Summer Internship Experience at International Trade Centre, Geneva (WTO and UNCTAD)
The first day of my internship, I woke up quite early (not because it was my first day, but because of the time difference), got ready and left for office. There I had my first embarrassing moment: I fell down in the tram, not being used to the turns and breaks of the tram. Finally, I got down at the right stop but still I was lost! Then came my first shot at conversing with foreign strangers for asking the route. After first few attempts I realized I was in a majorly French speaking country where people write R but pronounce it as ‘Kh’, meaning they write something and speak something else. I managed to learn the odd pronunciation and finally reached my destination that was my second home for the next two months – International Trade Centre (Joint agency of WTO and UN, Geneva).
As a part of the programme, I attended a training at the WTO and hence got a chance to listen to and interact with some of the eminent personalities and speakers at the organization. They had the knack of making people develop interest in the subject even if someone didn’t have it in the first place! And one thing worth mentioning is that the interiors at WTO are just mind blowing! I remember one of my friends quoting that it might have been an art gallery before because of the huge murals and paintings inside in addition to the great architecture. But later on, I realized that these paintings and sculptures are gifts from governments of different nations, and they were a common fixture in almost every UN organization I visited during my stay, including the Palais des Nations (United Nations). A very famous gift by the Indian Government was the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, standing outside the Palais building.
My work involved a comprehensive analysis of Trade Facilitation Agreement that was concluded in the recent 9th Ministerial Conference held at Bali and its consequences on the Small and Medium Enterprises. Apart from that I was involved in preparing country profiles that are published and updated on their website on a regular basis. In a span of two months I was even exposed to their ongoing projects for different countries. My learnings at IIFT such as the use of Intracen tools were an added advantage to my work. Prior to my internship, I had used these tools in my academic projects and assignments, but at ITC I got to meet the real brains involved in maintaining and updating such useful databases of ITC and WTO. The work environment was so congenial that it was a cake walk for me to gel with other interns and employees despite belonging to a different nation. I had developed a good bonding with everyone I worked with, that it became difficult to bid them goodbye on my farewell day which was again a pleasant surprise by my fellow interns.
Among the learnings from this internship, one thing stands out: relationship building. My whole internship experience is memorable not because of the place or organization but only because of the friends I made! Each day I used to meet someone new – from a different culture, a different place. And everyone had a unique story to tell, a unique aim, a unique perspective towards life and unique tastes. Trying to converse with them through actions, learning few greetings in their language, and then telling them about our Indian culture, our strengths was altogether a very interesting experience that I would never forget! If not anything else but one thing most of them knew about India was the ‘Taj Mahal’!
The most challenging and fun part of my stay was to remember the names of all the people I met (I am sure I still can’t pronounce few) in their own languages and pronunciations. I stayed in an international hostel with 80 other students belonging to 54 different nationalities. It’s an amazing feeling to have friends from so many different countries and be in constant touch with them. I hope I get a chance to visit all of them in Egypt, Sweden, Dominican Republic, Canada, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Spain, Germany, and the list goes on. Also I will love to be a host to them in my country. We had fun on various events that were conducted by the hostel. At one of the events, we had to prepare a dish from our own countries, and we got a chance to taste other countries’ delicacies!!
Time just flew by without me realizing the pace of it; sometimes so engrossed in office work that I wouldn’t realize it was late evening. Amidst all of this we used to visit different places in Switzerland and nearby countries. Lausanne was the first city in Switzerland I visited and I instantly fell in love with it. The beautiful blue lake in front of the snow clad mountains in the misty and slightly chilled air – the image is still inked in my mind! We visited Bruges, Belgium where we went on a bike (bicycle) ride to a beach for a total of 50 km. Traveling to Europe and not taking a bike ride is like visiting Mumbai and not experiencing the local trains, for bike ride is the most common form of travelling in Europe. Visiting Amsterdam which is known as the ‘city of bikes’ was also a great experience! Here, pedestrians cannot walk in the bike lane or else bikers will just take you down!
Sometimes, travelling alone is also a bliss, remembering one such day when I explored the beautiful city of Geneva alone. I had the famous Swiss ice-creams and chocolates all day long, sat beside the renowned landmark of Geneva, Jet d’Eau and felt the fresh air around. It was a calm and serene ambience where people did not bother each other; they were free, independent and happy! And walking at night on streets couldn’t have been more fun and safer! From mountains to lakes, rivers to valleys, courtyards to vineyards, I saw a lot in those two months but still a lot remains to be seen!