Tag Archives: Geneva

Goodbye to fancy flags and awesome people -Kayla Bruce


My summer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was the most incredible learning experience, and in many ways that I never would have predicted. This summer has deepened my understanding of international humanitarian organizations and the complex setting within which they must function. It has shown me that several of my preexisting criticisms of the U.N. system were superficial, while I developed others as the summer went on. I was truly learning new things every single day in Geneva, and as excited as I am to be headed back to NOLA, I wish I could have stayed a bit longer.

During my last week at UNHCR, I wrote up a list of my internship tasks and accomplishments to review with my supervisor. It was great to have an opportunity to sit down and discuss how my work impacted the office and well as how my time at UNHCR impacted my own learning outcomes. I was proud to see this impact, and there were a few major projects that stuck out in my mind. I think my greatest contribution to the team were the creation of Key Messaging Outlines, something my office has talked about making but never actually had until now (view my last post for a more detailed description of this project). I completed Key Messaging Outlines for Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Yemen and Ukraine. Now that the foundation is laid, the team simply has to review their countries’ outlines once a week to make sure they are up to date. I produced an outline template that can be filled out if (alright… when) new crises arise. This project will allow anyone on the team to confidently speak at a press briefing on an issue that may be outside of his or her area of expertise.

Watching my desk neighbor do a French News 24 interview down the hall

Watching my desk neighbor do a French News 24 interview down the hall

I also developed a clear media monitoring outline, a project I have been working on since the beginning of the summer. This required a combination of getting the hang of our media tracking software, doing follow up research on different media outlets, understanding which media sources were priorities, and working with the PI team to develop a format that would be concise and useful on a weekly basis. It was satisfying to see that by the end of my internship, people were checking in with me right after a briefing to ask when I would get the data on their note, anxious to analyze its reach (I had to wait at least 24 hours to start evaluating media pick up). I developed a template for future interns to use and have offered to Skype with a future intern to discuss how I went about the media monitoring process. Other project I worked on included writing interviews, expanding publicity for media pieces, creating country blurbs for a website featuring refugee musicians, and writing a comparative media report to try and convince Angelina Jolie to finally speak on BBC instead of CNN. While there were a few major projects I worked on throughout my ten weeks, every week brought new and different tasks and new opportunities to learn.

One thing major thing I have come to terms with is that if I want to continue in this field I will have to get several years of field experience under my belt. This is not only an important next step in getting hired in this field, but important in understanding how administrative work at head quarters translates to services in the field. While this has always been something I have distantly considered, I’m now aware that I will need to make that decision soon. It will mean a minimum of two years abroad, and ideally three to five. It will mean leaving a lot behind and missing major life events; graduations, weddings, births and deaths. It will also mean spending enough time somewhere to gain a more permanent community, and to deeply understand that culture. It will mean working in direct services and connecting distant planning and fundraising to real people. It will allow me to determine whether this is the right path for me, and if it is, it will allow me to continue along that path. Whichever path I chose, the next few years will be a period of major change for me, and I’m excited for all that lies ahead.


High Commission Guterres welcomes the President of Tanzania to UNHCR headquarters (unfortunately, the red carpet was temporary)


Beautiful performance by a Syrian refugee on World Refugee Day

Sad to leave, but glad to have made such great friends

Sad to leave, but glad to have made such great friends

Au revoir, Genève – Angelica

Now that I am back home and able to reflect on the past two months, I’m realizing how much I have learned and experienced throughout the course of my internship. In terms of giving me some direction professionally, my time with ICMHD was invaluable. It has allowed me to see what working in public health could entail, and how I may best contribute, especially in the earliest phases of what I’m hoping will become my career. More broadly, and perhaps even more importantly, it has renewed my determination to pick an occupation with which I will be able to do some “good.”

My internship has given me some insight into how this goal may be attained. One of my learning objectives was to understand, in greater detail, how NGOs and intergovernmental organizations can help in the pursuit of “development,” which I continue to associate with the alleviation of suffering, at least in part. My conversations at my internship, whether over lunch, or during a meeting or after a presentation, have exposed me to the complexity of doing so and the necessity of a combined effort on the part of citizens, governments, NGOs, intergovernmental organizations and many other entities that have the potential to generate change. Sweeping measures do not seem to work when addressing the root of persistent development and public health issues. One of these issues, which I was able to learn more about through a presentation at my internship site, was the high rate of cesarean sections in many parts of the world. The reasons why so many women are opting for C-sections is not well understood, and likely vary from country to country, presenting a complicated and pressing issue to unravel. I would like to be part of the effort of answering these types of difficult questions in public health in the hope of better understanding that which influences our decisions regarding health.

