Time Flies When You're (Really, Really) Busy - Oxy's UN Program!
Blogger: Katherine Carey
Oxy’s internship program at the United Nations was one of the things that first attracted me to the school. It was one of the things I intended to do for my entire Oxy career, until the application deadline got closer and I got a little scared of what it would be like to “miss” half of senior year, especially after going abroad fall of my junior year. Yet even during the application and preparation process, while doing my summer reading, and when finding out about my placement at UN Women, the whole thing did not seem real. And to tell you the truth, even though I’m here now, and have been for over a month (OMG!), I still have to pinch myself sometimes to remember that this is actually my life.
The calendar says that 38 days have passed since I first got here, but to me it feels more like two weeks that have already blurred together in frenzy of work, new friendships, homework, yummy dinners, walks in Central Park, Skype sessions, paper proposals, care packages, and explorations in New York. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the program, there are fifteen Oxy seniors who all live at the 92Y in Manhattan and have internships at the UN. This year, seven are in country missions (Costa Rica, Honduras, the United Kingdom, and Malta), seven are in UN Agencies (UNHCR, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women), and one is working with the UN Foundation, which is an NGO (non-governmental organization) that works very closely with the UN. We work at our various internships from about 9:30AM to 6PM (sometimes more, sometimes less) every week day, with classes from 1PM-3PM Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We have one class on conflict prevention, one on human development, and one for our independent study project, the class time for which is often dedicated to speakers. And man have we had some awesome speakers, including multiple Assistant Secretary Generals (ASGs), the Resident Coordinator for the UN in Bangladesh (meaning that he coordinates all the work of all the UN Agencies there and liaisons with the government), and the main organizer of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, which did more for women’s rights than pretty much any event before (and arguably after) had. The personal stories and experiences of these successful leaders adds so much to what we’re learning, and is definitely something we wouldn’t be getting in LA.
One month has helped all of us feel more settled into our internships as well. It’s a little intimidating to be the youngest person (by quite a bit) in such a professional environment, and the UN system is so distinct that past work experience isn’t necessarily applicable. I’m working almost exclusively on the post-2015 development agenda, which is scheduled to be the follow up the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs) which expire in 2015. I have been looking at lessons learned from the MDGs, and how we can more thoroughly integrate gender into the new framework. I am also helping organize an Expert Group Meeting (EGM—the UN loves acronyms) to be held at the end of November to discuss this topic. That means we are finding and inviting experts in labor, water, the environment, education, health, etc., all of whom also focus on gender within these areas, to come to New York, discuss the post-2015 framework, and help UN Women ensure that its priorities for the framework as comprehensive, equitable, and achievable as possible.
Despite all of this work, my friends and I have remained committed to doing our best to explore New York in free time (read: weekends only). My roommate and I have discovered the joys of Groupon, and the stellar subway system makes it super simple for us to access all of Manhattan and most of the boroughs, including Brooklyn, which we’ve visited a bunch. We have walked the High Line, eaten at Chelsea Market, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, been to lots of street festivals and flea markets, visited the Met, and eaten so much pizza we could pop. Stereotypical, I know, but oh so delicious.
Overall, although I miss Oxy a lot and get a little pang every time my friends there post pictures of their fun adventures together, I know that I’m having the experience of a lifetime, and that it will only improve as I get more comfortable here. (Though that also means I’ll also be getting busier. Eek!) Two of my best friends are coming to visit this weekend over Oxy’s fall break, and my parents are coming to the city shortly thereafter. The director of the program has arranged a trip to DC for us in early November, during which we will visit the World Bank and the State Department, which will be incredible. I’m also looking forward to other notable speakers who I’ll get to hear through my job and our classes, and to celebrating the holidays in New York. Before I know it, the ice skating rink and the big Christmas tree will be up in front of Rockefeller Center, and it could be snowing. (I don’t know how I’m going to handle that, as a born-and-bred Californian.) Time really does fly when you’re busy, but I’m doing my best to take it all in and remember to stop and smell the bagels.
Check back in mid-December for my post about how the rest of the semester went. However, if you can’t wait for more, here’s the link to our program’s weekly newsletter (we’re the trial group) so you can stay updated. And as always, please feel free to e-mail me personally if you have questions about anything! À bientôt!