UN Interns Reflect on Their Experiences

The ARF-ER UN interns in front of the White House during a visit to Washington

UNITED NATIONS—The ARF-ER United Nations Internship Program is in full swing with seven participants from throughout the US. The interns often submit their reflections about this once-in-a-lifetime experience and Asbarez will bring their accounts to its readers.

Let’s meet three of the UN interns:

Kristyn Manoukian
is a senior at Rutgers University studying French, Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education in international affairs.

Gegham Mughnetsyan
was born and raised in Gyumri, Armenia before moving to the United States. Currently in his fourth year at the University of California, Berkeley, Mughnetsyan is majoring in Peace and Conflicts’ Studies, planning on continuing graduate studies in the fields of international relations and foreign service.

Anoosh Gasparian is an undergraduate student of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her main fields of interest include political theory, social justice and development. Other than being a politics geek she enjoys reading, long walks in the park, exploring cities and absorbing the world around her.

Below are their reflections:

The UN Internship

BY KRISTYN MANOUKIAN

Accountability, participation, inclusiveness. Yes, these are aspects of good governance that are important in Armenian politics today, but they are also themes that this year’s interns participating in the ARF’s internship at the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations have learned to apply to good citizenship in their own lives. I have had the exciting opportunity to take part in this diverse group of Armenian students as we learn about the United Nations system, Armenian politics and opportunities for young Armenians to pursue our career goals while remaining connected to our heritage.

After the first two weeks of visiting the Armenian Mission, we have begun to see where each other’s politics, interests and ambitions lie. This will be further defined in the weeks to come as our individual research projects begin to take shape. We have each been charged with the task of researching one of the seven areas of UN involvement in the development goals of the Republic of Armenia. These goals range from improved methods of disaster reduction to admission into the European Union to more advanced energy, environment and sustainability initiatives. Through my research on integrated community development programs in Armenia, the role of Armenians in the Diaspora comes into view. In addition to programs addressing the needs of the poor, small enterprise and agriculture, this civil society-focused goal incorporates the Diaspora through the expansion of tourism and projects allowing Armenians worldwide to support social progress for the health of the Armenian nation. This opportunity enables us to parallel our own professional and personal development of the aforementioned characteristics of good citizenship with the development of good governance currently taking place in Armenia.

Returning to the three characteristics of good governance that have allowed me to reflect on the first two weeks of my internship experience, this internship has emphasized the value of accountability, participation and inclusiveness. In studying Armenian politics, we have learned the shortcomings of Armenian governance because of the lack of accountability of the government to its people. This shortcoming is exacerbated by the limited political participation of an unequal society. Limitations to inclusiveness create further divides within the Armenian population. In viewing these characteristics from the perspective of citizenship, this internship has instilled in us an even greater sense of community because of the accountability, of sorts, that we feel to giving back to Armenia through our achievements, the responsibility to participate in social and political initiatives and the need to be inclusive of Armenians from all places, gender and social classes in this effort.

We began our internship experience with a study of the UN system, its structure and its rules of procedure. Over the last two weeks, we have learned about issues of Armenian politics, society and tradition from experts in their field and have seen these reflected in our own lives as a small community of interns representing the Armenian nation. As representatives of Armenian youth today, it is important to look critically at the necessary improvements to governance in Armenia, but also to remember that its path is up to the future generations to define.

The UN interns with Karabakh Rep. to US Robert Avetisyan at the ANCA headquarters in Washington

Reflections of an Intern

BY GEGHAM MUGHNETSYAN

During the most part of our lives we hear about events, we come to ‘know’ places, and be experts in situations which we never witness with our own eyes. We talk about far away homelands and shores without ever stepping foot in them, and we make judgments about global political processes while sitting around our kitchen tables without ever attending even our local city council meetings. However, in this country we are presented with vast opportunities to enlarge our scope and be able to see further than our kitchen tables. The university life provides us with some hands-on experience, but summer internships and research projects are what move us across the land toward new frontiers.

I am fortunate enough to be part of this particular internship at the Permanent Mission of Armenia at the United Nations, sponsored by the ARF Eastern Region. It has set many sparks ablaze within me. We are only at the second week of the internship and four different experiences are intertwining together to form my overall internship experience.

First have to be the travel to the East coast and the life in New York, Jersey City and Washington D.C. For a student who has ambitions of studying and maybe even later working in the East coast, this was the perfect opportunity for an exploration. It gives the student the opportunity to take on the city by himself and firsthand realize the vastness of these metropolitan centers and how they have the ability to consume the individual with their greatness.

Second is the opportunity to meet with senior Armenian career diplomats and see what their work embodies. The conversations with these diplomats, the opportunities to visit our embassy, the permanent mission, the Armenian National Committee and most importantly the UN headquarters, solidify them and turn them into realities instead of remaining images from a student’s daydreams.

Third would be that all these meetings, explorations, visitations and lectures open doors to new databases that will be helpful when taking on the honor’s theses or other academic endeavors.

Fourth and most important gain is the personal connection with fellow interns. Interns are all from the same age group who might have never met if it was not for the internship. It is only been ten days, but we have discovered an immense amount of common ground under our feet even though we come from different backgrounds. Each of us differently realizes the importance of this connection and how it will go on after this July ends and we move on to excelling our dreams closer toward realization.

Twelve Days in NYC

BY ANOOSH GASPARIAN

The first thing I felt when I landed at JFK aeroport was the sweltering heat. The sanitised, sterilized, controlled air inside the aeroplane evaporated as the humidity leapt and hit me in the face; suffocating. After seven hours in a dark plane the sunlight was blinding, even though it was already the evening. For a moment I thought I had landed in Yerevan, and then I looked around and saw no other Armenians.

Compared to most cities in Europe, everything in New York feels bigger – the cars, the personalities, the writing on food packaging. Everything is meant to be bigger: this country is a superpower and has every intention of showing it. I used to think London, my hometown, was the centre of the universe until I came to New York for the first time through the ARF’s internship program with the Mission of Armenia to the United Nations. Within a matter of days I realised that London is a village compared to New York – I am overwhelmed by the height of the buildings and the speed at which most pedestrians weave through the crowds. I feel like a mouse.

It’s easy to get lost in a new city, especially one the size of New York. Points of reference are built up over time: a subway station, a flower shop, a food truck, a park. Slowly, you start to make sense of the urban jungle and where you stand in it, how to get from A to B, and eventually you feel confident enough to ditch the maps and get lost in the city safe in the knowledge that you can get back home. Within the jungle you also look for things and people who are familiar – your community, your human points of reference.

It’s often said that it takes as few as two Armenians to form a new community. Through this internship, seven people who share an interest in a variety of social sciences are living in one apartment. We debate, watch films, discover New York, and with all our different backgrounds and interests we have created a new micro-community. People who would never have met had it not been for this internship program are now cooking together in the evenings, experiencing international diplomacy at its highest level and meeting a host of interesting figures from the American-Armenian community, all in one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world. And this is only in the first few days of the program.

In a place like New York, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, to forget where you are or where you are going. Programs such as the ARF’s internship provide not only invaluable experience in a field which many students consider as a future career path, but also the opportunity to meet like-minded people, to create human points of reference, with whom it has been a pleasure to explore the city.

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