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Lehigh partnership opens door to U.N. internships

Jennifer Atanasoska ’06

When it comes to placing students in intern positions at the United Nations, Lehigh is five for five.

This summer, Jennifer Atanasoska ’06, will be Lehigh’s fifth student to participate in the program, and will secure Lehigh’s position as one of the top universities in the world in placing interns with the U.N.

Bill Hunter, director of International Students and Scholars for Lehigh, credits the success to Lehigh’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status with the U.N.—an outgrowth of the Lehigh University-United Nations Partnership established in August 2004.

“The Lehigh grads who have served at the U.N. have been exceptional,” Hunter says. “These talented people have made a wonderful impression on the U.N. officials, making it relatively easy to place students of similar caliber in that position.”

Hunter says the university’s NGO status may have helped the first few interns “get their foot in the door,” but their stellar performance paved the way for others.

“We feel very fortunate to be a regular supplier of interns to the U.N.” he says. “It has been a win-win situation.”

Breaking down language barriers

Atanasoska, a political science and Spanish double major from New York City, will work in the U.N.’s Department of Public Information (DPI), following up on two previous summer terms as a volunteer with the U.N. Office of Human Resources and Management. She also interned for U.S. Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) during the summer of 2005, and used her language skills to field inquiries from Clinton’s Spanish-speaking constituents.

Atanasoska will work at the U.N. as an unpaid intern for 50 hours a week over a six-month period, Hunter says. Applicants for the program were limited to those with a GPA of 3.7 or above, fluency in at least one language, and a demonstrated understanding of the expanded global community.

“I’m very eager to become an intern so that I could become a greater part of the U.N.’s work and be able to work with and learn from the highly accomplished and qualified individuals that work there,” Atanasoska says.

The first in her family to attend college, Atanasoska believes the internship will further strengthen the skills that Lehigh has helped her to develop.

“I feel like this experience will be the culmination of all my undergraduate work,” says Atanasoska, who credits Lehigh with helping her discover a “passion for understanding different cultures and public service.”

She adds: “Knowing and speaking other languages is a way of showing that you respect and care about other people’s culture. This breaking down of language barriers, to me, is vital to the strength of the U.N.’s unparalleled forum that brings people together from all over the world.”

Fluent in Spanish, Macedonian and Bulgarian, Atanasoska’s love of learning and embrace of cultural differences are the keys to her success, professors say.

Antonio Prieto, an associate professor of modern languages who has worked closely with Atanasoska, describes her as “an intense person who usually goes beyond the assignment to explore on her own.

“She is responsible, well-prepared and thinks carefully,” Prieto says.

Hunter says he became acquainted with Atanasoska through her work in his office at Lehigh, and describes her as a “confident and very polished communicator who possesses all the talents an applicant for this program would need.”

Says Hunter: “She has a global perspective, top grades, a keen understanding of the U.N. system, and has goals that go beyond a national level. She is certainly a leader of tomorrow.”

Hunter also noted that Atanasoska is one of several Lehigh students who recognize the value of expanding cultural understanding. His program recently hit a record in students who are interested in international learning opportunities and applicants for the U.N. internship program.

“Our students are globally curious and aware,” he says. “With this comes recognition that they need to be globally competent upon graduation. They know that employers want students with a global understanding, and that competition isn’t just coming from others in the tri-state area, but from places like India, China, and Germany.”

Students interested in the U.N. internship, which is open to both graduate students and graduating seniors, can e-mail Hunter or call his office at (610) 758-4505.

--Liz Danzig

Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006

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