Monday, 12 November 2012

Student at the UN

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take part in work experience at the United Nations headquarters in Switzerland. I was to be flying by myself for the first time and I knew no one in Geneva or on the study trip. Arriving at the hostel, I began to feel a little concerned about the prospect of being alone in a completely unfamiliar country, but there was no time to be worried with a briefing only an hour later. As I looked around the table at the other students, I was yet to realise that they would become the people I spent every waking moment with for the rest of the week.

It was an early start the next morning as we visited the Palais des Nations. We walked around, taking in hugely impressive conference rooms that had participated in some of the most important decisions in current affairs for years. The tour took us past conferences in session discussing the states of North Korea, Libya, Syria and many more. The building was stunning and I was awed by the realisation that on these grounds I was legally considered to be in no country and on completely neutral ground. There was little time as we moved on fast; next to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Listening to the speaker talk of his experiences in countries facing refugee crises, I was struck by how real the situations became. Watching the news on Syria behind television screens, there can be no true knowledge of the scale and the amount of people working behind the scenes.

As the week progressed, I went to a wide variation of UN agencies including the UN Environment Programme, World Food Programme and the International Organisation for Migration. As the international centre for humanitarian action, Geneva presented opportunities to visit the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). The speakers were some of the most inspirational people I have ever encountered, working in extremely insecure surroundings solely to help people with no personal incentive. The trip overall gave me an amazing perspective on the world’s affairs and assured me that international work is something I definitely want to pursue in the future. It was undoubtedly one of the most incredible weeks of my life and is something I would recommend to anyone, whether you are interested in politics or not.


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