Irene: a different perspective

Photo © Lea Jaecklin
Photo © Lea Jaecklin
By Diego Beamonte, traduction française Irene Schwieger, traducción española Ana Beltran
27 February 2012

After leaving her previous unsatisfying internship in Geneva, Irene Schwieger arrived at ICVolunteers in November of 2011 with a plethora of work experience for her young age, and an eager commitment to improve the world.

Irene graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she studied environmental studies. Soon after, she returned home to Nyon, Switzerland, to “spend time with family and gain work experience” by interning with an organization that allowed her to gain familiarity and insight in the field of human rights. After working in a wide variety of sectors for the last few years, she located a law firm that would take her in. At first, that may have seemed like the perfect place to begin her training for her future career plans, which, she revealed to us, include a masters in environmental or development law.

She light-heartedly reminisces about the unbalanced, unreasonabe, and unrealistic boss she was forced to respond to during her previous internship, and despite her smile, her expression tells more than her mouth does. Fortunately, Irene’s dynamism and seeming necessity to be part of a good cause allowed her to rapidly retrace her steps, and to return to the hunt for a new job. Shortly thereafter, Irene had found her new engagement in ICV.

Proof of ICV´s improved visibility was Irene’s short search for internships in the Geneva area. She states that “ICV was one of the first links to pop up in my search” and without hesitation, she emailed in her CV. After the application process was completed, Irene began as a conference planner and administrative assistant, following Ana, another young intern at ICV, as she explained the procedures that pave the way to a conference.

Admittedly, at first Irene “didn’t know what to expect” but that did not stop her from rapidly catching up and “jumping right in to the action.” Although she found everyone to be really nice and helpful, she found an especially great friend and guide in Ana. Together they gleefully lighten the mood at the office, as they busily chit chat their way through their daily tasks.

In her first duty as a conference coordinator, Irene encountered “no major issues”, apart from an absent, ill interpreter. On second thought, however, she remembers a slightly bigger cause for concern. “One of the interpreters had been found to be quite incompetent by the others” she tells. Diligently, her and Ana were able to take steps to resolve this issue and uphold the standards promoted by ICV.

“Volunteering” she explains, “is done because people are interested in the betterment of society. Not only can you gain valuable working experience, but you contribute to your community by doing something meaningful. Volunteers are proof of people’s personal values and of the desire to improve society. NGOs, such as ICVolunteers, are an extension of such progress.”

Overall, Irene is delighted to have had the opportunity to see “how things works on the organizational side” and discover an often forgotten component of human rights work and international cooperation, administration. Regarding her whole time at ICV, she describes it with fondness, and confesses that it has confirmed her opinion of NGOs. She was particularly amazed by the environment of collaboration and friendliness that she often found absent from other working environments. To her, ICV is “a place where you can do something, accomplish something real, thanks to its vast resources and contacts.”

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