Interning at the United Nations, New York

Eleanor Nicolaides is a current BA History and Ancient History with EEA (Employment Experience Abroad) student at the University of Exeter, Streatham campus. For her EEA placement she was an intern at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cyprus to the United Nations in New York City.

Eleanor Nicolaides in the Security Council Chamber of the United Nations New York City

This was the best experience of my entire life, and it is really hard to summarise in one post, so I will do my best!

I found out about this internship years ago, through Nepomak, an organisation which aims to preserve Cypriot cultural roots and identity by bringing together young Cypriots in different branches all over the world. They do this through organising events, and running language and cultural tours in Cyprus in the summer. Other opportunities they provide are internships with the Government of Cyprus, the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation, and the Cyprus Mission to the United Nations.

In 2014, whilst on holiday in New York, I went on a tour of the UN, and was fascinated by what I learnt, and the work that the UN has accomplished. Shortly after I found out that Nepomak offered an internship there, and ever since I had been desperate to sign up. Everything fell into place in October 2017 when Exeter offered the chance to do “Employment Experience Abroad” for the first time, and I realised that this was my chance. My application was accepted and in August 2018 I flew to New York.

“At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me.”

I was beyond nervous for my first day at the UN, however I quickly settled in. Everyone was so lovely and welcoming, and I greatly appreciate all the support they gave me over the year. During the first couple of weeks, I helped my colleagues prepare for the 73rd General Assembly – for example, by helping the Ambassador plan the President of Cyprus’ schedule for the High-Level week. During this week, my main role (much to my surprise) was to sit in on the General Debate and write this up in a report. I estimate that I saw between 70 – 80 Heads of State in this week, including: Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, and Jacinda Arden (other famous figures I saw throughout the year at the UN include Antonio Guterres, Mike Pence, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It was an extremely surreal week. I couldn’t believe that I was already trusted enough to solely represent the country of Cyprus at the most prominent political event in the entire world. My internship had completely exceeded all expectations in just a couple of weeks.

My main role at the UN was write up reports on the meetings I attended which would then get sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These included General Assembly and Security Council meetings, conferences, humanitarian briefings, and resolution negotiations. At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me. For example, I attended an emergency Security Council meeting in November after Russia attacked Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait and took 24 Ukrainian sailors prisoner. Tensions were extraordinarily high, with Russia trying to justify their actions, and Ukraine threatening to declare martial law. Although the situation between these countries is far from resolved, these sailors were finally released back to the Ukraine this month.

I also attended European Union Coordination’s around three times a week. These meetings were fascinating, as it was a private, behind-the-scenes look at how the 28 Member States work together to achieve their common goals (the way they discussed this never ending Brexit crisis was even more interesting!). One of the most memorable meetings I had here was during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis. Both Maduro and Guaido were sending delegations to a United Nations conference in Buenos Aires, and the EU needed to decide on a common approach on how to diplomatically act in this situation. The issue was time sensitive, yet they also had to keep in mind how to deal with this in the long term. The cooperation and I saw during these meetings was so impressive!

“Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day.”

Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day. I made some incredible friends there, and some of the things we did were go to: all of the classic sight-seeing (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Central Park etc.), Broadway shows, museums (the best is the Met by far), NBC studios to watch live recordings of SNL, concerts and festivals and Instagram popups, food markets, and travel. During my year I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco, Yosemite, Miami, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia. I am trying hard to not be too critical of Exeter this year, but it feels so much smaller and unexciting after these experiences.

I am so grateful to the University for giving me the opportunity to live and work in New York for a year. Words can never justify how much I loved it and how much I want to return. To other students, I highly recommend working abroad, as it offers so much more than studying, and will be something you won’t regret!

If you’re interested in adding an EEA year into your course, contact the College Employability and Placement Advisor for your College or email careers@exeter.ac.uk