UNA-USA Campus Chapter President Studies UN in Geneva

My name is Denali Drake and I am a senior at Northern Michigan University majoring in International Political Science and minoring in English. This summer, I spent two months studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland with Boston University’s Conflict Resolution program. The program gave us the opportunity to meet with humanitarian professionals and really learn how to carve out our own career paths in this field.

I loved that our courses allowed us to get a more in-depth understanding of humanitarian work. One of my favorite courses was a holistic examination of peacekeeping, transitional justice, the United Nations, and other non-governmental organizations that work to protect human rights.

We lived near the Palais De Nations, the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. The Sustainable Development Goals were proudly displayed throughout the building, and the outside is decorated with the iconic collection of member state flags lining the grass!

During our stay, we attended  presentations by Palais De Nations staff regarding their work with refugees, internally displaced persons, and multilateralism. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people speaking so many different languages who all share a collective goal of protecting human lives.

We also got to meet graduate students from the United States interning at the UN. They explained how important it is to be a part of campus extracurriculars and find your passion, whether that be working with refugees, women, or even focusing on economics. They also emphasized a few crucial things for anyone planning to apply for an internship at the United Nations. Firstly, it is important to speak at least two of the United Nations’ official languages. Secondly, applicants should be in or have graduated from master’s degree programs relating to the UN’s work. Lastly, they stressed that having volunteer or work experience helps further your career in diplomacy!

As the only person in my program involved with UNA-USA, I felt like I was able to see all the hard work we do really manifest itself through the way the United Nations helps others. As president of my school’s UNA chapter at Northern Michigan University, I was able to connect my experiences in Geneva to my experiences as a student leader. I understood the importance of advocacy on campus and how as students, we can really make an impact. Often, when I am leading meetings on campus it can be hard for students to visualize the reality of what is going on in the world and it can be difficult to maintain energy when you feel that there is more bad news than good. However, from this experience, I was able to bring back tangible examples of how UNA-USA is making an impact and how there is hope. I am eternally grateful for this experience and hope to return to Geneva in the future to work alongside the amazing global leaders at the United Nations.