Sokhna Aminata Diop '11 Serves as UNESCO Intern in Paris

Sokhna Aminata Diop ’11
Sokhna Aminata Diop ’11
Sokhna Aminata Diop '11 says it feels unusual to wear a suit and United Nations badge every day. In fact, she never once thought she would get the summer internship that she did – working for the UN was only a dream. Furthermore, she says some people at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) – a special agency of the UN – look at her "inquisitively." They probably look at her that way because she is unusually diligent and wants to make the most of every moment. 

She learned about the internship opportunity through a friend she visited in Paris. Her friend encouraged her to apply for the UNESCO internship, because she knew that Diop is a fierce proponent of international organizations. UNESCO was established in 1945 and currently has 193 member states. Located in Paris, its primary goal is to advocate the importance of culture, science and education in working for world peace. 

Diop's work day starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. "The work is very intense," she said. "But I am delighted to be able to function in this environment because I learn so much from it." She is working part-time for the director of "Service Afrique," a bureau that specializes in African affairs, and part-time for the Senegalese delegation. Some of Diop's daily responsibilities include keeping the Bureau in touch with current events in Africa, analyzing the issues that African countries face, and welcoming presidents and ambassadors. 

The internship is helping Diop become more aware of how different cultures collide and the ways their entanglement shapes politics. It is crucial for any political leader to be well-informed of cultural practices, legacies, and traditions, because knowledge of how people interact at a local level can influence the application of human rights decisions. Diop also says there is an art to how one deals with high-ranking African politicians – striking a balance between reverence and persistent negotiation is ideal. Humility is good but only to an extent. 

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity did come with some fine print. The job is unpaid, so Diop needed to find a way to support herself financially while taking on a full-time internship. She applied for Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Fund, and through the stipend she received, she was able to accept the summer opportunity. The Fund, established in memory and recognition of Mr. Anderson's commitment to Hamilton College, covers the cost of living for students who have secured a not-for-profit internship. Through an internship, a student can explore her intended career path and decide whether or not it is in her best interest. 

Diop is a world politics major specializing in political reform within fledgling countries. She cites several classes that have inspired her to better "grasp the importance of international ties," such as the Politics of Africa course taught by Professor of Government Stephen Orvis. 

As with her interactions with leading authorities, Diop says that students learning about international politics need to know that just the right blend of cooperation and respect for sovereignty goes into the process of establishing peace and global democracy. One must try to tighten the knot but know that there are still two strings.

Not only does Diop care about effective global communication and human rights issues, but she also finds written communication of utmost importance. She may owe some of this concern to Hamilton's emphasis on eloquent and clear writing. She is in the process of writing her second novel titled "Collegiate Misconceptions," and hopes to become a writer and political activist after college. 

Diop is co-chair of the Hamilton West Indian and African Association. When it comes to searching for internships that best satisfy individual needs, she encourages students to pay little attention to an organization's stature. 

"Choose an internship because you're interested in it and because it corresponds to your career goals, not because of the prestige or the remuneration," she advised.
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