Alumni Interview: Bhumika Gupta’s path towards the job of her dreams
Bhumika Gupta (21), International Studies alumna, secured an internship in the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. She has set a path for herself, leading towards the job of her dreams, and this internship is a big step towards that future job.
'When I was young, I already wanted to work in an organisation that focuses on international collaboration between nations. I know it sounds like a cliché, but that is the way it is: I wanted – and want – to make the world a little better through my work,' says Bhumika, who now works at the Public Affairs department of the OPCW in The Hague. This is the implementing body that oversees the activities of its 193 members to eliminate chemical weapons and to promote the use of chemistry towards peaceful ends. Bhumika’s elder sister had done an internship there in 2016 and when she herself studied in The Hague, she visited one of the organisation’s open days. This increased her motivation to apply for an internship here and when in April ’21 she saw a call for applications on the website, she immediately sent her CV, motivational letter and references. 'I think the motivational letter is really the most important part of the application,' Bhumika says. 'This gives you the chance to explain your background, your interests and your motivation to apply for an internship.'
International Studies is an asset
Then a long wait started, during which time Bhumika sent out other applications for internships as well. In August ’21, finally, the OPCW reacted to her application and she was invited for an interview. When asked how you should prepare for such an important interview, Bhumika laughs. 'I had prepared for the basic questions, like what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses. But I wasn’t asked those questions at all.' Instead, she was asked about why she had chosen International Studies as a Bachelor’s, and which particular skills she felt she had learned there. The International Studies degree is an asset, Bhumika believes, 'for I have several colleagues at OPCW who also are International Studies alumni.'
Looking back at the Bachelor’s programme, she says that International Studies offers its students a great opportunity to learn many valuable skills. 'You learn how to do research, to make presentations, read graphs, work in teams, and so on. These can be of great use in the 'real world'.' She singles out one skill that is particularly good to possess: sensitivity to other cultures. 'You meet so many people from so many different cultures during the International Studies programme, most of them outside of outside or your own culture. You automatically learn how to be respectful to other cultures, and many companies and organisations want you to have exactly that skill.'
However, she adds, because the International Studies programme is very broad, this may lead to graduates not being able to fill the requirements of certain Master’s programmes where more in-depth knowledge is needed. Bhumika at this time focuses on gaining working experience. 'An internship is a great way to discover what you really like and what you’re good at. In my internship in the Public Affairs department of the OPCW, I have found that I like communication, in combination with digital technology even more than I thought.' In her current job, Bhumika works on draft press releases, contributes to hosting visits to the OPCW building, communicates with NGO’s and handles parts of the organisation’s website. 'It is important to let the public know about the OPCW’s activities. What they do really counts, chemical weapons are just as harmful as nuclear ones.'
Working from India
The work has made her realise that eventually, she would like to continue with a Master’s in communication. In the meantime, she may go for another relevant internship first. 'Right now, I’m working from India, my home country. When I started work for the OPCW, we were still in Covid lockdown, and everybody was working from home. When the lockdown was lifted, I decided to stay on in India, as there were only a few months of the internship left. But for a new internship, or a Master’s, I am definitely willing to travel to Europe. Contact with my teammates at OPCW is as good as can be, but the online experience simply is not the same.'
A word of advice
For other alumni and current students of International Studies, Bhumika has a word of advice: 'Apply to all the internships that you can find, that is the best way to gain experience in your chosen field. And search for the kind of jobs that you would like to have further on in your career and see what the requirements are. By doing internships or a master’s programme you can step by step fill those requirements, so that you will qualify for the job of your dreams in the future. That is exactly what I’m doing right now. And the job of my dreams? I’m hoping to be a communications specialist!'