New York, United Nations, Lady Gaga and the others
In what kind of program did you participate? How long did you stay in New York?
It's been 3 years I am working for a foundation in Hungary, called József Antal Knowledge Centre. The foundation has a bilateral cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Hungary to the United Nations in New York. Every country appears through these permanent representations in the UN. The permanent ambassador of Hungary at the UN is dr. Csaba Kőrösi, he leads the mission and represents Hungary there. Herein, opposite to the accredited embassies of each country, the UN embassy has different scope of duties, with emphasis on the building and support of multilateral connections.
I participated in an internship through the own scholarship program of the foundation, they supported my stay. All together I have spent four months in the USA.
I think, the one who yearn after New York, are interested the most about the application opportunities. What are the requirements? How did the idea come to go to New York?
The director of our foundation found me eligible for this internship position. After it I have completed the requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, so I ended up in New York. There are several criteria. First, the foundation suggests someone for the position, but at the end the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes the decision. Specialized studies, outstanding results at the university, student status, excellent English and advanced knowledge of another foreign language are required. Besides, I had to prove within the foundation that I am able to cope with living in New York. I did not apply for this internship, they offered me the opportunity. I was the first person who got this chance. Since that, my colleagues have to apply for this position. Two of my workmates are going this year as well.
What was your exact task there? Tell me more about your job!
I was dealing with sustainable development and with protocol tasks. The primary duty of the Hungarian UN representation is now the sustainable development, namely from 2015 there will be new sustainable development goals determined. There is a working group dealing with these goals and the presidents of the group are Hungary and Kenya. The aim of the strategy is to convince the developed counties to do something for sustainable development. Therefore, Hungary has to organize conferences, prepare reports and seek for policies which could be guidelines for the determination of sustainable development goals. During my stay I was helping with these tasks. I have prepared background materials, summarized from time to time the position of each country, and tried to represent the neutrality of Hungary in different forums. I have participated in business breakfasts, meetings, appointments. I was lucky since Hungary has now many tasks to do, so even as an intern I was deeply involved in the work.
During my internship the main focus was on sustainable development but I could get involved in different areas of the Embassy. The UN has five committees where Hungarian diplomats represent the country. Quite often I had to help these diplomats, I participated in sessions instead of them and I wrote reports for them.
You mentioned that specialized studies are required for this program. What kind of studies did you complete? Do you know about other opportunities to work for the UN?
I started my studies at the Corvinus University of Budapest, my major was International Relations. I have graduated from Political Science and Sociology in Scotland. Now I am just about to finish my master degree at the Corvinus University. Basically international studies and social sciences are an advantage for this internship. Although I have participated in the program thanks to the scholarship of the foundation, the Permanent Mission of Hungary is open for accepting further interns as well. Who is interested, should just contact me and I am happy to help. There is no financial support but it is possible to find scholarship opportunities, like Campus Hungary and Erasmus+. They also support overseas internships.
Furthermore, the UN is seeking for interns all the time, the current positions are available on their homepage. At the same time there are thousands of interns working there, each of them has a mentor and they have meaningful tasks. Currently, there are also many interns from Hungary who are dealing with global topics. These positions are not supported though, but it is a huge experience and I can only recommend this opportunity for anyone who can afford it.
What was the most interesting in your job?
The UN has a General Assembly each year, and I have been already in New York when the 68th meeting started. This week every country represented its foreign policy position. It was very interesting working in the UN during this period as I was walking on the same floors as Obama and I had the chance to run into any politician. Of course, the president of the US and the Middle Eastern politicians were protected much more, but e.g. it was easy to get in touch with the Prime Minister of Canada. Suddenly, I felt like being in the center of world politics.
Who did you meet personally from the world leaders?
Among others I met the Queen of Jordan who is at the moment a popular and symbolic figure of the Middle East. I met the leader of Libya, and I talked to the Counselor of the Prime Minister of Tunisia, who wrote the constitution of the country, which is the first so called democratic constitution in the area. Furthermore I met the Prime Minister of Canada, Bill Gates and his wife, and the Ford Family.
I had the opportunity to sit in the rooms of the General Assembly and several times in the meetings of the committees. So I was often ear- and eye-witness of conflicts where leaders shared their grievances (e.g. in connections to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the Syrian conflict). At the same time I have signed a confidentiality agreement, so I am not allowed to talk about these exciting meetings.
Tell me more about America! Did you have opportunity to travel during or after your internship?
Yes, I tried to travel but I had to work a lot, 40-50 hours a week. Luckily, the UN itself is in the middle of Manhattan, in the diplomatic quarter, and I lived just next to the Empire State Building, so I could experience the people's daily life in New York. I tried to organize my weekends to see as much as possible on the East coast. First of all, I visited historical cities such as Baltimore and Boston. I went to the Ivy League universities, to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, but I've been also to the MIT and the NWU. It is possible to find cheaper trips but that area is very expensive. Because of the lack of time, unfortunately I could not manage to get to the West coast. After four months I came home with the feeling that I still missed so much: I could not see enough even from New York. This city really has a range of opportunities, so it is worth to spend a couple of months there. I got to know as well, that it is not that hard to get accepted to the universities there, so I can only encourage everybody. Although the tuition fees are very high, they also have student loan which basically covers the expenses.
We can hear many stereotypes about the Americans. What did you experience? How are they?
I graduated from an American high school in Hungary and I have already lived before in the States. I think the stereotypes from the Hungarians are a little bit too quirk (e.g. the Americans are stupid). Their education system is completely different, they socialized differently. They do not emphasize the lexical knowledge, this is a lack of their education system. On the other hand, Hungarians have it in an opposite way, we do not consider the development of practical skills important. The Americans concentrate on these skills, so they communicate easier, they solve problems quicker, they start a conversation easier. This is missing from the East-Europeans. In my opinion the stereotypes are partly true, but we have such huge differences in our education and socialization that it is hard to compare the two countries.
However, Americans have superficial relationships but they are more open-minded. They know that they work differently. That's way I recommend everybody to spend a little time in an international environment. To experience that we are different, we came from different places, speak different languages, but we can understand each other, we just need to decode each other properly.
Did you experience something unusual in the USA? Do you have any interesting story to tell?
I met for example Lady Gaga. It is interesting about New York that everybody has a different story, everybody comes from different places and expect different things from life. It is exciting and very inspiring. What is really funny, that people are able to sit outside for hours in the cold and wait for a new store to open. I haven't seen before so many people waiting in the queue only because of buying some stuff cheaper. On the other hand, it is surprising that people in New York lead a healthy life, they eat healthy food and do sports. From many aspects they have European values.
I am interested in one more thing. Would you ever return? Would you like to live there?
Until I am young, definitely. I could imagine living in New York as it is the city of the youth, it is very energetic. It is the city of those who can live with a vibrant city and its daily life. Although I wouldn't raise a child there. But for young people, for those who have plans, dreams, I truly recommend New York.