After several selection tests, Xu Xiaozhen, a graduate from the School of Environment and Architecture, Class of 2022, stood out from the applicants from all over the world and gained an internship in environmental affairs at the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP).
“Stand on the international stage and realize the dream as an environmentalist”
"I was shocked when I first heard the term 'climate refugees.' It’s hard for China’s younger generation to imagine a world where people are forcibly displaced by the seemingly invisible effects of climate change. However, in fact, it does happen in some regions of the world." In 2017, Xu, then a junior, was a youth delegate at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference which was held in Bonn, Germany, when she learned for the first time the vulnerability of human beings confronted with climate change. The sense of mission- “in the face of global crisis, don’t be an onlooker any more”- inspired her to join an international organization and devote herself to the global environmental governance and sustainable development, and made clearer her determination to carry on the research in the field.
"If the youth are to take up the responsibility and mission of global governance, it’s necessary to enter the international arena to explore and practice, broaden the horizons, and improve global competence. In addition, it’s a must for us to learn how to listen politely, give positive feedbacks, communicate fluently and efficiently, and be respectful and inclusive of different cultures and lifestyles," said Xu.
HKU Future City Summit, International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability, UN Hackathons for a Sustainable Future... Xu has always seized every opportunity to participate in international affairs and multilateral governance occasions, accumulating knowledge and experience in public affairs and international cooperation. During the discussions on youth environmental education and climate action at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, she became aware of the world’s joint effort, regardless of nationality, profession, age or gender, for coping with global climate change. She also came to realize China's outstanding contribution and its great responsibility for promoting climate action and environmental sustainability, which gives her a sense of pride as a young Chinese and inspires her a lot.
“One try would at least makes impossible possible”
The recent challenging situation of pandemic has forced many students from the Class of 2022 to press the "pause button" on internships and job hunting. But for Xu Xiaozhen，she has passed the official UN selection test, qualified for an internship at UNEP in environmental affairs.
"Candidates for UN positions are coming from all over the world. The great competitive pressure discourages many job hunters, and the long recruitment process for most positions is also quite torturous. A student from a well-known university shared on the internet that many applications submitted on the UN official website were never replied, so at first I hesitated about applying. But considering my background of environment science and related research and practical experience, I found myself really suitable for the position. So, with the idea of 'not gonna regret letting a good opportunity slip', I finally made my try." After half a year of collecting and analyzing relevant information, preparing application materials, and dealing with the selection and assessment, Xu eventually stood out among numerous applicants worldwide and was accepted for the internship position earlier this year.
With the internship at UNEP in environmental affairs, Xu is one step closer to her true calling. Working on environmental governance and sustainable development has always been her aspiration. But most regular positions in international organizations require at least two years of relevant full-time work experience. Hence, for Xu from the Class of 2022, an internship in an international organization is a must to gain insight into global governance and accumulate practical experience in international affairs.
"Difficulties and challenges are gifts in life; step out of your comfort zone"
As a comprehensive concept itself, global governance is extremely challenging for the learners and participants. According to Xu, one of the key elements of participating in international organizations is to "focus on one's own professional expertise while gaining a broad understanding of the world and caring for diverse international issues.
Living up to her own expectations, Xu focused on her professional research and strived to explore more. Under the guidance of her supervisor, Professor Huang Beijia, Xu has been devoted to the research into environmental sustainability, and published her achievements in the renowned journal of environmental science Cell Press: One Earth and Journal of Cleaner Production. She also took optional courses in various disciplines, such as Policy Analysis and Spoken English for Academic Purposes, which enhanced her multidisciplinary background; she kept track of international affairs and current news to enrich her knowledge in areas related to global governance. Xu enjoyed acquiring knowledge and exploring the world, as well as facing challenges in all aspects.
As graduation is around the corner, like most students, Xu Xiaozhen is a little anxious, which not only stems from the intense preparation for the thesis defense, but also from the unknowns of the working environment and various challenges. Anyway, she is ready to move to a bigger stage and make the voice of Chinese youth heard on the international arena.