Following my graduation from Lehigh, I was fortunate enough to spend six months experiencing life behind the scenes at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Specifically, I assisted in the development of weekly briefings for UN-affiliated NGOs organized by the NGO Relations Cluster within the Department of Public Information. These briefings were held on a variety of topics relating to the UN agenda, ranging from global ageing to nuclear disarmament. As an intern I was able to expand my knowledge on these important international challenges through research on the topic, drafting briefing programmes and talking points as well as first-hand dialogues with expert panelists. The briefings serve to educate NGO representatives on the status and needs of critical global challenges, so they can relay this information to their organizations and implement new reforms in the field.
In addition to daily work on the briefings, I was able to take advantage of other opportunities presented to me while at the UN. Most notably, I was present for the General Assembly in September 2011, allowing me to hear speeches from the worlds most notorious leaders including President Obama. I will never forget the energy in the room as Mahmoud Abbas gave his plea for Palestinian statehood, or the seemingly staged walkouts after Mhamoud Ahmadinejad revealed his, now habitual, contentious views on international politics nor will I forget President Salva Kiir Mayardit, of the newly independent South Sudan, be welcomed by his fellow leaders.
The UN is a heavily criticized organization, often condemned for not doing enough, however as an intern who only recently moved from learning about IR theory in the classroom to an intern seeing real life events as they happen, I think the UN deserves far more credit than it is given. It is an imperfect, at times frustrating bureaucratic institution, but its very existence should be something to be celebrated. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time observing and experiencing all the UN has to offer and I hope that one day I will be able to work here again.