United Nations Association Albania, Albania
This summer I had the opportunity to intern at the United Nations Association Albania (UNAA), a civil society organization dedicated to promoting the values of the United Nations, mobilizing the Albanian society for peace and a sustainable future and empowering Albanian youth. The organization was established by a group of young people passionate about advancing democratic practices and encouraging youth engagement in the development of the country. Since its establishment in 2016, UNAA has ideated and implemented a number of projects, such as the Model United Nations Initiative in Albania, the Albanian United Nations Youth Delegate Programme, Electionville, and Youth Peace and Security, and has organized multiple interactive informative sessions as well as created podcasts aiming to encourage intergenerational dialogue and ultimately upgrade youth skills.
As a young professional myself, the mission of UNAA resonates with me. Having left Albania when I was 16 to attend high school in China, and later enroll in a Semester at Sea program and college in the U.S.—while appreciating my international exposure—I have come to particularly value giving back to the communities and the society I grew up in. Through this internship I learned more about the socio-political conditions of my country and the challenges it faces, especially from the perspective of the youth, as I had the opportunity to travel to different cities in Albania to carry out various projects.
I joined the team in the Electionville session in the North of Albania, where high school students participated in a simulation of the local council, teaching them more about the functioning of democratic institutions. I also joined the current Albanian Youth UN Delegates on their tour of high schools, during which they carried out discussions on youth’s mental health. I was also part of a project organized in partnership with an environmental NGO aiming to raise awareness of the construction of a new airport and the resulting damage to a protected area on the environment and the biodiversity of the Lagoon of Narta—a key site for many species of flora and fauna.
In addition, I had the opportunity to meet a number of government officials, such as the minister of education and the minister of health and social welfare, as well as representatives of UN agencies in Albania. This has not only provided me with the platform to discuss and address current issues but also to understand the challenges of working in politics and international development, which is a professional goal of mine.
Overall, this internship helped me practically understand the value of the civil society and non-formal education in politics, in aiding development and fostering structured dialogue, both nationally and internationally. I am especially appreciative of the comfortable, friendly and supportive learning and working environment at UNAA, and I am grateful to the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this exceptional opportunity.