SDG Internship Program

Rethinking student internships for the 21st century

Starting in 2018, the Geneva Tsinghua Initiative (GTI) has offered a unique internship program with some of our partners in International Geneva, which includes the dozens of UN agencies, hundreds of NGOs and many other International Organizations and Diplomatic Missions that represent over 10% of Geneva’s economy.  The GTI has developed a bespoke agreement that enables partners to tailor internships to their needs, while ensuring that students can combine internships with their regular academic workload in an effective way.

A big plus for the host institutions is the possibility to have teams of up to 4 students working together on an SDG-related issue or project. Team internships and project-based innovation are actively encouraged at GTI, in line with the underlying collaborative, interdisciplinary and intercultural philosophy of our SDG learning programs.

Although the GTI concentrated initially on securing meaningful internships for the students of its SDG Master programs, more recently the Internship Program has been extended to all interested UNIGE students, and  wider extension to students from other strategic partner universities can also be negotiated through the University of Geneva’s exchange semester programs. 

In addition, positive experiences with online collaboration during the Covid crisis emboldened the GTI to pursue fully online internships as an option with select host institutions, on the basis that this can be a more sustainable and equitable approach, both financially and in terms of CO2 footprint, even if the work experience may be somewhat less enriching. 

The internship is compulsory for students of the IHDS Dual Degree program and optional for the Single Degree track. To earn the corresponding 30 ECTS credits, an internship must last at least 3 months full-time, or the equivalent if working part-time, and lead to an academically-sound internship report that must link the practical work with the theoretical and academic concepts also studied in the program, and specifically identify and analyze the relevant SDG goals and indicators.

Students are supervised by both an academic supervisor from the MIHDS faculty and an institutional supervisor, thereby ensuring the deliverables expected by both partners are met. Internships can be carried out during the academic year (part-time model) or during Winter or Summer breaks. Single Degree IHDS students can also do a GTI internship during Semester 4 of the Master program.

The SDG Internship Program allows considerable flexibility in setting up internship working hours, and host institutions are encouraged to offer well-adapted working conditions. The SDG Solution Space also provides working space for all its students, so a host institution can take on interns even if it does not have enough office space available.

So far, UN partners of the program include the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), which takes in one or two teams per year; the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which has hosted 10 or more students in some years, to work on the organisation of the WSIS and AI for Good forums; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with up to 4-5 student teams per year; the SDG Lab at UNOG; UNCTAD, UNITAR and many more.  

The GTI has also developed a unique “Student Entrepreneur” internship with the incubator Geneus, thereby linking our students with the Geneva innovation ecosystem. Other institutions that have successfully hosted GTI students include the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Terre des Hommes, B-Lab Switzerland.

If you are interested in joining the SDG Internship Program, either as a student or a host institution, please drop us a line