To say that I was excited to be attending a student seminar at the United Nations during my semester abroad would be the understatement of the century… just watch me in the beginning of my vlog!
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the seminar, the topic for which was migration in the context of Central America. So, let me share the back story, the experience, and the knowledge with you.
The backstory: how I was chosen
In the second half of 2017 I was studying abroad at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, where my subjects spanned across global development, human geography, and peace and conflict studies. One afternoon in my peace and conflict studies class, the teacher announced that at the very last minute, a student who had been selected to attend a UN seminar could no longer go, and the opportunity was re-opened for UFV students to apply. He explained what the seminar was about and instantly I was eager, not only to learn about migration in Latin America, but to go to New York and meet like-minded students at the UN.
The seminar was held at the Church Centre for the United Nations, and the Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia was sponsoring a student to represent them at the conference. I honestly thought my chances of getting selected where slim- I was an exchange student, who had only been in Canada for a few weeks, but I applied anyway. To my surprise, I was selected out of everyone else, and only a fortnight later I was on a plane headed to New York City, for an expenses-paid trip, on the condition that upon my return I write a report about everything I learned for the Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia.
The experience: what was it like
I was a little disappointed when I arrived in New York City a day later than I was supposed to, thanks to a delayed flight, but I was too excited to care. This was my first time in the USA, and while I had never desired to go to the USA, I was falling in love with a concrete jungle.
Waking up in the morning, putting on my business-casual attire (which I had gone and bought from a thrift store the weekend before,) catching the subway and walking through the streets of Manhattan in my high heels, was like being in a dream. I spent 3 days at the Church Centre for the United Nations and the UN headquarters, listening to some amazing guest speakers and networking with like-minded students, and exploring NYC in the evenings. I definitely returned to BC feeling so inspired to continue learning, networking, and working to create change.
The knowledge: what did I learn
So, what did I actually learn at the seminar? We had an array of guest speakers talk about their experiences as migrant, the root causes of migration and migration in central America, America’s current broken immigration system, the role of the United Nations, and solutions like adopting a global compact on migration and refugees.
I wrote a report for the MCC of BC who sent me to the conference, and the MCC UN office also held a competition for attendees to write a post for their MCCLACA blog- which I won. You can read my article here which gives a good overview of everything I learnt at the seminar, and of course you can watch my vlog to see what NYC and the whole experience was like for me.
In summary, I am so grateful to have attended the seminar, which really sparked my interest in forced migration and the role of both civil society and the public sector in addressing the issue. I have always been interested migration, as a sociology, philosophy, and global studies student, and particularly the issues surrounding forced migration as it intersects with all three pillars of the United Nations: human rights, peace & security, and development.