Public Service of All Kinds: Ching Sullivan '20

Ching Sullivan
Ching Sullivan

Throughout this summer, we will be spotlighting the summer experiences of our IOP students working in politics and public service through their internships across the country and globe.

The Director’s Internship program has been a signature of the Institute of Politics for nearly 25 years and each summer the IOP works with more than 150 government offices, non-profits, and news organizations to provide internships for students who are looking to pursue careers in politics and public service. The IOP also offers summer stipends for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors accepting non- or low-paying summer internships in local, state, or federal government, public interest groups, non-governmental organizations, political organizations, and political campaigns.

This summer, as in years past, many of those students will be spending their summer working in public service of all kinds  - including non-profits, NGOs, and more.

Ching Sullivan '20 is spending her summer interning at the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in New York, NY.

What inspired you to choose this public service internship?

It's been my dream to work for the UN for as long as I can remember, and as an aspiring humanitarian who's been closely following global refugee crises, I could hardly believe it when the rare opportunity to work for the UNHCR fell on my lap. Given my personal immigrant backstory and long-existing desire to learn more about and serve the world, I've always felt particularly moved, intrigued, and heartbroken by the conditions that lead to forced displacement (usually related to politics, war, weak governance, persecution, economic instability) and the refugee experience itself. I was also lucky enough to connect with an incredible mentor (who's now my boss) through a conference I helped organize on campus, so I felt compelled to work for her, foster a deeper relationship with her, and soak up as much knowledge about and experience in this field of work as much as I could.

What issue do you hope to focus on in your internship?

I hope to help highlight global refugee crises through this internship, and I've been able to do so through researching various emergencies in countries such as Venezuela, Myanmar, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and more. Additionally, I've observed our engagements with other UN bodies and diplomats, the press, and social media to mass-promote awareness about refugee issues, situations, and stories. On top of that, I got the chance to help coordinate World Refugee Day (which happened on June 20th) and through this work, I met with refugees currently residing in NYC and pursued partnerships with refugee-serving organizations like WeWork, Counter Culture, and Eat Offbeat. Lastly, I'm currently working on a project that highlights the intersection between coffee production and forced displacement in coffee-producing countries.

What are you most excited about working in public service and government?

For the UN specifically, I'm excited to have the opportunity to attend high-level sessions at the UN Headquarters and learn from some of the most incredible coworkers. The UNHCR NY Office in particular is filled with highly experienced staff members, many of which have spent 10-20 years working in the field (often in the most dangerous and poverty-stricken countries in the world), and it's been inspiring and eye-opening to hear about their work and perspectives on various past and ongoing refugee crises.

What are you hoping to learn and to get out of your internship experience this summer?

I'm hoping to gain clarity on whether working with for UN, and specifically the UNHCR, would be something I want to do in the long-run. I also hope to gain a better understanding of what that career path would tangibly look like, so I've been trying to interact with as many staff members as possible to hear their stories, perspectives, and current projects. Lastly, I hope to gain a better understanding of what UNHCR specifically does to address refuge crises and to serve refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people across the world. With this knowledge, I hope to take part in promoting awareness about these issues and introduce refugee-centered dialogue into regular discourse in this country.