3 Ways to Make your Remote Internship at the UN a Success!

By: Raqshanda Khan

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Hi folks! My name is Raqshanda and I am a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) currently working for UNDP Vietnam in the Climate Change and Environment Unit. I specifically support project management under the Biodiversity and Conservation portfolio. The projects that I am working on are related to designing sustainable financial models that support the conservation of global eco-regions like the Central Highlands in Vietnam.

JPC Raqshanda at her Remote Office

As I began my remote internship, I was skeptical about managing an 11-hour time zone difference between Toronto and Hanoi. This was coupled with a sense of disconnect, where I am unable to wholesomely engage with people and projects unfolding on the field. However, I chose to look at the bright side and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In a post-COVID world, remote work for global development professionals has become the norm, and it was time for me to establish a set of rituals that I could hone in moving forward. I built a mental and physical well-being toolkit to manage the challenges above, and make this professional experience totally worth it!

1. Food-hopping:

Even though I am far from Vietnam, being in a hyper-diverse city like Toronto with a large Vietnamese diaspora greatly compensates for that. There are amazing food options galore! I visited Saigon Lotus in Toronto’s Kensington Market for an authentic taste of pho and spring rolls. The other day, I skipped my usual iced capp at Tim’s and opted for a condensed milk coffee at Pho Mi 289 in Mississauga. I was able to bond so well with my Vietnamese colleagues over these food experiences later on. Yes, food truly connects people beyond time and space.

2. Connecting with fellow JPCs: Being in the Eastern Canada corridor (GTA, Ottawa, Montreal) gives me ample opportunity to connect with my fellow JPCs who are remotely working in places like Rwanda and Panama. This wouldn’t have been possible if we had physically travelled to these locations. The fact that we are currently in the same country helps us share knowledge and ideas from different country contexts, which cross-fertilizes in our workflow.

Christine Kitoko and I, having brunch at local restaurant Maha’s in Toronto. Christine is a fellow JPC at the World Food Programme, Panama.

3. Rest and rejuvenation: I am lucky to have the flexibility to start my work days later when I would end-up having a spontaneous late-night team meeting the night before. The fact that my desk is perfectly situated near my bed also gives me enough reason to take multiple power naps. I also get to go on early morning walks in my neighbourhood and connect with nature. Practicing shinrin-yoku (forest meditation), helps instill a sense of appreciation for our planet in me, which keeps me motivated as an aspiring climate change policy maker.

Remote internships can be an absolute success if you so choose. Build your own well-being toolkit and it will definitely ‘take you places’!