INSMS International Network for Students of Migration Studies
SDG Support Officer at the United Nations Resident Coordinators Office in Nepal
For our very last interview in the P2P campaign, we had the great honor to exchange ideas with Nora Langguth, a former student in Advanced Migration Studies at the University of Copenhagen. If you want to know how being shameless can get you a job at the United Nations, read the interview below.
Nora is 26 years old and comes from Norway. She graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a degree in Advanced Migration Studies. During her studies, Nora had the opportunity to volunteer twice a week: One day at Kompasset, a homeless shelter that welcomes both Danish citizens and migrants, and the other day at Trampoline House, a community center for migrants and non-migrants.
Volunteering as a privilege
Nora emphasizes that it has been a privilege for her to get involved in areas that are related to her field of study, instead of having to look for a student job to make a living. She was able to gain experience this way because she had the means to pay for her studies through Norwegian Study Loans. She also emphasized that the structure of her MA program allowed her to work or volunteer on the side.
She is particularly fond of her experience at Kompasset: "The staff are very professional and empathetic, and it was a very intense microcosm to be in." As a recommendation for future migration students in Denmark, she also mentioned that MINO Denmark is definitely a volunteer experience to get involved in if someone wants to have interesting and thought-provoking conversations.
Never ignore a Facebook ad!
In addition to these volunteer activities, Nora was also shortlisted for the Next Generation Women Leaders program organized by McKinsey & Company. When we asked her how she found out about this opportunity, the surprising answer was "through a Facebook ad." According to Nora, her previous experience as a math tutor while in college helped her in her application.
Since Nora's degree included the possibility of an internship, Nora moved to Vienna to complete it at the Norwegian Embassy, which was made possible through a government program that allows students to intern at embassies. Because of her excellent work during the internship, she was offered the opportunity to continue working after the internship ended.
In interviewing Nora, her determination and courage become very clear. When we ask her what her secret is in this regard, she says, "My best advice is that anything is better than nothing." By this, Nora means that it's always worth investing in an internship application, approaching a company you're interested in, or even trying to write a last-minute application rather than not trying at all.
Another piece of advice from Nora was, "Take all the inhibitions and shame you have about writing applications and promoting yourself and throw them in the trash when you apply for a job. Be shameless!"
Being involved for the sake of being involved!
Also, looking back on her journey, Nora has changed her mind about the following: Even if it's not an area in which one has full interest, she now recommends getting as many leadership experiences as possible from a young age, anyway. Be it leading a choir, a random university society or in activism. The mere practice of leading, speaking, and taking up space can be very beneficial, Nora says. She says, "Taking opportunities to practice for the sake of practicing is valuable in itself."
How Covid played into Nora's cards
Although Nora told us that she struggled with uncertainty and isolation during Covid, not knowing for a long time, even until two weeks before she moved to Vienna, whether or not she would be able to do her internship at the end, along with fatigue from studying and wanting to graduate as soon as possible, she was offered a job at the embassy right after her internship. Namely, at the Norwegian delegation to the UN in Vienna. So she still decided to postpone working on her dissertation for half a year and continue living in Vienna.
"I am not Nora, I am the person who controls Nora".
When we asked Nora how she managed to deal with the uncertainties she encountered during the Covid phase, she said that being patient and accepting a certain amount of uncertainty helped her a lot: “Even though uncertainty is scary, it also offers opportunities: It's an advantage to be comfortable with rapid changes in your life.”
For Nora, a particular thought experiment is also helpful. She tells herself that she is not Nora, but the person who controls Nora. Then she thinks about the position she wants to put herself in so that Nora can grow. She asks herself, "What do I think would be a good challenge for Nora?". An example of this was putting herself in the position of applying for a job in Nepal and dealing exclusively with the fear and panic that such a change would bring after she had already made the leap. According to Nora, these types of decisions are the best she has ever made.
The job search was relatively easy for Nora
Nora didn't have too many problems during the application process. She says she applied mostly to already established programs, which she says saved a lot of work. For her internship at the Norwegian Embassy, she applied to most of the internships that were advertised on their website. However, many of them were canceled because of Covid, and she got others rejected. However, she received feedback from Vienna, got the internship back, and was subsequently recommended for a position.
As for Nora's current position at the United Nations, Nora explained that her colleagues at the Norwegian Embassy informed her of UNV positions, and she then created a profile and a CV on the unv.org website. For the UNV position, she then simply ticked the roles she wanted to apply for, which for Nora was every single one that was open to Norwegian citizens. She received a response from one position, and that is where she is working now.
Working at the UN in Nepal
As for Nora's current position as an SDG Support Officer at the United Nations Resident Coordinators Office in Nepal, Nora explains that it is a very varied job consisting of, for example, organizing conferences and workshops as well as retreats, providing technical support at meetings, editing, and connecting the appropriate people to move things forward. She is currently working on disability inclusion which she thinks is a fascinating and extremely necessary area of work both within the UN and in society at large. Nora was also surprised by how much oversight work is involved in her position. While Nora thoroughly enjoys most parts of the job, others can be more routine and thus less exciting.
When we asked Nora how this job related to her studies, she said it had almost nothing to do with migration at all. She envisioned that she would gain expertise in a more specialized area of migration studies and that she would work directly with thematic issues in the field of migration studies. Migration does come up a bit, but her current job is much less specialized than she had envisioned.
Nora also did not specifically choose to work in Nepal. Rather, she applied to jobs all over the world. However, Nora loves Kathmandu. "It is an amazing city, dynamic, social and with a lot of opportunities." Because she works in an international environment, the experience of being a migrant worker is less pronounced than in any other context. However, she feels how visible she is when traveling around the city.
Nora’s view on migration studies
As a final aspect of our interview, we wanted to know more about Nora's view on migration studies. Her answer was as follows: "I think the field of migration studies needs to mature. We need more solid research. There needs to be more research that looks at the political, legal, and economic aspects of migration.
Her final tips for migration students or those who want to become one
Nora believes that it is highly recommended to research potential majors thoroughly and talk to former students about what they think of their major. If prospective students are more interested in the political, legal or possibly economic side of migration, it might be worth considering degree programs that specialize in the field of politics, law or economics, but also offer different modules in migration. Nora thinks that migration studies has a strong emphasis on anthropology and less focus on the legal, political, and economic systems that are equally relevant to migration. For Nora, migration studies is a very broad field, and it pays to figure out which aspect of migration you find most interesting or which angle you want to apply to the field: "All lenses are important - but having one or two as a core to build on is valuable."
Finally, Nora says, there are many fascinating opportunities in the field of migration, but it is difficult to find them and to know where to start. That's why it's very helpful to talk to as many people involved in migration as possible to ask them what organizations, programs and opportunities they would recommend