McCusker Centre for Citizenship intern René Neumann awarded the United Nations Association of Australia WA President's Award at inaugural UN Day Gala

Psychology student René Neumann used his time on exchange at UWA to choose units and electives he wouldn’t usually take in his home university of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“I was very eager to do something practical and meaningful at the same time,” René says. "The McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship offered exactly this combination and was an opportunity I could not turn down."

“The broad range of organisations that the Centre cooperates with for this internship not only seemed very interesting, but I also knew I could learn so much about citizenship, working in a professional setting, and generally about Australia while at the same time contributing to the community.”

Originally from Germany, René took a longer route than most to begin his internship – as well submitting an application through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship's competitive process, he had to ensure Leiden University would credit the internship.

"Being accepted for the internship was a huge success for me," he says. "I had to get this unit approved by my home university in the Netherlands, which involved convincing the Board of Examiners about the benefits for me taking this unique opportunity."

"Given the effort I put into applying, I was extremely grateful, happy and excited for being accepted and placed for an internship with the United Nations Association of Australia WA."

René's main role was to assist the UNAAWA committee to organise the inaugural UN Day Gala which celebrated the UN’s 60th anniversary and awarded Western Australians for outstanding achievements across the areas encompassed by the UN's seventeen sustainability goals. He received high praise for his work and was awarded the UNAAWA President's Award on the night.

The extent of René's learning was far greater than his role as an events intern. He got first-hand experience of working in a not-for-profit organisation, run predominantly by volunteers.

"The biggest challenge was to understand and initially integrate into the organisational structures," René says.

"As UNAAWA is a non-for-profit, non-governmental organisation that consists of members who contribute all their work on a voluntary basis alongside their private, paid jobs, there were no specific office hours or routine meetings."

"Trying to understand the various committees – who belongs to which committee and what everyone’s role is – was challenging to understand, especially because I was in email contact with a number people who I had not met before. I could not just walk into another person’s office and ask for help. I had to be very self-motivated, autonomous and responsible."

René says his internship has taught him not to underestimate his own abilities, even though he is still an undergraduate and has limited experience in the workforce.

"I am well able to contribute valuable insights and ideas and work together with professionals who do have a lot of experience," he says.

"I learned that I can make a difference even without having specific background knowledge and experiences."

"This internship has definitely impacted me. I want to stay involved with the non-for-profit sector, either privately or maybe even professionally."

"Learning about the United Nations and its goals, I am eager to orient my future career around these and be open to other options."

Here are the five reasons René thinks you should do a McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship:

  1. You learn skills and make practical experiences that no other university unit could offer.
  2. You contribute to an important organisation’s and your personal growth at the same time.
  3. You will not regret it.
  4. You realise that it does not take much to be a global citizen.
  5. You get to meet people that you usually would not get in contact with so easily and can build important contact for future connections.

Do you want to learn how you can give back to your community like René has and gain credit at the same time? See the internships available in Semester 1 here