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Embassy English 16 February 2016 - by Robert Runyon, Student Services Manager

Embassy English NY Students Visit the United Nations


One of the best ways for students to practice their English language skills is experiencing the world outside of the classroom. Each month our Embassy English centres plan a variety of activities where students can both explore their new host cities and have creative ways to bring their English language skills to life. Last week, Embassy English New York students had the unique opportunity to visit one of the most globally diverse places on earth, the United Nations World Headquarters. 

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Last week we went to the United Nations World Headquarters. This was an activity that students had been clamoring for for a few weeks, and it definitely did not disappoint. The United Nations is probably the only thing in all of New York that all of our students, staff, and teachers have in common (besides eating pizza). We all have representatives from our countries in attendance there when the General Assembly is in session, and the decisions handed down from the UN are felt everywhere in the world. It’s no wonder that our students were so excited to go. Within only two hours of announcing that we were going to visit, our students had already bought up our entire stock of tickets. That kind of excitement is contagious.

The day we went was a classic stark cold New York winter day – the kind where it’s perfect to be indoors learning about a world center for governance and culture. The UN HQ is perched right on the East River with a great view of Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It also has the strictest security that we’ve seen at any of our activities. We knew about this, and made sure to get there early.

The great part about the UN headquarters is that it is the kind of place where you can show up more than a half hour before your appointment and still have a great time. In the lobby, you can see gorgeous woven portraits of each of the Secretaries General provided by Iran, in addition to exhibits on the good work the UN does in regards to preventing war and cleaning up mines.un 2

As informative as those exhibits were, the real draw for our students was downstairs. There, our students could find both the UN’s gift shop and post office. As our teacher Karen Miller says, the UN gift shop is the best gift shop in the entire city. There’s no other gift shop that reflects New York’s incredibly multicultural nature like the UN’s. Where else can you find a policy plan on cleaning up water in Uganda right next to a Lego set of the White House?

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The other great perk of the downstairs lobby is the UN post office. Like every other post office in the world, the UN post office provides stamps. Unlike other post offices, the UN post office provides two types of stamps – stamps for your letters and postcards (of course), and stamps for your passport as well. Because the UN is sovereign land that belongs to no nation, it is able to provide visitors a stamp in their passports. Many of our students made sure to bring their passports in order to add an extra stamp to show off to friends and family.

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When the time for the tour came, it was tough to get our students back together because everyone had gone off to look at a different part of the lobby, whether it was the gift shop, the post office, the model of Sputnik, or the gorgeous architecture by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Our tour guide took us through every part of the building and told us all about the formation of the UN, the current tasks of the UN, and the projects that the UN is trying to accomplish over the next decade. It was really inspiring seeing all of the work people are doing to help make the world a better place.

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One of the best treats of the entire tour was certainly entering the General Assembly Chamber. There, all of the students who were on the tour tried their best to find their country’s placard and see where they sit relative to everyone else in the chamber. This was especially true after we realized that none of the students who came with us were part of countries that were members of the UN Security Council (Americans like me excluded, naturally).

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It was remarkable to think about all of the famous and infamous figures since the UN started that had come through those doors and had made speeches in that very same room. It was a room that had welcomed every president from Truman on and also welcomed some of the most vilified figures in world history. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere in not just New York but also the United States and the rest of the world that has that kind of history.

The UN is rare among New York tourist attractions in that it has something for tourists and also for locals. It’s one of those places that truly open up your appreciation and understanding of the world around you and one that should be at the top of the list for anyone looking for a complete visit to New York.

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To learn more about studying English in exciting New York City, contact us today! 

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