Dari Dambaeva shares her journey as an intern for the United Nations Academic Impact, and the experience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:

When I arrived in New York for my MBA degree 2 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being so fortunate to become a part of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) team. My career path wasn’t predicting such a step, but my experience studying and working all over the world has led me to adding my value to UNAI, an initiative that aligns the UN with institutions of higher education around the world.

The very first project that I embarked on was about sustainable fashion. Knowing that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, we took the opportunity to research and learn about the sustainable practices in the industry - largely through our coverage of ReFashion Week in NYC, which took place in parallel to New York Fashion Week in February 2020. It was an eye-opening experience collaborating with organizers, pioneers of the movement and enthusiastic attendees of the events, and our work was widely appreciated by UNAI’s environmentally conscious audience. 

UNAI member institutions and partners continuously contribute their great work to the global pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. One of the most inspiring experiences of my UNAI journey was the collaboration with Millennium Fellows from the Millennium Campus Network, a global student movement that addresses humanity’s greatest challenges. These highly motivated young people work to make the world a better place by identifying a problem in their community and applying all the resources, support and creativity at their disposal to solve it. I got to work closely with the Fellows, learn about the projects that strengthen their communities, and promote their extraordinary work. 

One and a half months into my internship, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to leave the office and begin working from home. The operations of UNAI remained busy and eventful, and the team was supportive during the transition. I embraced the opportunity and worked on the COVID-19 and Higher Education: The Path Forward After the Pandemic project with my fellow intern, to reflect and talk about the experience of the global academic community during the lockdown. The project introduced us to professors, researchers and students from diverse backgrounds to discuss the ways, both positive and negative, that COVID-19 has impacted their work and studies. This effort has been widely recognized and shared, and the project was translated into all six UN official languages, which enabled it to reach a global audience. 

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, UNAI held a series of online dialogues with scholars, educators and researchers to rethink important global issues.

As a native speaker of Russian, one of the official languages of the UN, I was honored to help organize and moderate the webinar titled “75 for UN75: A Conversation on Green Cities and Economies” in Russian. It was one of the most exciting and memorable moments of my internship when I engaged with high-profile speakers and audience members from Russian speaking countries during this online dialogue, which received wonderful feedback from our participants and partners. 

Under the special circumstance brought by the global pandemic, as an intern I was trusted with responsibilities and involved in the decision-making of the team. This trust placed in us was truly empowering and being able to contribute our work to the greater good was incomparably rewarding. 

I would like to end my message with a word of encouragement to those who wish to be here – the United Nations is built on diversity, so your unique experience and background will always add value to the continuous efforts of this extraordinary organization. Have faith in yourself and reach for what inspires you.