Elvina Ganbarova is a second year graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree. Born and raised in Kazakhstan, and Azeri by ethnicity, she lived in Azerbaijan for a couple of years before coming to the United States. Currently, she is the president of INTAGO (International Affairs Graduate Organization); it is a position that allows her to be actively involved in making sure that other graduate students in the program have a successful and fun academic career. Her own areas of interest include development/humanitarian causes and international security. She recently held an internship with the southeast regional office of UNICEF that allowed her to put her academic focus into practical experience. We asked her a few questions about how her time at Tech helped her succeed at her UNICEF internship.
What do you enjoy most about your internship and what do you find most challenging?
My current internship with UNICEF USA in Atlanta is such an incredible opportunity! UNICEF is an international organization that promotes the rights and well-being of most vulnerable children around the world, focusing on the issues of poverty, violence, disease, educational disadvantages, discrimination, and, of course, emergencies. It is very rewarding to know that what I do every day, no matter how challenging or meticulous it may be, MATTERS. The lives of millions of children are affected by what I do. That blows my mind; it is both exciting and sometimes overwhelming – I often ponder upon the great deal of responsibility that comes with this position since it has an indirect impact on other people’s lives. Initially, the challenges of this internship mainly consisted of getting to know the process: how everyone operates in a small regional office, how to deal with a very large amount of daily work given the time constraints, how everything should be done according to the organizational procedures, etc. Still, every time we receive an update from one of the country-offices (these are regular updates sent by the staff stationed in the countries/regions where UNICEF provides direct services) I realize that I am indeed living the dream – I am making this world a better place for some little girl or boy. That is all that matters at the end of the day.
Tell us about an experience that made an impression on you during your internship.
One of the country-specialists visited our office not long ago. This lady had been stationed in South Sudan for quite some time. Unfortunately, due to the recently reignited fighting in the region (you may be aware of the long-term political/civil strife in South Sudan), UNICEF as well as most other humanitarian organizations’ staff had to be evacuated for safety reasons. She told us about the dire need in South Sudan, which once again reminded me about the importance of what I do. But she also talked about the successes of UNICEF’s work – women and children who previously had no hope for survival were now provided with safe shelters, food, medical assistance, and much more. Hearing about both the successes and continuous needs was quite emotional. It was reassuring – I know for a fact that continuing in this career path is something I owe to myself.
In what ways did your time at Tech prepare you for the internship?
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and Georgia Tech in general is a place where everything you thought you knew is challenged at some point. In a very good way. See, when people “specialize” in something, they tend to get very comfortable with the knowledge-and-skill base that they had acquired over time. That is not necessarily good: it creates a potential for developing “arrogance” and misconceptions, and it hinders personal and career growth. Being in this program at Tech has allowed me to both reinforce my strengths and talents as well as to recognize that learning never stops. I am able to continuously grow professionally and as a person; Tech has equipped me with solid theoretical and technical skills to tackle the most challenging problems that affect people’s lives around the globe. To add to that, the perseverance, that “fighting spirit” (the ability and courage to keep going even when everything that could go wrong DOES go wrong) that is inevitably bestowed upon every Tech student allows me to work through the hardest days. Tech is awesome, I feel honored to be a part of this community.