Global Perspective: LSU Law Student at the United Nations

Michael Harpen, Staff Writer

I work for the International Atomic Energy Commission for the United Nations. We are an internal division of the United Nations Energy Commission.

Life in Vienna is wonderful! It’s  a very international city, it’s safe, it’s clean, and there is lots to do. I’ve been to the opera, I’ve been to Berlin, I’ve traveled to London, and all over Europe. I met the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and I’ve been to a ball with a full orchestra.

In my job at the United Nations, I work on the internal protocols of my division. We are updating the internal procedures, because many of them are outdated. For example, we still have a protocol on the books that deals with pagers.

Nobody carries around pagers anymore, because everyone has cell phones. So I’m updating that protocol so that it reflects modern technology.

In general, we have to update protocols for security breach purposes. We get information from the nuclear energy programs from countries from around the world, so we’re a potential high level target, and we need to ensure that confidential information remains confidential.

How did I get hired? I was searching for work opportunities, and one of my old coworkers told me about this job.

I wanted to get an international experience and the United Nations is one of the best places to work for that.

G.P.A. was not a deciding factor. Experience meant everything. It really helped that I had a technical background. I also had work experience working with Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and I did similar work for them. Communication skills are key.

Law classes that emphasize developing strong communication and writing skills is key to this job. A poorly communicated draft makes the process much more cumbersome and painful.

I’ll be finishing up my LSU Law degree here in Vienna by taking classes available from the university here. I’m a European Union resident, so tuition costs are very low, and I only have fourteen credits left to go!

Michael Dennis Harpen is an LSU Law student studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. You can reach him at


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