Daniel Sexton, BSILR '13
ILO, Geneva, Switzerland
On my first dinner with friends back in the United States after my semester working for the International Institute of Labour Studies at the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, someone naturally asked the most obvious question, "So, uh, how was Europe?" My eyes wandered off into the window behind the opposite side of the table at the restaurant, and I realized the unbelievable difficulty that that question would pose as friends and family would ask the same of me over the course of the holiday season and beyond. How was Europe? What about Europe?
Let's first talk about the most important bit about a credit internship in Europe: working there. Back at Cornell, I'd learned all of the basic pieces of the academic areas I was responsible for at the ILO – labor economics, statistics, labor law, and the use of technology to analyze and present ideas from these subjects. My work at the ILO was the catalyst for transferring all of these skills from mere textbook knowledge to a working understanding of issues relating to policy, labor markets, and national social protection schemes. From Tunisia's youth unemployment problem to Ghana's corruption struggle to the European Union's sovereign debt crisis, my job was to collect whatever facts and figures were available to make some sense out of unsolved global issues. Personally, I found my work on the American labor market to be the most rewarding; for the three weeks leading up to the 2012 presidential election, I was able to shut out the barrage of opinions and rebuttals and counter-rebuttals coming from the American media and still remain an informed voter on economic issues simply by looking at my own unbiased analysis of the president's impact on the recession. Most importantly, this wide variety of projects allowed me to work face-to-face with no less than nine different ILO economists, one of whom gave me strong encouragement to pursue further work with the organization and gave me much-needed guidance on how to enter the career field.
But that's the ILO, not Europe, and the question still remains mostly unanswered. In Europe, I wandered Roman ruins for hours before sitting down to the best pizza and gelato I can remember. I creaked up the same wooden staircase that concealed Anne Frank during the Holocaust. I screamed the few Spanish words I knew as Lionel Messi rocketed the ball past the goalie to score twice for FC Barcelona in a 5-1 match against Athletic Club Bilbao. I threw snowballs down the side of the Matterhorn, stood breathless from exhaustion and 3000 meters of altitude at the summit of Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland, and spun in a slow, reverent circle to view a 360-degree panorama of the 23-kilometer Aletsch Glacier walled in by Switzerland's most famous peaks. And after all that hiking, I ate a pot of melted cheese.
So how was Europe? If the question is going to be that broad, so is the answer: phenomenal, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything. See http://vimeo.com/56660712
- Daniel Sexton