From Venice to the Caucasus Mountains. News from Tobias Mohn, a former intern in environmental sciences
Tobias Mohn, a former intern in our Science unit has taken some time to let us know what he thought about his 4-month internship with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy). Originally from South Germany, Tobias has spent the past years between Berlin where he studied and many other places. He did his internship with us over April-August 2011. Almost two years have elapsed and since, he has co-written a book and travelled to the most remote places.
What is your background, and what got you interested in interning at UNESCO?
I recently finished my Master in environmental engineering and sustainable development at the Technical University of Berlin. Throughout my studies, I was interested in the work of international organizations and their role in sustainable development and environmental protection. Venice is a city which had a great impact on my personal life in the past, so when I learned that there was a vacancy for an intern in the field of science diplomacy and transboundary water management, I just did not hesitate to apply. I was interested in UNESCO as it reflected my multiple interests and I saw the internship as a great chance to get to know better also a variety of activities, which are not in my professional domain - like culture and education. Now and then, when my work was finished, I spent hours searching the extensive library of UNESCO for publications ranging from Central Asian history to Education on climate change.
What did you like best about your internship?
Getting into a work routine in a city like Venice is definitely a magical experience in itself for any foreigner. I simply loved the daily 15-minute walk to Palazzo Zorzi, before the streets were getting too crowded. Above all, it was the openness of the people working there and the trust my colleagues put in me, which allowed me to make experiences from which I have greatly profited professionally.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to do an internship at UNESCO?
Having a clear picture in mind of what you want to get out of your internship at UNESCO and how you want to contribute to the organization will certainly help you make the best out of your time. If you are open and curious, you’ll be treated with great respect and able to make the best of the experience of your co-workers and the great variety of topics and partner organizations UNESCO is dealing with.
What happened after the internship? What does a typical day look like for you now?
After the internship, I continued to travel and accumulate work experience. I had the chance to share my experiences tutoring for a German scholarship programme for international students working in development countries and do other internships in Central Africa for the German International Cooperation (GIZ) and China. While finishing my studies, I co-authored a book with the anthropologist M.A. Palumbo titled “Slowly Africa” (original title: Lentamente l’Africa) about my bike travels in West Africa – which has been published in Italy and will hopefully soon to be translated in other languages. I am about to end a 2-month bike tour across the Caucasus, working on a photo project about Georgia and Armenia. I completed my master’s thesis during the trip; having long nightly writing sessions in a tent by the fire in the Caucasus Mountains was certainly a memorable experience, though not one I would necessarily recommend. Nevertheless it was a great lesson about how to keep being professional even under the most adverse working conditions, a skill which I am likely to need in the future. Upon my return, I will pack my bags and move to Congo to start my first real job in a major national development agency. It will be again in the field of transboundary water management, the topic I learned so much about during my internship time at UNESCO.
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