So, my “holiday” in New York had to end sometime! On Monday I started work at the Policy and Best Practices Section of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN. Getting the subway and walking to work that bright, sunny day, passing the Empire State Building and 5th Avenue, was a feeling I’ll never, ever forget.
After getting my UN Grounds Pass, I was introduced to my new colleagues, who have done some incredible things in their careers; from helping to deploy aid to Sudan, to implementing stricter child protection policies, to campaigning for women’s rights, to fighting HIV/AIDS. Their work is inspirational and as an intern, I already feel very privileged to be a small part of that. I was soon given my first project - I have been asked to investigate Latin American countries’ contribution to UN peacekeeping missions by looking into how many troops each country has sent out into the field over the last decade and trying to decipher the political, social and economic reasons behind these contributions. Although it’s a topic area which is completely new to me, and it’s quite unrelated to what I studied at uni, I still think it will be quite interesting. I’m also hoping that having some background knowledge about topics like peacekeeping will be really useful to me during my career as an interpreter/translator. My landlady, who has my dream job and works at the UN as an interpreter, has been encouraging me to make the most of this experience, as she has often found herself interpreting in high-level conferences wishing she knew more about the topics being discussed. It’s true: interpreters effectively take on the voice and the persona of who they are interpreting for, and often, the person in question is an expert in their field. Being an expert in something normally means you are able to speak about it confidently and with ease, so in order for the interpreter to sound as confident as the original speaker, it helps to know a bit about what you are saying!
This first week at work has reminded me a lot of my first week while on Erasmus in Tours, France: trying to make a good impression; meeting lots of new people and frantically trying to remember everyone’s name! I am enjoying getting to know my new work colleagues and have joined the internship society so I can meet other interns from different departments too. If you are studying at a university on your year abroad, events are usually organised for foreign students, so always, always take advantage of them. They're a great way to see new places and make new friends. Here, there are events organised for interns, but there are hundreds of us working in all different departments, so it’s not always so easy. This week, I saw that they were having cocktails on the rooftop bar of the Empire Hotel, so even though the other interns in my office were busy that night, I went on my own anyway. I only met two other interns, who I’ll probably never see again, but I had a nice time and was pleased I went. I felt nervous at first, and it reminded me of going to a youth group in France for the first time when I was studying there, but once you get over that initial hurdle, it stops being nerve-wracking and you can just enjoy the new experience. The best pre-Erasmus advice I was ever given was to say “yes” to every invitation, as you never know what will happen, who you will meet or the great experience you may have. So I’m sticking to that while in New York, and if you’re reading this from your new Erasmus destination then you should too!