|Lehigh University > United Nations Partnerships > Lehigh Student Interns at United Nations > Debi Ou-Yang
May - November 2010 Intern
LIFE AS AN INTERN
I can’t believe the six months of my internship at the United Nations have already flown by! I started my internship in the NGO Relations Cluster of the Department of Public Information at the United Nations at the end of May. Coming in towards the end of the Winter/ Spring 2010 Briefing season, I got a glimpse of the busy-ness of what working on the briefings would be like come fall. After I was given a tour of the grounds and introduced to everyone whose names I had yet to become familiar with, I immediately got to work on the upcoming weekly briefing on biodiversity. My job was to research the topic and potential speakers, draft the NGO invitation and talking points, contact and confirm speakers and set up the venue… all before the following Thursday. But with the help of my supervisor and Nicole, my predecessor who thankfully stuck around for another week to train the new round of interns, the briefing came together. After a frantic Thursday morning of last minute this and that’s, I could take a breath, sit back, and listen to the fascinating panel I had helped organize (while, of course, diligently taking notes for the summary and thank you notes I needed to draft later).
Maria, another intern from Lehigh, started working with me for the next briefing, “High Tide, High Crime: Piracy and Other Crimes of the Sea.” As the Thursday of the briefing drew nearer, we grew more excited about the panel of speakers, which included a representative from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, a lawyer specializing in maritime law, a research associate who works with a Colorado-based NGO on peaceful ways to address piracy, and a female captain who had been attacked by pirates. On the morning of the briefing, however, one of the speakers called to say her superiors regretfully would not permit her to speak! I had remembered Nicole telling us, “Everything you can imagine that will go wrong will go wrong. But,” she reassured us, “you’ll be able to handle it, you’ll see.” She was right. As they say, “the show must go on.” We made several adjustments, and besides the bumpy start, the rest of the briefing went smoothly. As it turned out, it wasn’t the first time a speaker had had to cancel last minute, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Interning also presented the opportunity for volunteering in special events, such as the International Day of Peace, which occurs every year on September 21. This year, the observance focused on youth and development, under the slogan “Peace = Future, The math is easy.” The Department of Public Information sent out an e-mail calling for volunteers so Nicola, an intern from Germany I began working with on briefings over the summer, and I signed up. We got to help out in the room where the panel took place, which meant greeting the Goodwill Ambassadors for Peace (i.e., celebrities or “distinguished” individuals who bring focus to the UN’s work) as they came into the room! The panel included Elie Wiesel (Romania/ USA), author, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Holocaust survivor (and 2010 commencement speaker at Lehigh!); Midori Goto (Japan), violinist; Yuna Kim (South Korea), figure skater and 2010 Olympic champion; Anggun (Indonesia), singer/ songwriter, Catarina Furtado (Portugal), actress, and Goedele Liekens (Belgium), media personality.
I have learned so much in the past six months – on the briefing topics as well as the UN itself – and met so many people, some of who became role models for me. In January, I’ll be going to Thailand for 2 years to serve with the Peace Corps, and I hope I’ll be able to apply the knowledge I’ve gained here to my work in the field. Best of luck to the new intern!
For more information, contact Dr. Bill Hunter at email@example.com.