UN Internships: To do or not to do, that is the decision

by Ana Romar

Trend among first-year SIPA students: I wish I could do an internship at the UN.
Trend among second-year SIPA students: I wish I hadn’t done an internship at the UN.

There is no inter-generational coordination, yet it is true every year: when you arrive to SIPA, working at the UN is a dream for many. It is a unique opportunity that only New York offers and that perfectly matches the curriculum at SIPA. However, when you talk with second-year students, the general comments show disappointment.

At The Morningside Post, we will not tell you what to do. You are a free spirit! But as a platform for “honest voices,” the least we can do is to provide you with some insights so that you can take an informed decision. As always, there are pros and cons. Your final decision should rely on what you value the most.


  • It sounds terrific in your resume. Especially if you are an international student (people abroad, as first-year students, think that the UN is an incredibly challenging workplace).
  • You might learn something, if you are one of the lucky ones.
  • It is great to have a UN Pass!! If you are a curious human being, you can go to as many events as you want.
  • It is refreshing to get out of the SIPA bubble and go midtown to do something different. If you have declared Lehman your home and you are starting to get a library tan, it is time to see the sunlight! Getting out of SIPA will positively affect your well-being.
  • NETWORKING (the golden word at OCS). You will meet many interesting people who could be willing to help in the near future. Avoid desk lunches and try to schedule appointments with different people to talk about their careers.


  • Unpaid. No comment about UN staff salaries…
  • Between 15 and 30 fewer hours of study time for SIPA. Be ready to explore your tolerance to stress.
  • Giving up courses at SIPA. If you want to conserve your health, you’d better take fewer credits at SIPA than you would usually take. If you are working part time, it means that you will have to study part time (do not take 18 credits!). And remember, no pressure, but there are only 4 semesters to do all the extremely appealing courses that SIPA offers (2 if you are a dual-degree student, sorry).
  • Frustration (n).- the feeling of anxiety when you know your 8-year old cousin could be doing this tedious work in your place.
  • Anger (n).- the feeling that follows frustration, when you realize that you could be studying for the Macro midterm you have in 3 days instead of proofreading that document that says exactly the same that the other 20 documents you have read since you arrived 2 months ago.
  • Disappointment: Your work is not challenging or rewarding. Let’s be realistic: UN staff does the fun part, interns are just there to help with tedious and easy tasks. If what matters for you is learning, you will learn much more taking one extra course at SIPA or just doing your readings for that class that you always forget about.

Before taking a decision, think twice about it, because it all depends on what you are looking for. This is a cost-benefit decision.  To do it or not to do it… that is the decision!