7 November 2023

Thanks to an institutional agreement signed in 2022 between the University of Westminster and the UN Migration Agency, also known as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Westminster students can apply for exclusive internship opportunities at IOM offices around the world.

This year 12 Westminster students were selected from a large pool of applicants to undertake unique and highly sought-after internships at IOM offices in Switzerland, Kenya, Laos, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Burundi and the UK. Westminster’s IOM interns are fortunate to receive funding in support of their internships to enable outward mobility opportunities, including generous funds from alumnus Trevor Yang, The Quintin Hogg Trust, and the Global Experience Bursary.

These long-term internships, which are four to nine months in duration, provide students with excellent opportunities to excel in their professional careers, develop significant skills and competencies, gain exposure to the workings of a leading international organisation, and build a firm foundation for their future careers.

In their roles, the interns engage in a wide range of global issues relating to migration and development, migration policy, migrant protection, migration health, and disaster preparedness and response.

Alexandra Bukhareva, who completed the International Relations and Development BA Honours course in July 2023 and is undertaking a nine-month internship at IOM’s Kenya office, working within the Somalia Programme Support Unit, said: “What I enjoy the most is the diversity of my work as coordinating the projects means being partially involved in the work of every unit separately, which allows you to understand the working principles of IOM to a full extent. From the start, my supervisor told me that IOM treats interns as staff members which is something that truly motivated me.”

Kian Richardson, who graduated with a Politics BA Honours this summer, and is currently interning at IOM Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), said: “From aiding in project development research to developing comprehensive communication strategies, my tasks have ranged across the spectrum... Each assignment makes clear how granular efforts fit into a larger picture, with each contributing incrementally to impactful change at community level.”

Ahmad Aziz, a recent graduate of International Relations and Development BA Honours course who interns at the IOM in Bangladesh’s Mission Support Unit, said: “The team as a whole are extremely supportive; entrusting me with meaningful responsibilities and pushing me to gain as much experience as possible.”

The internships also create a unique opportunity for students to learn through working closely with high level experts in the field. Veronica Giannelli, a recent Westminster graduate of the International Relations BA Honours course, is currently interning in the Protection Division Department at IOM Headquarters in Geneva and comments on the “fulfilling and dynamic” nature of her work. She said: “I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of an exceptional team at IOM. Comprising professionals from various backgrounds and expertise, our collaborative and supportive work environment fosters innovation and creativity. The spirit of camaraderie among us has been pivotal in achieving our goals and making a positive impact on migrants’ lives.”

Similarly, Kazumi Hirai, a Study Abroad student at Westminster who is currently interning at IOM Burundi, said: “I have learned a lot from working with various actors such as the government, NGOs, and the private sector from inside the UN, and from the experienced expats and colleagues in Burundi who have shared their career paths with me.”

These international internships also offer students the brilliant chance to experience living in a new country. Speaking about his experience living abroad, Kian said: “Laos is an incredible country with a beautiful culture and fascinating history. Settling into daily life in Vientiane has been a joy, as has exploring the hidden gems it has to offer by motorbike every weekend. The food is unbelievable, as is the weather, but the people have really made my experience.”

Marianna Bernardes Ciolfi, who completed the Politics and International Relations BA Honours course in July 2023 and is currently interning at IOM Mozambique, added: “I've come to consider my Maputo colleagues as a second family. Their warm welcome and unwavering support have been invaluable, both in helping me get settled at work and embracing Mozambique's culture. From venturing into Nature Reserves to diving in the Indian Ocean, we've created unforgettable memories together.”

Reflecting on his experience so far, Ahmad added: “Immersed in a vocation I am passionate about, I am gaining a wealth of knowledge, growing my skillset, and meeting many talented people. This is an invaluable foundation for pursuit of a career in the international development sector.”

For more information on the University’s partnership with the IOM, please contact Dr Sahar Taghdisi Rad.

To find out how you can donate to support future interns like Veronica on the programme, please contact Jordan Scammell, Head of Development and Fundraising, at [email protected].