Emily Swann is currently in her fourth year of the Dual Degree in Laws + International Relations at IE University. Originally from West Virginia in the US, she made her way to Spain to pursue this innovative program right out of high school. And she’s grateful to have made this difficult choice because of the vast range of unique opportunities the program presents for both professional and personal development.

She recently got the chance to participate in one such beneficial activity: the Bachelor in International Relations-United Nations System Staff College Summer Research Program. It was a unique chance to work with one of the leading international organizations in the world. She also appreciates the many dedicated faculty and staff members at IE University, who are always willing to teach, guide and support students, even after graduation. Because of this, she notes, “our dreams and goals for the future seem more possible with all the help and opportunities available to us.”

We talked to Emily about her experience at IE University, what the innovative Summer Research Program was like, and the lessons she took away from the process.

Why did you decide to be a part of the Bachelor in International Relations-United Nations Systems Staff College Summer Research Program? 

When I received the email at the end of last academic year, I was immediately very interested due to the connection the internship had with the United Nations System Staff College. Knowing how to write a large research paper in a somewhat short amount of time is becoming very important to me due to my upcoming thesis papers and future career plans. 

Tell us more about your project.

The overall project that all groups started with was reading through our specific group of countries’ UN Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) progression, then finding a research question to base our findings from the VNRs. 

My group dealt with several countries in Asia: Laos, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. We decided to base our paper on the progression of their SDG growth from 2015 to the present. 

My favorite part was the fact that I was able to learn more about countries that are never talked about in my classes; it was truly eye-opening. Overall, the experience was good and taught me new things that I hope to use in my future career.

What was it like to partner with the United Nations System Staff College?

Working with the organization was very beneficial due to the expertise they shared with us throughout the process. We all knew how to write good research papers, but writing one for an international organization with such a high profile is very different. As a group, we had to learn how to write more diplomatically rather than in a strictly academic sense.

How was your experience in the Bachelor in International Relations-United Nations Systems Staff College Summer Research Program? What challenges did you face?

The entire process from start to end was a learning experience. From research to writing the report and editing, to finally presenting our findings—every stage allowed us all to grow as young professionals. 

We worked in groups throughout this experience and were guided by a professor, so there was always support given in some sense. That being said, I would also consider being in groups a challenge we all had to face. Imagine a normal group project for one of your classes, but five times more intense. For almost half of the internship, I was in the United States with a group member in South Korea and two other teammates in Europe. So we had to learn how to make the most of our own personal time while still communicating with others. 

When this semester started, most of us were in our exchange or elective period, so the final stages were a bit more challenging to coordinate. Despite these challenges, I believe our team was able to provide a solid research report that showcased our region’s SDG progress well.

What are your main takeaways from this experience? 

Group work doesn’t stop after university; in some ways, it can even become more difficult than what you deal with now. But the results are so much better and more satisfying. 

I also learned just how important communication and clear deadlines are. I mean this in the sense of the overall organization of a project, but also on a smaller scale at the group and individual levels. Clear deadlines are needed to help make sure that work is both constant and manageable. The same goes for communication. 

Finally, my last takeaway was to take advantage of your supervisors’ experience. They have so much more knowledge in the field and their guidance is invaluable.

What advice do you have for future students at IE University?

Do all you can to spend your time wisely. Whether it’s enjoying your youth and freedom during college or working constantly to make progress toward your future, make sure that you don’t leave with any regrets. Instead, try to make future you proud of all you were able to accomplish and younger you amazed of how far you have. Prioritize yourself over everything else and just enjoy your life at IE University.