Student Maria Chiara Stefanelli shares experiences of her UNESCO internship

We have interviewed our new intern from Taranto, a sunny city in Puglia (home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites), in southern Italy. Chiara has been on board with an internship since mid-July to assist our Culture Unit in support of communication activities. We hope her internship with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), will translate into a concrete place for her passions to converge and her future profession to take shape.

Tell us about yourself: what is your background?

I have always been deeply immersed in the humanities, both in terms of personal interests and professional choices. This has gradually translated into a desire to communicate and share my interests with others. At my Classical High School, “Quinto Ennio”, in Taranto, I attended a class in journalism and communication. I have since graduated in Communication Sciences from the University of Siena, and I am currently enrolled in a Master of Communication for International Relations at the IULM University in Milan.

In parallel with my studies, and in order to indulge my passion for writing, I started collaborating with an Italian online newspaper in January 2013, writing weekly articles on current events, politics, economics and science. This interest in refining my communication skills also encouraged me, in July 2012, during my studies in Siena, to attend the “Techniques and practices of the interview” Summer School organized in my university by the Purdue University of Indiana. Last year, not wanting to limit myself to one language, I took an English course for the IELTS certificate, sitting the final exam in July 2013.

Why did you want to intern at UNESCO?

As part of my Master’s studies this year, I have learned much about the United Nations – its Specialized Agencies, its system and its activities – that left me curious about the workings of international organizations. I concluded that an internship at UNESCO could be a great opportunity for me to improve my skills, work in a multicultural context and learn more about the Organization – whose mandate covers issues that I value greatly – and about the UN in general.

I have always been acutely aware of threats to nature and the environment. Growing up in Taranto, a beautiful city that is sadly affected by air and water pollution caused by the ILVA steel production plant and by human neglect, I witnessed some shocking instances of degradation that encouraged me to keep informed about the problems of my city and across Italy. The many years I spent as a girl scout also helped me to develop my own “green” conscience.

I also consider myself to be a sensitive person: I was profoundly moved by the human rights and development cases I came into contact with during my school and university years. I am intrigued by the different cultures and influences that surround me. In this respect, I hoped that the internship at UNESCO would allow me to learn more about themes connected to my background, and to apply my skills in communication, media, press and public relations.

What do you think you are gaining from your internship so far? What are the most important features?

I started working in the Culture Unit of the UNESCO Venice Office at the beginning of July, and I have found the work to be extremely satisfying. I am in a multicultural environment, speaking Italian and English, taking part in different types of activities connected to the Office, and learning more and more every day about my country, Europe and the world in general. More specifically, I have been assisting colleagues in preparing for EXPO 2015 and producing a presentation about UNESCO’s achievements in South-East Europe. At my age, I think I have a lot to learn from the Office environment and from the people who are working here.

What are your goals for the future? What will happen after the internship?

In the future, I would love to work in communication and journalism in an agency or an international organization that has a focus on human rights. I am an outgoing person, and have always found it surprisingly easy to relate to people and listen to what they have to say. With this in mind, I hope to be able to put my skills and personality to good use in a position that reflects my background and my desire to contribute. The internship at UNESCO is well matched to my expectations, my interests, and my previous experience, and I believe that it will help me to better define my future choices.

After the internship I will return to Taranto in order to finalize my thesis before graduation, which takes place in December, and to take a first aid course, something I have always wanted to do but never managed to find the time for while I was away at university. I will also go back to practicing my singing, a lifelong passion that I have indulged by attending a music academy and taking part in a series of shows and competitions.