We the peoples of the United Nations

On the day of the official nomination of the new Secretary-General to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan, outiside the United Nations Headquarters, flags fly in the north end of the building, on a sunny fall day. 9/Oct/2006. UN Photo/Mark Garten. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/Being at the United Nations Headquarter in New York is truly inspiring. It is a place full of life and energy, which everyday invites for discussions about the many world-challenges: poverty, inequalities, climate change, wars, and terrorism… The aim of the UN is to be an organisation that promotes Peace and Security, Human Rights, and Sustainable Development; for all. I am lucky to be here, and to experience this, not least in this exciting period when the 2030 Global Development Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) are starting to be implemented, and when the call for actions are critical.

However, something that I believe hits most people when they arrive here, is that the UN consists of its 193 Member States, which together need to agree on what should be done for having a better world. Process and progress can therefore be slow, and many people ask themselves if the UN actually is doing any difference? And if the world could become a better place for more people? I think the simple answer to both of these questions is YES. Just as the UN Charter begins with the powerful words “We the peoples of the United Nations…” it recognizes that the rights and responsibilities to act do not just apply for the people currently working in the UN-system or working with politics, but it includes ALL people in the world, from ALL nations. The world-leaders are (hopefully) doing their best to tackle the challenges facing humanity today, but we the peoples need to do the same. Everyday. Everywhere.

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In addition, I know that I am extremely fortunate to be born in a wealthy country with one of the best welfare-systems in the world. This makes it possible for me to travel to different places, meet new people, learn about their cultures, and get new experiences. At the same time, many young people around the world will never get the same chance. The opportunities and choices in life are still very different depending on where we are born. And not everybody has a voice that is listen to. We need to change this, and the Sustainable Development Goals is a framework for everyone to do something.

During the five months I am doing an internship in New York, I wish to contribute with two things:

  1. Share some of my own experiences from my time at the UN. Showing how the UN works and that the UN should be a place for all, because it’s principles (the Human Rights, Equality, Peace and Security) should be part of everybody’s lives.
  2. Try to give voice to the people who do not have the same opportunities and choices, and hence, strive for changing this notion. For instance, I will be doing interviews with young people who push for change and are showing that we the young peoples are actors too.

I hope that it could contribute to create a little bit more knowledge about the UN, the SDGs, and the role of youth, as well as inspire more people to take actions. Because we the peoples should all be equals.

What will be your contribution for transforming our world?

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The French University system as I understand it

Salut!

I made it! I completed my last lecture at SciencePo Bordeaux today! What a strange feeling, the semester passed by so quickly. Feels like I just arrived a month ago but it´s already way more. Now I have two weeks to prepare for the exams and write one essay, seems doable. In this post I´ll talk about the french university system and my experiences with it.

Science Po is a grand ecole, so technically not a university but is very prestigious. As an Erasmus student it felt like a “normal” university, when you see how the program is for the regular students you notice a difference. There is no Bachelor/Master system, the equivalent to both is 5 years. Students have to apply and go to the entry test, I witnessed this last week, so strange to see all these kids and parents at uni. SciencePo does not offer a lot of spots, it´s highly competitive and to get in you have to have outstanding good grades (not that great, if so you would study in Paris). Also something strange: exams on Saturday mornings, I mean WHYYYY?? Students have a large choice of courses and usually do a one year exchange. They have “culture generalle” courses, where they literally learn general knowledge (extremely franco centric, never heard of some people that they constantly talk about, who´s that Gambetta guy again?). All other things seems rather straight forward and students do the same things as any other student does around the world.

Now to my impressions. I´ll have to disappoint you: I´m not impressed SciencePo!

I had rather high expectations. I knew that the French right insanely long exams, have a very strict structure for their essay and that they not the most academic (they don´t really get referencing for example). But overall I thought that I would be kinda challenged here. But no. At this point I actually have to praise Korea University, I learned a lot of things that I can apply in various courses. NEVER thought that I would think this way! In some way te French and Korean system is similar since critical thinking or just “thinking” is nowhere to be found. The professor does this monologue, students transcribe the lecture (WORD FOR WORD) and just reproduce knowledge in the exam. This is not how I imagine university to be and especially when your studying something as much contested (literally everything) you should be able to have some sort of opinion!

I talked to some people, and asked about their opinion concerning the education. The Erasmus students are disappointed and we all agree that our home university is way better. Other regular students praise that SciencePO are very well equipped for their masters and jobs, this is probably true just makes be even more concerned about the french university system (CAN IT GET EVEN WORSE??).

So overall,academically I haven´t received the quality that I had expected.

Now to some positive stuff, you wouldn´t believe it but there are some!

Some of the professors are excellent (!!!). Most of my professors are highly dedicated and really know their stuff. One of my profs did this phd in Somalia, such a rebel (warning: ambiguous for the sake of humor). Others just are hilarious, I always enjoy listening to the jokes of my french lecturer, he comments on everything in a very implicit way. I always have a good time, especially when he mocks French politicians. I attend lectures where I learn things which are relevant, where other points of view are presented and we have discussions. But somehow I feel like this is just in the English Track courses, the French ones are lecture-based oral. I show up to all the lectures, take notes (bullet points) and critically process what was just said. One professor really pushes through his own perceptive but he is very honest about it (“In my opinion…”). He always states that we can argue against him, ähm not happening in the exam, he´s very intimidating. I think of counterarguments in my head instead, practices your debating skills 🙂

Another great things, we only have finals and that´s it. No extra reading only recommended ones (and let´s face it NO one reads those). I have a lot of free time besides lectures to have fun and enjoy France, since I never go to the library as there is no reason to do so. The system requires you to go to the lectures (you should, since some professors don´t do ppts) and then revise for the exams at the end of the semester. Overall a pretty nice student life. No bug research papers that keep you super busy for at least a week like in Malmö. Most of the exams are multiple choice or orals (loves those).

