“We’re off to New York”
Our first day in the Big Apple had begun. When I arrived at UNIS, thick white snowflakes were falling from the sky. However, the snow showers did not discourage us, and we walked with determination to Grand Central Station. It is the largest rail-way station in the world and so it’s easy to get lost among the 123 platforms if you’re not careful. Our next stop was Times Square. Once we got there, we simply drifted around in the crowd for a while. We also admired the advertising with our heads tilted all the way back to take in the sea of flashing lights and slogans. (JS)
Some 5,000 years of history retold by almost two million exhibits – the Metropolitan Museum of Arts (the Met) is the largest art museum in the United States, and this was our first stop of the day.
In small groups, we were able to admire some real treasures from ancient Egypt, antiquity and preindustrial Europe. Although many of us already had tired legs after walking around the museum, we then went for a short walk through a snowy Central Park. People on skis had replaced the joggers in the normally oh-so-green ‘lungs’ of New York. We then carried on walking until we reached the Brooklyn Bridge. We couldn’t have chosen a better time to cross the river: before us was a blue sky and a breathtaking sunset that made the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty glow in shimmering shades of orange and yellow. It was one of the high-lights of our trip. (LL)
Today we met in front of the American Museum of Natural History. Many of us had seen the comedy Night at the Museum and recognised the large entrance hall. After visiting the museum, our group split up: some of us hit the streets of the Big Apple to go shopping, while others went to see the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. The site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood until tragedy struck on 11 September 2001 has been redeveloped with large basins and waterfalls. The atmosphere was extremely depressing. I found it very moving to stand there, and my gloomy thoughts were magnified by the increasingly heavy snowfall and steely sky. (LL)
In the morning we met up with all the other participants of the UNIS UN Stu¬dent Conference outside the school for a so-called exchange day. We were divided into groups, and each group was given an introduction to the topic of sustainability. One of the main issues of the conference was how we can use resources in the future without compromising the stability of the systems concerned or their natural ability to regenerate. We began with a discussion about energy and the Keystone Pipeline. This pipeline is almost 3,500 kilometres long and transports crude oil from Canada to Texas. People have been discussing the possible expansion of the Keystone Pipeline for several years. Environ mentalists warn of the disastrous consequences of possible leaks and other risks such as the release of greenhouse gases when oil is obtained from tar sands. It was interesting to listen to the diverse opinions of students from around the world on the topic of alternative energy and to put forward our own views. (DH)
There was already a long line of students at the entrance to the UN headquarters in front of the famous Non-Violence sculpture of a revolver with a knotted barrel. Af¬ter a meticulous security check, we entered the General Assembly Hall. The emblem of the United Nations dominates the room: a map of the world encircled by two olive branches. Standing in front of it is a majestic lectern surrounded by benches that seat six people each. We sat down be-hind signs with the names of the various nations that participate in regular UN meetings.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon then opened the 39th UNIS UN Student Conference. The next speaker was Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, who delivered a talk on the main topic – Sustainability: Balancing People, Planet and Profit. She demonstrated the importance of sustainability, emphasising that our generation in particular has to face up to the problems surrounding this issue. The speakers presented their arguments very clearly and in a structured manner. After every speech we were invited to ask the speakers questions. All in all, it was a very exciting and informative day. (JS)
The second day of the conference began with a speech by Hans Gösta Rosling, Pro¬fessor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet and director of the Gap-minder Foundation in Stockholm. He had prepared a short quiz to introduce the topic. We were asked to answer questions like: ‘What percentage of children in the world aged under 12 months have been vaccinated against measles?’
We were all very surprised when we saw the answers. The majority of us got all the questions wrong. For example, it is not 20% or 50% of infants around the world that have been vaccinated against measles, but 80%. Professor Rosling explained that we have preconceived opinions about certain issues, which is why we had been incorrect. In summary, you could say that Professor Rosling doesn’t want to change the world, but rather the general perspective that people have. Casting aside prejudices is an important part of this. After the lectures, students discussed the highly controversial construction of the Key-stone XL Pipeline. There were about 400 of us in the hall, so unfortunately we were unable to participate directly in the Q&A sessions.
In the evening, there was a final party at UNIS. There was even music, but remarkably none of the songs had any lyrics. UNIS does not want anyone to feel personally attacked by the words to songs, so there is a strict ban on lyrics.
We flew back to Berlin the next day with these unforgettable impressions and experiences. (DH)