Andrew Horne sitting at his desk in his home office

Dispatch from UN-Habitat in Kenya: Andrew Horne’s first blog from the virtual field

By: Andrew Horne, MIPP

The last year has been challenging for most people, as we adapt to a constantly changing environment in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. I am no exception, as I completed my Master of International Public Policy degree at BSIA in August, having finished the entire program virtually as a result of the pandemic. While I never got to visit the school’s beautiful building or meet my fellow students and professors in-person, I am happy to say that my class was able to develop a strong sense of community and comradery despite the challenges.

When I heard about the United Nations Association in Canada (UNAC) International Internship Programme for Students (IIPS), and the partnership between UNAC and BSIA which made these internships available for BSIA students, I got truly excited. I have been interested in the UN-system for a long time and have both studied and written on various UN agencies and activities throughout my studies. When the opportunity to work in the UN system presented itself, I jumped at it!
My UN Internship officially started in late September. I am currently serving as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat). To say that I am excited at the opportunities that lay ahead would be an understatement. I am truly thrilled to be in this position, and I anticipate many exciting experiences in the coming months.

UN-Habitat is the UN program focused on issues relating to human settlements and sustainable development. It aims to achieve adequate shelter for all, and the development of sustainable and equitable settlements. In an increasingly urban world, UN-Habitat plays a big role in ensuring that the process of urbanization is a positive force in the lives of the people affected.

Thus far, I have had several orientation sessions, both with UNAC and UN-Habitat, which have helped expose me to the culture and expectations of working in the UN-system. I will be working specifically with the Knowledge and Innovation Branch at UN-Habitat. In this capacity, I will be serving a number of different functions, including helping prepare various papers and publications, liaising with research institutes and universities, and conducting research through qualitative and quantitative analysis. While it is unfortunate that I am unable to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to contribute in-person with my team, I am confident I will be able to make meaningful contributions working remotely.

There are undoubtedly many unique challenges to working remotely. For example, Nairobi is seven hours ahead of Waterloo, so scheduling meetings and communicating with team members can be tricky at times. Additionally, it is critical to establish meaningful communication with your fellow team members when you are a remote worker. Without good communication, you can find yourself lost and disconnected from your team and projects. Despite these challenges, there are also benefits to remote work, such as flexible work hours and the ability to work from the comfort of your home!

While I have had to change my expectations as a result of the pandemic, I have nothing but excitement and anticipation for my internship. I am privileged to be in this position, and I intend to make the most of this opportunity. I look forward to my second blog post, when I can share more about the specific projects I’ve been working on!

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