By Mia Thiagarajan '24
Mia Thiagarajan Inside the United Nations chamber

One unique program that Occidental offers students is the Kahane United Nations Program. Every fall semester, a cohort of students head to New York City to immerse themselves in a full-time internship at UN-related agencies, non-governmental organizations or country missions.

Internship placements are complemented by two academic seminars. Mia Thiagarajan shares more about her time at the UN during Fall 2023.

Last December, I completed my internship at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations. As a Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) major, it was an exciting opportunity to bring my international academic and professional experiences to the UN.

The first time I heard about the UN program was when I was applying to Oxy. At the time I thought it seemed interesting, but it wasn’t until I declared my DWA major during my first year that I decided I wanted to apply.

I attended Oxy-at-the-UN Week events every year to learn more about the program, and became as involved in the DWA department as I could. As an underclassman I joined the DWA Majors Association, and as an upperclassman I became the peer tutor for the major through Oxy’s official Peer Tutoring Program. I also made sure I had a significant amount of research and internship experience to prepare for my application.

Most importantly, I had the guidance of my advisor, Professor Chu, who supported me through the application process! Taking classes with Professor Chu and Professor Hebert, the co-chair of the UN program, strengthened my knowledge of international relations and human rights in preparation for the application process.

After I was accepted into the program, I interned at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations. I had the privilege of working with the communications team, which is responsible for communicating United Kingdom policy priorities at the UN to international press and online audiences. As an intern, I published press releases on breaking news for international journalists, produced live coverage of UK activity at the UN for UK Mission social media channels, and supported strategic communications campaigns during the UN General Assembly's High-level Week.

Separately, one highlight of my work was researching how Artificial Intelligence can streamline work in UN spaces. I coordinated with colleagues in London and New York to discover how AI can accelerate progress for peace and diplomacy and co-pioneered the development of an AI demo within the Mission.

Living with the cohort was a truly unique experience. The thirteen of us stayed at the 92nd Street Y on the upper east side of Manhattan. Central Park was only 10 minutes away and so was the Met. 

One highlight of our group programming was a food tour of New York hosted by our SIT administrator Karl Rivera and journalist Arun Gupta. We learned about the rich cultural history of New York while eating dumplings, babkas, tamales, pizza, and more!

If you’re interested in the Oxy-at-the-UN Program, try to get involved with the DWA department! Between the DWA Majors Association, conducting international relations research through the Summer Research Program, and planning annual UN Week events, there are so many opportunities to show interest in the program.


Photo courtesy of Mia Thiagarajan

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