This was my second internship working in international relations, but my first time working in the youth sector. Growing up I wasn’t very engaged in youth politics, so now having worked for the British Youth Council (BYC) it has showed me how accomplished the young people are that we work with and the amazing work BYC does for young people in the UK. Technically, I’m still a young person at 24, so this internship has supported both my personal and professional development.
The purpose of my internship was to help manage BYC’s Commonwealth work, which I coordinated with the Cabinet Office and the Commonwealth Secretariat. My knowledge of the Commonwealth before this internship was like many other people in the UK, I knew that it stemmed from the British Empire, the Queen is the head and there are the Commonwealth Games every four years. Through this internship, I learnt about the Commonwealth’s structure, governance and its work that supports the 53 Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth’s work is particularly relevant to young people as 60% of the Commonwealth’s population is under 30. Thus the CYF and the participation of young people are essential to Commonwealth’s relevance in global matters.
During my six month internship, the key events I helped to organise were Commonwealth Day and the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) which were both successful, but a little stressful to organise at times. Commonwealth Day involved a Q&A at Number 10 Downing Street with Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN (and briefly Prime Minister Theresa May) then after a mixed faith service at Westminster Abbey. The CYF was a three-day conference as a part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, this forum brings together young people from across the Commonwealth to network, debate and discuss action plans to help tackle the challenges in the Commonwealth.
I worked with a diverse group of young people from across the UK, who represented the UK and BYC member organisations as delegates at the CYF. My responsibilities included selecting delegates, booking transport, disseminating information and liaising with our delivery partners and relevant stakeholders. The best part of this job was working with young people who are passionate about youth participation and ensuring their voice is heard in international matters. This motivated me to make sure are young delegates were truly engaged with the CYF and the Commonwealth. This is why it is super important for youth-led organisations like BYC to be included at all levels of national and international politics to help ensure young people’s voices are heard. Like many high-level international events, it is questionable whether they are spaces for meaningful engagement of young people with decision makers; however these Commonwealth events were at least spaces for young people to learn, develop and contribute their ideas. In reality, the real power of the Commonwealth is on the ground and with Commonwealth citizens; this was reflected throughout the young delegates’ stories at the CYF.
This internship has developed my understanding of international relations, advocacy, event management, logistics, project coordination and partnership building. The purpose of an internship is to learn, and this experience has been a huge learning curve for me. It has provided the opportunity to grow in my career by letting me take the lead on all my work. Also, my time at BYC wouldn’t have been as great if it weren’t for the amazing BYC team, every staff member and trustee has been more than welcoming and supportive, it’s impressive to see how a small team can make such a big impact. I have developed transferable skills for my next role in international relations and development…whatever that may be.