Since I got finals coming up I´ll be studying and being productive (feeling like a real student). Probably gonna study in my room, since the library is under construction and it gets really noisy at some times.

Hope this was interesting. Maybe you´d love the french system, everyone as they please. I don´t however I love Bordeaux, my Erasmus and every day here. Could not have changed a thing looking back. Bordeaux was the right choice and it got me somewhere academically besides from improving my French: I realized that Malmö is awesome and that I will never ever study in France!

Have a great week!

Lena

Bordeaux Life

Salut!

I´ve been rather unmotivated to write something on my blog, apologize for that, however since the semester is coming to an end soon (SAY WHAT?), I feel like it´s time to make a little summary of the last weeks.

Barcelona

Those of you who read my last post, who had I was on Winter  break. After going to Paris, I went to Barcelona, with a short stop in Toulouse. Barcelona was great, definitively a place that you should visit. I stayed at a friends place who´s currently on exchange in Barcelona. I haven´t seen her for a while so it was great to catch-up and just be able to explore the city together. Since, I´m a hardcore tourist, she had to show me the highlights of Barcelona: Sagrada Familia, lots of other Gaudi buildings, the beach and the Monet museum. All the Gaudi things are insanely overpriced, but you absolutely have to go inside the Sagrada Familia. It is simply breathtaking! All the other things are kinda optional, dependent on your budget. A must is going to the Pintxos street, where there are only pintxos (tapas ) bars.For me Barcelona is a city to “live”, since it has a fantastic location (mountains and beach) and offers lots of great opportunities to have fun; whilst Paris is a city for culture and beauty. It was a coincidence that another friend of mine from Malmö was in Barcelona at the same time, we met in the evening. That was really nice. One day I met up with a friend from my exchange in Korea. She studies in Barcelona so introduced us to some very cool non-touristy places. It was great to see her again and also met her friends.

I went to Barcelona by bus, always via Toulouse. I met another friend in Toulouse, she´s on Erasmus there. It is amazing how many of my friends I managed to see in such a short time. Toulouse is a nice city, lots of cool tiny streets and some interesting spots (Bordeaux is way better though!).

After the awesome vacation it was back to uni.

Bordeaux

Spring has arrived in Bordeaux, making the city even more beautiful! Since it is warmer and doesn´t rain all the time I´ve been outside way more than the last months.

I´ve been to Cafe Darwin several times, it´s a hipster cafe in a former factory. Always a highlight. We have at least one picnic a week. Both the lake and the Jardin Public are great spots to have a picnic. Everyone brings wine and snacks and then we just chill and enjoy ourselves.

The fun faire was also in town for a month. I love roller coasters, so I was super excited. I did two rides with my friends. One was really extreme and very long ( the last few seconds were rather painful), with a great view over the city.

I´ve also visited St. Emillion. It is mostly famous for it´s wine and pittoresque center. It is very very small, so I advise you to go there around lunch time, eat something and then walk around. We went with ESN. We first visited a Chateau and saw how the wine was produced and later on walked around the city. It was a very beautiful warm day. If you´re in the area it´s a nice place to visit.

Since the weather is nice it´s way more fun to go to the markets in Bordeaux. There´re so many different ones, you can go to a market everyday. My favorite is the one along the river, which is mostly a food market (ready to eat). Marche de Quais is amazing. Especially the seafood is rather cheap and of a very good quality. Oyster lovers will be amazed. It is kinda touristy but so nice and lots of locals go there as well.

Over ERASMIX (Erasmus association) I got a really cheap ticket for a concert. It was at 11 in the morning and only for an hour. I liked it a lot since it was short and they played pieces from three different composers. I still haven´t managed to go to the Opera, which I definitively have to go before I leave. Just being in this beautiful building must be amazing.

Easter

Easter this year was very different to what I´m used to. It as the first Easter t hat I wasn´t home to celebrate it with my family. In France Easter isn´t really a big thing, the stores are mostly open like usual and I even had to go to university on Friday (never done that in my life). Most of my friends stayed in Bordeaux over Easter. We had picnics and did a lot together. On Easter Sunday I made an Easter egg hunt with my friends, that was so much fun and they really liked the German chocolate. With great company and fantastic weather, I wasn´t that sad that I didn´t spend my Easter at home.

Wine

I still go to the wine tastings every week (they know my name!). With my french class we went to a wine museum. It was interesting but by now I know where the Merlot and the Carbarnet Savignon grows and all of that. One night we were invited to a museum to celebrate the entry of Spain and Portugal to the EU, we obviously had wine from these two countries. It was nice, free wine and food. We had to dress-up and everyone looked super fancy. At first we were all disappointed since the speakers talked so much and we thought we would have a real dinner (sitting at tables, Buffet etc.). But the wine and finger food were really good so that your mood changed quickly.

Sorry that this post is kinda all over the place. I´ll write some more posts which are focused on specific topics, since I´m nearly at the end of my Exchange. I´ll reflect a bit on the university, the city itself and France in general. Hope you like this post anyway and will keep on reading my stuff.

 

Lena