I am fortunate enough to be studying at a university which engages in a lot of extracurricular events- there is so much to choose from, it only takes your initiative to be part of amazing things!
Last year, I had the honour to be one of my university’s delegate for the NMUN Conferences in New York. NMUN stands for National Model United Nations. Model United Nations conferences exist all around the world. They are simulations of the actual UN conferences, where students debate in committes about all those kind of issues that are also discussed within the UN.
This particular one, however, is not just any simulation: It’s the world’s biggest MUN! Students from all around the world attend it- be it Zimbabwe, Moldova, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Israel, or Malawi- they are all assembled for these few days.
My university was representing Guatemala. After weeks and weeks of preparation, including extensive fundraising activities, rethorical seminars and even visiting the embassy of Guatemala in Berlin, I was ready to take on the challenge of authentically representing Guatemala’s interests in the UNEP, the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Fortunately, me and my partner’s favourite topic was chosen as first to be discussed in the committee: Plastic debris in the world’s oceans (with my history of rescuing turtles in Costa Rica, you may be able to imagine that I personally experienced the severeness of this issue, and therefore was really quite attached to it).
Despite never having whitnessed any other MUN conference, I think we all did quite a good job- after many days of tough debates, we even got the honour of being nominated as “Distinguished Delegation” during the ending ceremony in the real UN headquarters!
Overall, it was an amazing experience. I certainly learned a lot about democracy, politics, rethorical tricks and teamwork. I met fascinating people, challenged myself and went out of my comfort zone. However, this post is not supposed to be about the conferences (only). As this is a travel blog, I wanted to share my adventures in New York with you! Naturally, after the conferences were over, we stayed in the Big Apple for several more days to explore the city. Also, I tried to squeeze in touristy activities inbetween conferences wherever possible, so I believe I managed to get quite a good overview 🙂
I arrived a day before the conferences. Upon my arrival in the Sheratoon Hotel at the famous Time Square (we had to stay there, it was a regulation made my the NMUN association- this is definitely not what would normally be a student’s first choice!), it was already quite late in the afternoon, and as my legs were rather stiff from the long journey, I went for an extensive stroll in the Central Park- a great decision! The sunset made the amazing scenery at the shore of the lake even more beautiful 🙂Naturally, I also payed the memorial of John Lennon a visit. The flowers were put there by fans, but to be honest, I find they don’t really add any beauty. These beautiful trees became my main motivation for my daily morning run in the park, which I started on the very next morning 🙂The famous Time Square. It was surely impressive, but by far not my favourite place in the city. I am just not a massive fan of all those bright lights- this is U.S.- flair at its best, and I am glad tat New York also has many other facets! 🙂For example, the beautiful Grand Central Station! I could allmost sea Alex, the lion from Madagascar, stand there, singing New York 😀Another impressive, yet by far not in such a positive way, building is the Trump Tower in the city centre. We visited it more out of curiosity, and frankly speaking, I was disgusted by all the merchandise you could purchase! (And even more by the amount of people walking around that were actually wearing it)Fortunately, I also managed to visit some slightly more cultural and educational sites. I was lucky enough to be among the very first people enterring the Natural History Museum on one morning, and I also went to the Museum of Modern Art on a Friday evening, as it was free of entry fees at that specific time.
Moreover, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was easily my favourite museum in New York!One (very) early morning, we were crazy enough to leave our beds before the conferences to watch the sun rise over the city from the Brooklyn Bridge. As you can tell, it was more than worth it! The weather was just perfect, and it was an incredibly scenery we got to see this morning. Also, it was the only time I experienced the Brooklyn Bridge being free of huge crowds of tourists, and I could actually see enough of it to admire its architecture 😦During the day, you would certainly NOT be able to take such a picture on the bridge:Not only the sunrise was beautiful- the countless skyscrapers looked amazing, too, when being complemented by such an amazing light. Another must-see was naturally the Statue of Liberty!
