UU-UNO Interns Share Their Impressions of the United Nations General Assembly

By Bruce Knotts

The UU United Nations Office (UU-UNO) is fortunate to have formal relationships with the graduate schools of social work at Fordham University, Columbia University and our latest addition, New York University. It is always an exciting time to meet our new interns and begin to integrate them into the work of the UU-UNO. These interns come to us in September and remain with us until May. They undertake their internship with us as part of their course of study and their progress is monitored by the UU-UNO staff and their academic advisor. Coupled with the excitement of meeting our new interns, September is when the United Nations begins its General Assembly which is initiated by remarks from the leaders of most of the UN's 193 member states. Streets are blocked off and security is intense around the East River and in the air above the UN neighborhood. Here are the first impressions of two of our new interns. The first is from Hao Wang, who is an NYU student from Taiwan.
I got off the bus at NYU Medical Center on 33rd St. as usual this morning and started walking toward the U.N. Church Center. As I approached the corner of 42nd st and 1st Ave I saw that the street in front of the U.N. building was completely blocked by security and police. I then walked through a group of police officers where one of them was holding the leash of a big hound about half of my size. It seemed that all the people who worked at the facilities surrounding the U.N. building had to give up their usual way of commuting and walked to their offices instead. Following the crowd, I had to take a detour at the corner at 42nd and 1st Ave. and turned left towards 2nd Ave. On 42nd St., I saw two police officers, a female and a male, and both of them were carrying machine guns as big as the size of my backpack. As someone who has just come to this country from Taiwan as recent as a year ago, I certainly have never seen guns that size before except for in the movies. In my life I do not think I have ever witnessed any security as tight as what I saw this morning in just a few blocks. I still felt this tension and uneasiness while walking by all the security even though I knew that none of them would ever notice me for I am only one of the hundreds of the pedestrians.
The second student is Erum Jaffer, from California and a student at Columbia.
My first day at UU-UNO during the UN General Assembly Walking down 42nd street towards the East River, I felt very excited to start my first day at UU-UNO. I had my nice jacket on, my new high heels, and a new notebook in my bag. I knew that this was the time that the United Nations was having their general assembly and I knew that things would be crowded. Only yesterday, I had seen a MTA sign stating that buses would be running slow because of certain streets being blocked. You would think that the signage would have better prepared me for the day but no, it did not. Because I was eager to start my internship, I did not conceptualize what the increased security would be like. I walked towards 2nd Ave and noticed security standing. As I approached them, I noticed that the security was checking people to see if they had the proper clearances, my guess was the UN badges. “Hi, I am an intern at the Universalist office. Today is my first day so I don’t have a badge." “Ma’am, you’ll have to go to two blocks over. No one is allowed here without proper clearance.” I walked two blocks over and approached the guards at that corner, they told me that I had to walk two more block over. At this time, I was wondering if my new heels were such a good idea. As I approached that next corner and explained my story a third time, all three guards looked at each other, not really sure what to do. Eventually one of them pointed to another guard and asked him to escort me to the Church Building. Day 1 and I get a security escort. Awesome. As we walked down United Nations Parkway, the security explained to me that security was increased because the general assembly was in session and that over 100 leaders from various countries were going to be present. As he escorted me to my building, we saw a couple of people lingering in the street. They asked the security what time President Obama was going to drive through. The security escort mentioned that he did not know the exact time. He also told him that they could not linger on this Parkway and had to clear out. Day 1 and President Obama will be in the building next door. Double Awesome. As my week continued at the UU-UNO, it was exciting to know that 111 world leaders were only a building away from me, discussing the current state of human rights and important global issues. Being at the UU-UNO put me in an environment where people care about what's going on at the UN. Together we watched both the prime minister of Israel and Palestine give their UN addresses, and dialogued about our thoughts on history in the making. It's refreshing to be an environment where people care about what's going on in our increasingly interconnected world.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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