assistance and capacity building to member States in a number of areas.
Robbins will be helping to develop urban transportation nodes facilitating international trade in the region.
He said the internship offers ample opportunity for learning.
“It is a great context in which to learn about political economy, especially in East and South-East Asia where the line between ‘political issues’ and ‘economic issues’ is even more blurred than it is in Canada,” Robbins said. “In addition to being a good fit within my academic program, international relations has been a long-standing interest of mine. The internship is a great way to bridge that interest with my academic work.”
Robbins said the internship also provides plenty of opportunity to put past experience into practice.
He worked with the federal government on transportation issues during his undergraduate degree political science studies at the University of Ottawa. He did part-time work for several years with the Canadian Transportation Agency in Gatineau, Que.
“The internship also works well a certificate in urban design that I have from Simon Fraser University,” Robbins said. “At a higher level, trade with the Asia-Pacific region is going to be increasingly important for Canada over the next 20 years. I’m very pleased to be doing work that is going to continue to be relevant.”
Robbins left for his internship with the UN in Bangkok last Sunday.
He will be gone for three months.
Just before leaving, Robbins said he felt “extremely privileged” about having the opportunity to work with the UN.
“I am really looking forward to peeling back the veil of the UN and seeing what it is actually like behind all the gossip and speculation,” he said. “Everyone has something to say about the UN, but so few people know about it first-hand. I'll be very happy to have the chance to make up my own opinion.”
Robbins said an internship with the UN can open many doors.
He hopes to learn as much as possible about how to be a good global citizen and political-economist.
“Of course, if a long-term position came from this it would be difficult to say no,” he laughed. “From everything that I have heard, the UN is a great place to work and it also has a special university, a branch of which operates out of Hamilton. The internship could very well open a door to a PhD at the United Nations University.”