When most individuals in the health field think of the World Health Organization, they may think of global health policy or of doctors traveling to Sierra Leonne aiding in the Ebola crisis.
But when I think of the organization, my mind will always return to the summer of 2015 and my internship in Switzerland.
Let’s rewind a bit. I spent 2011 until 2014 as a reporter and features editor for The Pointer, and it’s been almost a year and a half since I handed in my key to CAC 104, the room where newspapers are written and all Pointer magic happens.
I graduated from UWSP in May 2014 with a degree in health promotion and soon after, I moved to the Rocky Mountains to learn a thing or two about public health in a master’s program at Colorado State University.
I chose to study health promotion and public health because I have always been a health and infectious disease junkie. I worship John Snow and his work on cholera, and I never skip the Science Times on Tuesdays in the New York Times. I chose my minor in communication and my master’s concentration in health communication because there is nothing I love more than talking and writing; the combination just seemed logical.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the combination of health and communication to land me a position working at the organization, that is, until last spring when I received my letter of acceptance. I was holding a piece of legal documentation, giving me authority to step into the sacred hallways of the organization and intern as a communications specialist within the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
I was in denial for the first few months that the letter was real, until I finally hopped on an airplane to Switzerland. Within a few days, I found myself in the office of Tibor Szilagyi, my supervisor for the next few months. He informed me that I received the internship because I was working toward my Masters of Public Health from a familiar university, but more interestingly, that the most stand-out piece of my resume was that I had experience working for a newspaper- The Pointer. When working in public health, very few people have experience in communication, but I did.
I spent the rest of the summer talking about health, disease and the environment in the context of tobacco control to Ministers of Health from Belarus, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mongolia. I networked as if LinkedIn was the only thing that mattered on this planet, which turned out to be quite useful as I met some incredibly influential people and walked away with potential job outlooks.
Now that I have been back in the states for a few months, I am slowly coming to terms that this summer actually happened: I lived in Switzerland, made some noteworthy memories in the Alps, traveled to more countries than I have fingers and worked my dream job from May until August.
Each decision I have made in my educational career impacted the reality of this internship, including my initial decision to attend UWSP in 2010 and connecting with the right people and organizations that influenced and allowed me to study public health communications.
Emma St. Aubin