Little insider-tip: Instead of paying for the tourist ferry, just use the public Staten Island Ferry which goes past the statue and does not cost anything 🙂 It departs every 30 minutes, and we rode it twice, just to see the statue in different lights. Also, you’ll have a great view onto the city’s skyline:Soho will forever be my favourite part of New York. The beautiful streets with all the small shops and the trees on both sides of the road will always remind me of Amsterdam or other European cities, for some reason. However, the big streets between the impressive, shiny sky scrapers are pretty awesome, too! Oh, and please acknowledge the yellow cab (typical tourist picture 😀 ). Together with my entire delegation, I also visited the memorial of 09/11. It was a very emotional atmopshere down at the foundations of the two towers. However, the elevator up to the sightseeing platform was created as if one was in a theme park. While it was surely entertaining and kind of distracted me from the rather concerning thought of being lifted up SO high up above the ground, it seemed somehow inappropriate in this context. Nonetheless, the view was stunning!Actually, the sky scrapers in this area were pretty awesome in general, making for some pretty nice pictures 🙂Another day, we decided that it was almost a duty for us as business students to visit the famous Wall Street. It was awesome seeing the place where so much has already happened in the past, but it doesn’t look very spectacular on photos. Hence, you will have to make do with a portrait of the famous Golden Bull 🙂
Fun fact: Do you know why a rising market is called Bull, and a falling market Bear market? Think of the movements those animals make when attacking. A Bull attacks from below, with bowed head, and then pushes his horns up to attack the enemy. A Bear stands on his back feet, and basically lets himself fall onto his enemy. Can you imagine it? 🙂I think we were also lucky to see New York in Spring. Nature awakens, people come out their houses, and everything is just full of life! New York as so many parks to sit in and have a coffee, and we definitely used them extensively 🙂Of course, as we were living in the city centre, many famous buildings were within walking distance- and we surely seized this opportunity! For example, we saw the Rockefeller Center and the famous ice rink located just in front of it:Also, on my daily run to (and in) the Central Park, I encountered the horses and carriages, which keep reminding me of Sex and the City (and no, I actually don’t even like the series 😀 )My favourite breakfast spot? Pick-a-bagel! They have all sorts of bagels, and all imaginable spreads and other items to top them with! Here’s one of my favourite creations: A blueberry bagel topped with strawberry cream cheese 🙂 Ok, this was certainly my fancies-looking combination, but my staple was actually the classical cinnamon-raisin bagel with plain cream cheese. Our hotel offered free supply of Starbucks coffee, and while enjoying my bageel with a cup of Starbucks in the Central Park, I felt as local as it could possibly get 😀It’s all about balance, right? After days of hard work, we naturally also had to explore the city’s night life. Fortunately for me (as I was not yet 21 at that time), NMUN had rented several party locations throughout the conference week, and I could really seize the city’s nightlife. Moreover, we had spare funds left at the end of the conference, and thus decided to rent 2 stretch limousines for the entire delegation to drive around New York and ultimately to the final Delegate’s Ball. I will never forget jumping off a limousine at the Rockefeller Center in the middle of the night, just drinking (not) champagne (but at least we did drink some sort of alcohol), and celebrating life.
Another highlight of the trip was certainly the final assembly, which was held in the actual UN headquarters! Naturally, we had to take a picture as delgation in front of it!I could definitely get used to being seated in the chair of a real UN delegate!
While these were certainly my personal highlights, I will also share the other activities I enjoyed during my stay:
Firstly, I actually did end up taking the tourist ferry to the Statue of Liberity, as me and a friend from Germany, who coincidentallly also went to New York with her delegation, decided to visit Ellis island, and there was only this ferry, where the tour to both island was combined. The view from the Statue of Liberty was definitely worth the stop-over, though 🙂Visiting the halls were the decisions about the destiny of so many refugees were made was surely emotional:
Some more light-hearted activities included a stroll over the old train tracks in Soho… … as well as some retail therapy in several of the many amazing shopping malls! Moreover, I can highly recommend doing a ghost tour in Soho! It’s incredible how many freaky stories there are about some of the buildings 🙂
While I also visited Chinatown and Little Italy, I must say I don’t recommend going there. Basiically, each of the districs is nothing more than just a street with some shops. I believe you can find Italian/ Chinese food elsewhere in New York, and surely at cheaper prices! 🙂
I certainly had the most amazing time in New York, and I am glad I got to see some of the more beautiful sites in the U.S.! I cannot wait for my next visit to get my next bite of the Big Apple 🙂