Give a speech for the UN in New York

Alumnus Christina Hollander’s story

Christina so can you image

The King of the Netherlands and the Pope weren’t the only ones to deliver speeches in front of the United Nations in the summer of 2015. One of our European Studies students, Christina Hollander, went to New York to step up to the lectern as well. Speaking in Spanish, she presented a plan contributing to the first of the Millennium Goals - eradicating hunger worldwide.

In the final year of her European Studies programme, Christina Hollander saw a notice her lecturer, Dave van Ginhoven, had posted on the student portal. ELS Educational Services and the United Nations Academic Impact were holding an essay contest. The grand prize was a trip to the United Nations in New York to join 70 students from all over the world in preparing and presenting a speech on one of the Millennium Goals. There was one condition - both the essay and the speech had to be written and delivered in their second language. Was anyone at THUAS interested?

Every time I talk about it, it makes me so happy

Off to New York

Christina, who was raised speaking both Dutch and Spanish, was immediately enthusiastic. For several days, she worked into the early hours penning her essay in Spanish. “I made sure to not only get my own point across, but to make adequate use of relevant sources and citations,” she says. A few weeks later, she received the good news by email. Her essay had been selected from 1,200 entries along with those of 69 other young people from all over the world for presentation during a trip to New York.

The winners were divided into teams representing each of the UN’s six official languages: English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Christina and the rest of the Spanish-language team spent two days concentrating on the Millennium Goal of eradicating hunger and promoting agriculture. “Our plan centred on schools. We came up with the idea of introducing classes in ecology and similar subjects in countries where hunger is a big problem and to make sure every school has its own greenhouses. I was in charge of working out the marketing aspect of the plan and presented that part during our group presentation.”

I got a big round of applause after my speech

A bit scary

The day before, the group travelled to the UN headquarters where they rehearsed their presentation. Christina found that bit especially daunting. “I felt really scared deep down and thought: ‘hey, this isn’t good’.” But when the time came to give the presentation for real, she was much less intimidated. “Everyone was so encouraging and positive. I got a big round of applause after my speech. I’ve struggled a bit with shyness in the past, which is why this felt like a particularly important victory for me.”

She not only remembers the contest fondly, but her fellow candidates too. “The people who I shared that experience are now friends for life. Every time I talk about it, it makes me so happy. This opportunity introduced me to many other cultures. I’ve already been invited to visit people at their homes if I choose to travel after graduation.”

So how can you experience something similar?

The essay contest Christina took part in is held every year. To participate in the contest, you must be a student and obtain a recommendation from one of your lecturers. You must also have excellent skills in one the UN’s six official languages. 

Every little bit helps

One thing is certain - participating in the contest piqued Christina’s own interest in politics and the Millennium Goals. “When I was standing on top of the Empire State Building, I felt so small and insignificant. You could almost start to feel like you mean nothing to the world at large. But that’s not true. I learned that the problem isn’t so much that there is too little food, but that the available food is distributed unevenly and huge amounts of it are thrown away. I pay much more attention to this at home now. Even if you don’t work for the UN, every little bit helps.”

Interested in watching Christina’s speech? If so, check out this video (starts at minute 21).

About Christina

At the end of her programme at THUAS, Christina completed a five-month internship at the International Relations Office of the University of Valladolid in Spain. The essay contest was an important event in her life. It resolved her to dedicate her life to making a better world. Now she has graduated and taken part in a new contest: The Faces2Hearts Competition. Her big dream is to travel the world and be inspired by all the people she meets on the way.

What is the UN exactly?

The United Nations (UN) is an international organisation, founded in 1945, which responds to major global challenges. This includes things like combating climate change, protecting human rights and providing emergency aid. Today, 193 countries are members of the UN, which has its headquarters in New York.