Fels Student Vera Partem, '15, represents United States at US mission to UN through PLAS Fellowship

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June 13, 2015

Fels caught up with student Vera Partem, '15,  to talk about her summer work at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva. 

Where are you working this summer?

This summer, I am representing the United States at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland. I am working as an overseas intern and Graduate Pickering Fellow with the U.S. Department of State. This fall, I will be joining the United States Department of State as a Diplomat and am excited to see where I will serve!

What do you do there?

I am working on the Human Rights Council and other multi-lateral matters – addressing matters in the Human Rights Council dealing with S. Sudan to the Russian violations in Ukraine to concerns about human rights defenders in Bahrain and beyond.

How has your time at Fels prepared you for your summer experience?

My time at Fels has prepared me for the intensity of the summer experience due to the variety of classes and opportunities I’ve had while at Penn. From working as a Graduate Assistant at the Stouffer College House, and a Teaching Assistant for the Penn in Washington program/diplomacy classes, I’ve been able to gain the necessary range of skills to work in the current multi-lateral setting.  

What are some of the challenges and benefits of your experience?

This summer, I am working on the Human Rights Council and other multi-lateral matters for the United States Permanent Mission at the United Nations – this requires me to learn about and to address serious current international matters – everything from last-minute translations in the U.N. chamber, to negotiations meetings and requests from the Ambassador and his team. Finally, due to the in-depth nature of the Council when dealing with international matters, the hours can be very long and the work can be challenging and very demanding. For example, a day in the Council can include dealing with issues such as the human rights violations in S. Sudan, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the serious concerns about human rights defenders in Bahrain and beyond. It’s important to always be open to new suggestions and ideas, to be willing to learn, to work hard and to listen to the instructions of your coworkers.

Are you in a new city?

Yes, I am living with six other interns at the intern chalet and am learning to navigate the demands of a new (and very expensive) city! Spending the summer in one of the world’s richest countries is exciting and at times financially challenging for an intern. We’ve found ways to be very creative, staying in traditional mountain hostels on the weekends, traveling on student passes on the train system and exploring the beauty of the Swiss Alps via hikes and other creative ways! It’s interesting to observe the country’s direct democratic system of government and to see the wonderful, high-quality, low-stress way of life for most here!

What advice do you have for someone looking to do similar work?

My advice to anyone considering working or studying abroad is that it’s an absolute must. There’s a quote that sums it up best: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page…”

Stay tuned for more updates on the PLAS Fellows!

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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