Between May and September 2022, Marina participated in the Bachelor in International Relations-UNSSC (United Nations Systems Staff College) Summer Research Program. During those months, she worked with 19 other students on the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) published by countries at the High-Level Political Forum in 2021. She was assigned to one of the teams working on Asia and worked with three other students on the VNRs published by six countries.
Marina is a fourth-year Bachelor in International Relations student from France. She spent her whole life there before coming to study at IE University in Madrid and is currently on exchange at Bocconi in Milan, Italy.
Why did you decide to participate in the BIR-UNSSC Summer Research Program?
I decided to apply for the BIR-UNSSC Summer Research program because I thought it would be an enriching opportunity to work with such a prestigious institution. In class, we talk a lot about the UN system, its institutions and how it works, so I thought it would be interesting to see how it was from the inside with a different perspective than the one we have inside the classroom. I also thought it would be an excellent opportunity to learn from professionals and improve my research skills the summer before writing my final thesis.
How was your experience in the BIR-UNSSC Summer Research Program?
The experience was exciting and enriching. I worked in a team with three other students, and we had to analyze Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). These documents could be anywhere between 34 and 786 pages long, which made us think strategically regarding the division of the work, note-taking methods and how to maximize our efficiency.
I worked on the VNRs of Malaysia and Indonesia, and it was enriching to learn more about these countries I didn’t know much about before starting the program.
Tell us about your project.
The main goal of our project was to analyze the VNRs published in 2021 and report the progress and lessons learned in the different regions.
During the first part of the project, we had to plan the scope of our research, define our research question, and the methodology we would use throughout the project. In the second step, the research part, we collected data and analyzed our findings.
In July, we had the opportunity to submit drafts of our reports and in September we polished our reports and prepared a presentation on our findings, which we presented to UNSSC staff. We will also present our findings to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the second semester of this year. One of the challenging aspects was to be concise enough to cover our results in 30 pages per team and then summarize it for a presentation of ten minutes per team, which forced us to be concise, straight to the point and to prioritize quality over quantity.
What was it like to work with the United Nations System Staff College?
I was looking forward to working with such a significant institution and discovering a different way of working than the one we have at IE University. In the end, I realized the way we’re taught to conduct our research in class is quite similar to the methodology UNSSC uses.
How does the Bachelor in International Relations help you for the future?
One of the main strengths of the program is that it gives us tools to understand how the world works. We study a broad range of subjects tackling how institutions operate at on a national, international and global level, but we also learn about economics and international law. We also have some classes that are more applied, allowing us to understand various areas, from the role of aid to the management of multinational corporations.
Thanks to this program, very few doors are closed to me in the working world. We can choose different paths, from working in an international organization to launching a start-up, from working for a national government to being in a consultancy firm.
What did you learn in this experience?
Regarding the content of the project, my main takeaway is the importance of looking at the consequences of decisions made on an international level on a local scale.
I have three main takeaways from the experience: the importance of teamwork, how organization from the beginning influences the whole project, and the importance of asking more experienced people for help.
During our program, we are used to working in groups and dividing the work among ourselves. However, we rarely have group projects over such a long period and never with such a quantity of information to analyze. For this project, we had to make sure that all the content was covered and that the work was divided in a fair and coherent way.
In this project, each group had a supervisor; ours gave us some great insights and was very helpful when guiding us. We also had the opportunity to attend meetings with professionals who have worked on the VNRs, and it was an excellent opportunity to address our questions or for clarifications.
What would you recommend to future IE University students considering the experience?
I would recommend future students to create a detailed plan and set deadlines within their team at the beginning to give some structure to the project. Initially, it can seem overwhelming to have such a large quantity of information to process, but creating your own plan helps to know what you have to read, when and in what order. In the same way, setting deadlines within your team helps to hold everyone accountable and to make sure everyone knows what they have to do.
The second piece of advice I would give would be to agree on a common, clear, and consistent note-taking method so that all members can easily use the notes of other members if needed.