Special report | participant’s internship experience in UNOOSA

2019-09-03  Share


In June 2019, ANA PAULA CASTRO DE PAULA NUNES (Anna), a 2018 Space Law and Policy participant of the Centre, applied for an internship and got accepted by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and went to Vienna, Austria for three months period.

During the internship, Anna’s main tasks include: communication and cooperation with international organizations (such as UN-SPIDER), organization of international conferences, document editing, news reporting, and other ancillary work. In her internship experience, she expressed her own opinions on the UNOOSA, Beihang University and the Centre, described her internship life in Vienna, and expressed her gratitude to Mr. Weng Jingnong, Executive Director of the Centre and her supervisor Mr. Gao Guozhu. She also mentioned her feelings during the internship: 1. There is no easy career path, you have to do things with your best and not to worry about factors beyond your control. 2. Be friendly and polite, it helps to create a good working environment for you. 3. Create your own network and refer to the experience of others, it will give direction to your future path. By sharing her internship experience, Anna hopes to provide a reference for more Beihang students.

The following is the full text of Anna’s internship:

My experience doing an internship at UNOOSA, Vienna

Why did I choose this internship?





        It is well known that professional experience is vital for getting an opportunity in the job market, and an internship could be the best way to achieve both. That was one of the reasons I applied for the internship at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The other reason was the importance of UNOOSA in the Space Law field: they are one of the most important players in shaping global space governance.

        I chose the Space Law & Policy major so I could take part of the decision-making process regarding space technology applications. Also, I’d like to contribute directly to the development of the space program of my country. For this reason, the experience of working at UNOOSA would allow me be in touch with experts in the field, getting acquainted with working for an international organization and dealing with partners in the space sector which include space agencies, industry and private companies.


        During the Space Law lectures from the Space Technology Application Master Program in Beihang, we learned how UNOOSA is fundamental on promoting international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and also in the utilization of space science and technology applications a for a more sustainable economic and social development.

        UNOOSA also serves as secretariat for COPUOS, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which was set up in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development. The Committee was also fundamental in the creation of the five (5) space treaties and five  (5) principles of outer space.

        UNOOSA is headed by a Director and has two (2) main sections: the Space Applications Section (SAS), which organizes and carries out the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, and the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section (CPLA), which provides functional secretariat services to the Committee, its two subcommittees and its working groups. CPLA also prepares and distributes reports and publications on international space activities and on international space law. Since 2014, Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo of Italy serves as Director of the Office.

UNOOSA and Beihang

        Beihang University has a close relationship with the United Nations, as it is home to the UN Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (RCSSTEAP China): the first UN organization in China dedicated to space education. The Centre was inaugurated in November 2014 as an educational and training entity supported by COPUOS, with the mission to promote the peaceful uses of space science and technology application, enhancing space education in developing countries.

What do I do in the internship?

        I am an intern in the Space Applications Section (SAS) since the middle of July 2019. I work mainly with the UN-SPIDER, the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, which is a program under SAS, but I also get the opportunity to work with the staff from the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section (CPLA). My work includes, but is not limited to:

· Creating and editing documents, reports and publications;

· Assisting the senior officer in his daily tasks, managing communication between sectors;

· Helping organize conferences like the 9th Annual UN-SPIDER Conference in Beijing in Commemoration of 10 Years of the UN-SPIDER Beijing Office;

· Contribution on the Project regarding the application of the Sendai Framework for disaster reduction in Sri Lanka;

· Revising technical and scientific articles related to space technology applications;

· Participating in staff meetings where I have a chance to share my thoughts and opinions;

What have I learned so far?

        Besides learning more about UNOOSA’s structure, getting involved in its current projects and getting hands-on experience in the field, there are a few valuable things I’ve been lucky to pick up:

· There’s no easy career path. Coming into this internship, I felt that I didn’t know where my career was going, and I lacked confidence about where I could work in the future since I am combining a technical background in Aerospace Engineering with a legal specialization in Space Law. The internship is giving me a better understanding of my skill set and where my career may take me, but especially I am learning that many of the staff that works here today were in the same situation as me while in University. Not everyone finds the perfect job right after graduation and it may take a few bold turns in your career to find a good job opportunity. Just keep giving your best and don’t worry too much about the things you can’t control. And do be afraid to apply for the position you want. Even if you lack professional experience you can make it up with other skills.

· Being nice and courteous is very rewarding and contributes to creating a great workplace. When you work for a big international organization like the United Nations you may share an elevator ride with a diplomat, the head of some important organization, your co-workers and maybe the cleaning staff. Regardless of your position here, everyone tries to be very polite, friendly and helpful, which makes you feel welcome right away and encourages you to do the same to others and do your best. I already try to be a kind person towards everyone, but in this internship, I realized that being accepted, respected and acknowledged really brings the best in everyone and we should recreate this environment everywhere in our lives.

· Network in a smart way. One of the main reason students apply for internships is the possibility of getting to know important people in the field and showing them your hard-work so maybe one day they’ll remember you during a recruiting process. I’ve learned that good networking goes beyond that. In order to understand where my career may take me, I’ve invited some of the UNOOSA staff for an informal talk where I asked them about their own life and career path: what’s their background, how did they get here and where would they like to go next. From their experiences, they also gave me suggestions of where I could go or who I can talk to in order to reach my goals.

How’s life in Vienna?
        Vienna is the charming capital of Austria and has a population of around 1.8 million. The official language is German and around 40 percent of the population are Roman Catholic. The region surrounding Vienna is one of the wealthiest in the European Union, being the headquarters of numerous international organizations with many international companies basing their operations in the city.

        Over 45% of the city is covered with gardens, parks, forests, and woodland, another 15% is farmland and 5% rivers and lakes. Very impressively, more than 1/3 of all journeys in the city are by public transportation and/or bike, making it very easy to walk around and discover the city. Vienna is often called the City of Music, or the World’s Capital of Music, as many famous composers have lived and worked here between 1750 and 1825. Some of the famous musicians are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Johann Straus and Johannes Brahms.

        Vienna has been voted the world’s most livable city for 7 years in a row because of such factors as political, social and economic climate, medical care, education, recreational opportunities, its environment and infrastructure. Even though I am slowly learning German, everyone here speaks English which makes life a lot easier.

        There’s so much to do and explore in this city that combines the Old and Modern. I personally like to walk around the city center to see and explore the many historical buildings, museums and during the evening walk along the river canal. On the sunny weekends I love go swimming in the Danube river.

        It’s a lovely city full of life and history, green landscapes and great food. I’d love to come back here again and maybe even work here someday.