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Student Stories: Forging an Intersectional Career

Penn Nursing student Tiffany Hsu recently wrote about her internship with UNESCO this summer in Paris, France, her experience of weaving together an interdisciplinary career, and defining what it means to be a nurse.

As a child, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had so many interests and hobbies and didn’t feel like I could commit to only one. When I applied to college, I was still conflicted on choosing a major. Ultimately, I decided to check ‘neuroscience’ on a whim but spent my undergraduate career taking classes across a variety of subjects including American Sign Language, tabla drumming, international relations, and anthropology. Eventually, I realized that subjects did not (or rather, should not) exist in tandem, but rather, are profoundly intertwined. And so, I began on a journey to weave an interdisciplinary career for myself in public health, human rights, social justice, and nursing.

My internship in the bioethics section at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France, has allowed me to finally put my interdisciplinary background into action. It has been refreshing to venture beyond an academic setting and experience the intricacies of an international organization. Particularly within bioethics, my diverse background has been crucial to developing a critical analysis and understanding of complex, burgeoning issues (e.g. assisted reproductive technologies, artificial intelligence, and genomic editing) through a social, political, scientific, and humanistic lens.

In addition to the intersectionality of ideas and thought, there also exists a unique diversity among the UNESCO community. In the bioethics team, for instance, all members come from a different country and speak multiple languages. As a result, I am introduced to new cultures and worldviews every day. This beauty of diversity has made me recognize how relevant and necessary interdisciplinary perspectives are to defending human rights and building peace.

Many friends and colleagues have been confused about why I, as a future nurse and midwife, am interested in the work of international organizations such as the United Nations. However, I remain committed to the belief that it is essential for healthcare professionals, who bear both the lived and learned experiences of working on the front lines of patient care, to have a voice in health policy and advocacy. My time at UNESCO has reaffirmed my belief that a multifaceted career is both possible and rewarding. I look forward to forging an intersectional career path of my passions, and continuing to broaden my scope and my definition of what it means to be a nurse.

This story originally appeared on Penn Abroad.