Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey


Toyi Sogoyou: UN Intern and Conflict Resolution Practitioner

Toyi Sogoyou
1) You interned for the UN, which means you want to save the world, right? So who’s your favorite superhero or heroine?

What kind of question is that for an interview?! My favorite superhero? I have many of them, but in track and field, my superhero is Haile Gebre Selassie, an Ethiopian runner.

2) Just kidding! Now for the real first question: You recently returned to Monterey after completing the International Professional Service Semester at the United Nations. Tell us about your position.

I worked in the Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA), specifically in the Mediation Support Unit. I was an intern, but I was treated as a junior professional.

3) What types of projects did you work on?

Given my military background, I focused on Security Arrangements, Security Sector Reforms, and the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of ex-combatants in West and North Africa. I also provided feedback for Guidance Notes, a manual for practitioners in the post-conflict field.

4) How did you learn about the International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) program?

A fellow countryman from Togo told me about the program, and then I researched it online and contacted the Program Director, Carolyn Taylor.

5) Did the UN choose you, or did you choose them? Tell us about the application process.

The selection process begins here at the Institute as an International Professional Service Semester fellow. To qualify for the program, you should have at least a 3.4 GPA and submit an application and letters of recommendation. Once you’re selected, you must choose several organizations, make contact, and then submit a formal letter explaining why you're interested and how you will contribute to the organization.

For example, my top three choices at the United Nations were the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations, and then the Department of Political Affairs. But I wasn’t able to find a contact in the first two departments.

6) What were the most valuable experiences you had?

My colleague Joyce Laker (MAIPS ‘09) and I were fortunate to be in a high-tempo department that gave us a lot of exciting work to do. We were involved in the activities of the department from the first day, not sitting around and chatting on Facebook. And in terms of social life, I was able to network and rub shoulders with high-profile people who I wouldn’t have met outside New York.

7) How has interning at the UN benefited your academic and/or professional career, how do you believe it will in the future?

I would say that studying in Monterey is much more academic and theory-oriented than obtaining hands-on experience in New York. At the United Nations, I was exposed to people who had worked in the field, and I listened to their stories. I expanded my knowledge and skills, so that I am able to balance the theory with practice.

8) Did you enjoy living in New York City?

The first two months were a little challenging: I was asking myself, could ever live in New York? It’s different from California because people are in general faster, busier, and less considerate. But the city itself has so much to offer - there’s so much to do and discover! You can’t be bored.

9) Did you have opportunities to network with professionals in your field?

Networking depends on who you are, whether you’re social or not. UN colleagues aren’t going to come to you. As an intern, you should make an effort to introduce yourself and let them know what you’re working on. And secondly, you should keep up with the contacts you established because they’re busy working and traveling. They may not respond to your emails immediately, but you should be persistent and continue to build those relationships.

I'm sorry to say, we're out of time! What the 10th question was, I suppose we'll never know. Read more about Toyi's UN experiences...