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How to Volunteer with the United Nations


United Nations Internships
Victor Logachev, a United Nations volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, distributes brochures about AIDS.
Victor Logachev, a United Nations volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, distributes brochures about AIDS.
Scott Peterson/Contributor/Getty Images

United Nations internships are highly coveted spots, but don't let that discourage you from applying. Before we go any further, if you have an immediate family member who's on staff with the UNV, you're ineligible to intern there. The selection process is highly competitive, and to be eligible, you need to be studying sociology, anthropology, economics, international relations, environmental studies or public or business administration. You'll also need to write and speak English. If you know French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese or an Eastern European language, you better your chances of pegging an internship. What's more, you must return to complete your studies after you complete your UN internship.

To apply, submit your curriculum vitae, a cover letter explaining why you want to intern with the UNV and the specific field that interests you. You'll find a document called a Term of Responsibility (TOR) on the UNV Internship Programme Web site.

UNV internships are like rolling college admissions; as they're approved, positions can start at various times throughout the calendar year. Internships last two to four months, and during that time, you'll work at UNV's headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Unlike UN field service volunteers, interns receive no compensation from the UN, so be prepared to foot all costs related to the internship -- including lodging, food and transportation. Some nations and organizations provide a stipend to cover your living expenses during UN internships they sponsor, so read the fine print.

But a UN internship doesn't guarantee you a job later with the organization. If you're interested in regular or contract employment with the UN, you must wait at least six months after you finish your internship with the organization before you apply.

One more thing: Hold your horses if you have plans to do a documentary on your United Nations adventure. Part of the agreement is that you're there purely to serve, and you must keep everything you experience confidential.