With this idea in mind, I would like to continue to learn about research in public health, and contribute what I can when I return to New Orleans, and beyond. I would like to further investigate sources of inequality and how they influence health and well-being, a research topic I view as extremely relevant for study in New Orleans, a city suffering from great inequality with unique public health needs. I now feel I have more direction in my coursework as well as the work I plan to do outside the classroom to facilitate this.

My experiences in Geneva have also reinforced my determination to do as much abroad as possible. Seeing other parts of the world is incredibly rewarding and essential to understanding our increasingly globalizing and multicultural lives. Anyone interested in doing work that will have an impact on people outside of your own culture should seize opportunities to immerse oneself in life elsewhere. I’ve heard the importance of cultural literacy emphasized time and time again throughout my internship.

It is difficult to encompass the change I feel I have undergone and everything I have learned during my internship. I remain thankful to Newcomb College Institute and the Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching, for making this experience attainable. I believe that experiences such as these are at the heart of what life as a college student should be. I don’t know when else I will have the opportunity to so freely explore my interests. This summer will truly be a defining moment in my life.

I can’t wait to return to Tulane and apply what I’ve learned at ICMHD and living in Geneva to life in NOLA (which will be quite soon, as I’m back in early August for RA training).

Until next time, Geneva!

A view from a hike in the Swiss Prealps.

A view from a hike in the Swiss Prealps.


My favorite spot to swim in Lac Léman, Baby Plage – “plage” is French for “beach.”


A picture I find representative of the clean, Calvinist-cool vibes of Geneva’s old town.


Another delightful spot in the Old Town.


St. Pierre Cathedral. My hostel was located right across the square from it. It’s bells ring every 15 minutes. One ding for the 15th minute of the hour, two for the 30th and three for the 45th. Surprisingly, I and many others at the hostel did not find this annoying, except on Sundays when the bells would ring for a solid 10 minutes, from 9:50 until 10 a.m. I had to, however, appreciate being so close to such a beautiful, historic building.

UNHCR Ready, Geneva Bound. -Kayla Bruce

This summer, I am interning with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHCR was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people (UNHCR). The UNHCR Website provides extensive information on its areas of focus, including emergency response, protection and capacity building. They also put out updates each week on major refugee crises around the world.

As an International Development and Public Health student, I have spent a lot of time learning about the UN system in my coursework and am still in awe that this has materialized. As a freshman, I started talking to a contact in the UNHCR about her job, her perspective on the organization, and any advice she had for pursuing a career in this field. As a sophomore, I started inquiring about potential internship opportunities. Between my relative lack of experience and the fact that I may have started inquiring too late in the year, she told me that there weren’t any open positions that I could fill that summer. I found another great internship opportunity, where I gained valuable experience and expanded both my skill set and my resume. Early this fall, I got in touch with her again. Because I was ahead on credits, I told her that if there was a higher demand for interns in the spring than in the summer, I was available to take the semester off to work with the UNHCR (my alternative to a traditional study abroad). I provided her my updated resume and was able to talk about my interest in a more informed way. After seeing my dedication (or realizing that I wasn’t going to give up and leave her alone) she offered me a position for the summer of 2015.

This is an incredible opportunity for me to learn what it is like to work in a multinational organization. I feel that with three years of undergrad under my belt, I will be able to make a meaningful contribution to this organization. I am excited to get a first hand perspective of how international organizations like the UNHCR actually work. I think this will be a great learning experience for me, particularly in understanding the challenges the UN organizations face from a first hand perspective.

I will primarily work with the Communications and Public Relations department under UNHCR Spokesperson Melissa Fleming, who was recently featured on TED, discussing the Syrian refugee crisis and working towards more transformative refugee interventions. She has done a lot of work in my field of interest, and I am excited to learn more about how she got to where she is today.

I will contribute to daily media monitoring and will be responsible for pulling together a weekly impact report. This report will outline how UNHCR press releases, briefing notes and multimedia were covered in the media and on external platforms. I will also gather input from social media for this analysis. I will do research on current crises that will be used in articles, columns and speeches throughout the summer. The UNHCR is also planning for World Refugee Day on June 20th. Helping to organize this event will be a major part of my role in the beginning of the summer.

Additionally, I hope to shadow in the Public Health department one day a week. While I will not have as active a role as I will in the communications department, I hope to learn more about different roles within public health in the field of disaster response. I have spoken to my supervisor about this and we will have to work out the logistics of this option once I start work in May. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted!

In just three weeks, I’ll be taking off for Geneva. I’m not sure what to expect, but I know this is going to be the learning experience of a lifetime.