Originally published on September 14, 2016, on Sophia’s personal blog.

“How did you get that internship?”

That is a question I’ve been getting a lot so I’ve decided to make a whole post about it.

From the many conversations I’ve had with interns here at UN city in Copenhagen, I’ve realized that everyone has had different experiences with the application process. While some presented their CV, others got the position through a connection.

Today, I will share with you only my experience, even though it was a little more complex than what others have had.

I completed an online application on WHO’s main website back in September last year (link to website: www.who.int/employment/internship/en/ ).

They had the option of applying to WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland or to one of the six Regional Offices. I applied to be a part of the headquarters. Also, they have two application periods: one for the summer and one for winter. Since I was intending to graduate in December, I applied for the winter term.

The application form was fairly simple. In fact, I found it easier than some other jobs I’ve applied to back in Canada. As a part of the application, I had to select three areas in which I would like to work. I selected health promotion, migrant/refugee health and child health, of course.

Months went by and I never heard back. I wasn’t too disappointed though because honestly, it was WHO and I knew my chances were slim. In the meantime, I decided to add an extra semester of school (one of the best decisions that I’ve made) so that I could take a couple of more useful classes. So, I was back in school in January and was working part-time as well. Then one day, I got an email from the Communications Department at headquarters. The person told me that from looking at my CV, they thought that I could be a good fit in the Communications Department.

I remember I received that email when I was at work and was so confused. I did not apply to that department and I was used to getting a lot of spam email. So, I googled the person’s name and discovered that they were in fact legitimate. I immediately spoke to my supervisor at work and asked whether I could work remotely. After getting her thumbs up, I jumped on the opportunity and said yes to Communications!

The next step for me was to send a reflection piece on why I would be a good fit for the Communications Department. I found this to be the most challenging because of the word “reflection”. I was used to “motivation statements”, “cover letters” and “letter of intents” but not reflections. Luckily, I survived it and received the opportunity for a skype interview.

Through this interview, I learned that they were hiring for sometime later on in the year. As that didn’t really fit into my future plans, I stressed that I was interested in an internship that started earlier. So, my application was then kindly forwarded to WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, located in Delhi, India. However, they also did not have any openings coming up soon. My application was again forwarded, and luckily, WHO Regional Office for Europe expressed interest. So, after a few emails back and forth, here I am!!

Overall, I think that it was a lot of luck! I have no idea how my application fell into the hands of the Communications Department but I am so thankful that it did. I am also thankful for having my application forwarded so many times until I found the prefect one that worked with my availability. I also had help along the way from amazing friends who edited my statements and provided advice. Thank you if you were one of those 🙂

Hope that gives you a snapshot of my experience. If you’re thinking of applying, feel free to shoot me a message if you have any specific questions.


About the author

Sophiya earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Guelph in 2016 and Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University in 2014. Following her graduation, Sophiya interned within the communications unit at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe and then worked with the knowledge synthesis team at the Public Health Agency of Canada. Sophiya began her PhD in the Health Policy program at McMaster University in the fall of 2017. Outside of her research interests in health equity, health services and knowledge translation, Sophiya enjoys spending time in local cafes, participating in Zumba classes and travelling with friends and family. To learn more about Sophiya’s experiences, you can visit her personal blog!