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Bondy Zoe O'Dwyer has her sights set on the United Nations

August 15, 2017

Bond student Zoe O'Dwyer has her sights set on the United Nations.  Emily Selleck spoke to Zoe about speech writing for senators, visiting the UN in New York and how to land your dream internship...

Q: You’re studying a double degree. Do International Relations and Law complement each other?

A: My international relations studies have helped me better understand the intricacies of global politics and how best to communicate and respond to the plight of those who are most needy on the international stage. Combining law with international relations was a must for me because they go hand-in-hand. Law is a great foundation that allows me combine theory with practice and not only learn but continually improve on how to succinctly and powerfully argue my viewpoint.

Q: Tell me about your internship with QLD Senator Barry O’Sullivan

A: In August 2016, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to partake in some work experience with Queensland Senator, Barry O’Sullivan, during a parliamentary sitting week at Parliament House, Canberra. From researching and collating notes for Senate briefings and sittings, to drafting Senate correspondence, and speech writing on behalf of the Senator, I was exposed to a range of issues, particularly associated with Australia’s rural and regional areas. Senator O’Sullivan actually presented the speech I wrote on the Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association in the Senate chamber. It focused on the importance of equal access to education for all students who live in rural and remote Australia. The speech was later broadcast on ABC radio. I was also able to attend meetings with various organisations and lobby groups with the Senator. Senator O’Sullivan has continued to be one of my biggest supporters, role models and influencers.

Q: How did you land your internship with the United Nations?

A: Landing a job today is all about getting as much work experience under your belt as possible, gaining an invaluable exposure to your chosen field and collecting a plethora of contacts. It is all about who you know. During a meeting that I was able to sit in on with Senator O’Sullivan, I participated in discussions with the National Executive Director and the National President of the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA). I was proactive in keeping in touch with the UNAA contacts and in March this year I was invited by the Queensland President of the UNAA to attend and participate in the UNAA conference on Uniting Women’s Voices in Queensland. This gave me a taste for how the UNAA seeks to promote and address international issues domestically. I was then fortunate to be offered an internship to work with the national office of the UNAA reporting to the National Executive Director, Matthew Kronborg.

Q: What does the internship entail?

A: The UNAA were considerate of my university studies and allowed me to complete the relevant work required from the Gold Coast, so I am still able to study full-time. I have weekly Skype meetings with Mr Kronborg and am given different tasks each week to analyse and provide recommendations on Australia’s position on international issues and councils. I am also expected to attend and participate in UNAA events that are held in the state. In September I have been invited to attend the UNAA National Conference on ‘Enhancing Australia’s Support to Global Peace & Security: Seventy Years On’ in Canberra where I will also hopefully be able to spend a couple of weeks working in the national UNAA office.

Q: Tell me about your visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York City

A: Senator O’Sullivan put me in contact with Nate Henderson, one of the envoys to the Australian Mission to the United Nations and from there I was able to organise a meeting and private tour with Mr. Henderson while I was travelling through New York. I am still in contact with Mr. Henderson and he is always an email or call away if I need advice or help with either internship work or future opportunities.

Q: Have you visited any other interesting parts of the world?

I am extremely fortunate to have been brought up in a family that has a passion for world affairs and travel. Travelling throughout America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East has given me great exposure and a greater appreciation of different cultures, different issues and different living standards. For example, my family departed Egypt one week prior to the 2011 uprisings that led to the fall of President Mubarak, so I was able to see the mounting tensions in a divided nation first hand.

Q: Any advice for other students aspiring to work for the United Nations?

Firstly, please don’t do it, I want the job! The real world is becoming increasingly competitive and even more demanding, and while good grades are extremely important, work experience is equally as valued. To be that step ahead of other students, you need to be out there in your designated field right now, while studying. The contacts you make are invaluable: they will not only help you make additional contacts but they will be your support network outside of university.

Q: Where to from here?

A: My long term objective is to obtain a placement in the United Nations General Assembly Internship Program in New York next year. Each year the Australian Mission offers six to seven internship positions that run for the duration of the high level session of the United Nations General Assembly from mid-September to mid-December. This would be the absolute pinnacle and provide me with even greater exposure to the international community prior to me seeking full-time employment.