A summer with the diplomats

September 7, 2018

Maria Kulchyckyj ’20 spent her summer looking out of an emblematic skyscraper in East Midtown, Manhattan, overlooking Roosevelt Island and the East River. Across the street resided the United Nations’ New York headquarters, where Maria worked for the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN).

The internship offered Maria the unique opportunity to discover how the United Nations worked and America’s role in the international body. Spearheaded by the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, the USUN—housed as a unit under the State Department—assists in the conduction of United States foreign policy within the United Nations. It is divided into various sections, including economic and social, legal, military and more.

As a research analyst intern in the USUN’s Host Country Affairs division, Maria worked 40 hour weeks, recovering documents dating back to 1946 related to requested subjects found within the department’s archives. She also spent quite a bit of time with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, uncovering information requested regarding the USUN and its over 70 year history.

The ten-week internship featured a variety of opportunities to engage closely with high level officials, learn more about international affairs and events and participate in unique speaker series with guests from various levels and careers within the State Department.

The internship didn’t come without its difficulties though. At some points, Maria admitted, the experience felt larger than life and the status of the individuals she interacted with intimidated her. She worked with ambassadors from other countries and spoke with people from countries she has heard little to nothing about. “It was the first real internship I had ever had, and it honestly intimidated me,” she said.

However, the people there did recognize that she and her fellow interns were just that; interns. The officials and public servants understood that Maria may not know exactly what’s going on in some far reaching corner of the world since most of the other interns were also rising juniors and seniors.

There were about 30 other interns that worked over the course of Maria’s internship at the USUN. Most were undergraduate students, but a few graduate students and law students trickled in. The group of interns became close as they began to recognize that all of their academic and career interests aligned despite being from so many different parts of the country.

In fact, one of Maria’s favorite parts of working at the USUN was the people she had the opportunity to meet. As part of her program, the USUN hosted a speaker series featuring various people within the State Department with unique career paths.

One in particular stood out to Maria. She was “an ambassador with a unique career path.” Prior to her appointment as an ambassador, the speaker had worked in various fields—NGO’s, nonprofits, in the private sector and others. “She allowed me to recognize that my path doesn’t have to be linear, and I don’t have to make this huge decision about where I want my career to go at age 20,” Maria said. The ambassador’s exemplary life offer solace to Maria, who always believed that in order to work international relations, she had to follow a set path without fail. “I learned about what I wanted to do, and what I didn’t want to do.”

For those ten weeks, Maria received the one of a kind experience of living the fast life in New York City. After living there, she truly understood its status as an international epicenter. Living in a Ukrainian neighborhood in East Village, she would hear Ukrainian towards the end of her commute home, but then hear Spanish and Chinese just a block or two away if she was going out to eat.

She loved New York. “It’s very fast-paced, and since I feel like I’m also fast-paced, it suited me,” she said. But like all 20 year olds in the big city, she admitted the sheer number of things to do overwhelmed her.

On top of the 40 hours a week she spent at the USUN, Maria also worked at a bar back in a restaurant and the evenings, and late into the night. Working a total around 60 hours a week, she valued her time, and learned what it takes to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

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